Saturday, June 4, 2011

Little Dorrit

Charles Dickens

I'm back baby! Little Dorrit almost derailed me with its terribility, but I survived. This is Dickens, A Christmas Car, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities etc. etc., so we should be pretty safe picking up one of his books. Even Dickens worst, Bleak House, was endearing after a slow start. Well, Little Dorrit is a big letdown. Memorable characters are limited to Flora, the motormouthed ex-girlfriend of the bland and boring Clennam.
We start in prison in France, a moderately interesting scene with a man named Rigaud who allegedly killed his wife and has switched identities several times. Sounds pretty rad, right? So there's your villain. We ditch Rigaud for awhile before he returns with a nefarious plot, perhaps the worst thing a person can do, blackmail an old woman with a moderately embarrassing secret from 45 years ago. Oh the excitement.
Most critics would say the real villain in Little Dorrit is the debtors' prison and the lack of a social safety net. We find the title character and her father in Marshalsea Prison, they've been screwed over by Clennam's mom who's a real piece of work. The prison is a community unto itself with interesting social interactions and a hierarchy of leadership.
By the end of the book everyone is back to being poor and living in the prison. except for Mrs. Clennam because of bad investments. Normally I don't like to spoil the endings of the classics, but let's be honest, none of you are going to read Little Dorrit. I also want to review the end because it is outrageously stupid.
Rigaud blackmails old lady Clennam, she pretty much tells him to eff off, and, after sitting in a wheelchair in her house for 20 years she gets up, leaves the house and heads to Marshalsea to tell Little Dorrit she's sorry. This accomplished she heads home only to pass out in front of her house which promptly collapses, killing Rigaud. I'm not making that up, Charles Dickens actually wrote that climax. I have a feeling he was about 10 pints deep into the wassail.
The relationship between Little Dorrit and Clennam is also strange. Clannam is a 40ish business man who's sort of estranged from his mother. Little Dorrit takes care of her dad in the prison, she's 16. Clennam becomes her protector and they fall into tepid love with each other.
Rating 3/10: Boring, contrived, no characters worth caring about. This makes two Dickens books on the classics list that don't belong. Dorrit & Drood.

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