After Pride and Prejudice, it was very difficult to motivate myself to read Oliver Twist – just too much sadness and unfairness and mind-blowing coincidences. I like believable stories and while I believe Victorian London really was as bad as described in this book, I just have a hard time with the coincidences.
But the idea of reading Charles Dickens, one of the greatest novelists in the English language, motivated me in the end. Anything in the name of literature!
On the other hand, I came up with this idea that, of the entire novel list from The Well-Educated Mind, I should allow myself to skip two if I felt like it. I know one of them will be Moby Dick. I refuse to read this book simply because Susan Wise Bauer herself says she has not finished it, even though she started it 17 times. And yet, she wrote a long paper about it in graduate school and passed her exam with flying colors. Which says a lot about graduate school in the US, but also about the dedication needed to finish this grueling novel.
After putting up with Don Quixote for over 500 pages, I decided I would not get excited or determined about reading a novel about capturing a white whale. If anything, I would feel like saying “Save the whale!” on every page.
Back to Oliver… I was tempted to count Oliver as my second novel I will not read, but… I changed my mind at the last minute. I want to hold out as long as possible and apply myself to the task of reading each one of the suggested novels until, maybe, I get into one and just can’t seem to finish it…
Just like with Gulliver’s Travels, I must point out that Oliver Twist is not a children’s book. Really. It is not. Your child should be at least 13 before he tackles Oliver and its sad, violent story in order to (1) not be shocked too much and (2) get the full meaning behind the plot.
Even though the story has a happy ending, reading it was tough. I just don’t do well when I read about child abuse and there is plenty of that in this novel. Since I became a mom, I experience stories about children on a keen level of awareness. Fair warning.
But I am happy I stuck it out and read every word of it. It’s one thing to know the plot from a wiki, it’s another thing to immerse yourself in a Victorian novel. Reading novels is all about the experience, after all. Do you feel transported? Then the author has reached his goals.