At the rate I’m reading, I may very well be dead before I’m able to complete the gargantuan task of ingesting all of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Perhaps I overwhelmed myself and should just relax and focus on the immense pleasure I experience while perusing rather than trying to complete something that will surely take some length of time. I have an endless supply of excuses for my absence, but I will spare you and get back to it post-haste.
I need not introduce our dear little Oliver as everyone, the world around, is an intimate of the poor orphan of Mr. Dickens creation. I thought I knew him as well, but I did not foresee how my heart would break and my chest heave when I truly came to know the child on paper.
For those unfamiliar with Oliver Twist, it is the splendid tale of a boy born in a workhouse in the 1830’s whose mother dies shortly after his birth. His treatment there is deplorable and he eventually runs away only to be taken in by a group of pickpockets overseen by a manipulative and unscrupulous man. Just when things appear to be looking up for Oliver, something, or someone, always seem to get in the way of his deliverance.
The novel’s protagonist, Oliver Twist, begins his life with the loss of his mother and doesn’t know a day of compassion henceforth. Somehow Oliver remains an innocent hungry for any sign of mercy that seems to continually evade him.
Mr. Bumble, an hypocritical beadle at the workhouse, is an unfortunate model for those he purports to care for. His unattainable ambitions drive him even further down the path of indifference to his fellow-man.
Fagin is the ringleader of the young pickpockets he recruits among the many orphans in London. He trains the young ragamuffins in a squalid building and then sends them forth to return the goods to benefit him. If caught, however, the tiny thieves must take the fall alone, thus insulating Fagin from being implicated in any way.
The cruel and heartless Bill Sikes makes Fagin appear almost human. He is an angry and brutal man who unleashes his rage on those nearest him and does so without pause, whether it be his lover or his dog.
This is an author I would have to reign in my adoration for before sitting down for a little tete a tete. His obvious experience of a destitute life and ability to see the injustices and inequities around him make him an author extraordinaire and at the top of my list.
We need be careful how we deal with those about us, when every death carries to some small circle of survivors, thoughts of so much omitted, and so little done–of so man things forgotten, and so many more which might have been repaired! There is no remorse so deep as that which is unavailing; if we would be spared its tortures, let us remember this, in time.
My rating for Oliver Twist is a 10 out of 10.
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Next up, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women…