Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: 'Dodger' by Terry Pratchett

By gosh, it really was freezing last night with temperatures dipping to -3 (that's what my phone seemed to show anyway)! So with the heater barely able to keep up, it really was the best opportunity to ditch all fashion sense and layer up with woollies mostly 'borrowed' from hubby. Two jumpers and two layers of socks later, I am as happy as a bunny all snuggled up in bed with Terry Pratchett's fantastic book 'Dodger'. I'd got into bed so early that I actually managed the entire book in one go and what do I think? Fun with a very capital F.

Now that's a word I haven't used to describe a book for a quite a while now. So, I shall say it again: it was was pure fun and joy interspersed with wit, philosophy and good old fashioned charm. As you may all well know, Dodger is the character in Charles Dickens' novel 'Oliver Twist'. He's the cheeky lad with the tophat who finds Oliver and teaches him (unsuccesfully) the art of the pickpocket. The novel is written true to the Victorian setting and is complete with an appearance from Charles Dickens himself who appears as Mr. Charlie, the journalist with an eye for a good story and the heart of a philanthropist.

In essence this book is about Dodger but it is also about Dickens and the characters he bumps shoulders with in Victorian London and who he was to base several of his novels' characters on.   We have Todd Sweeney (aka the Demon Barber) and a conspicuous Jewish jeweller by the name of Solomon who isn't what he seems and is somehow Dodger's guardian offering him a place to live and cooking his meals. He is the closest to the character of Fagin in the novel 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens.

We are first introduced to Dodger doing what he does best: Scouring the filthy sewers of London in search of money and anything that the London streets spit out. And on the night we meet Dodger, "the drains and sewers were overflowing, throwing up- regurgitating, as it were - the debris of muck, slime and filth". At this moment, a woman hurtles herself out of a moving carriage screaming. Dodger who has just appeared literally out of the gutter comes to the rescue and upon doing so meets Mr. Charlie and Mayhew who also come to the assistance of Dodger and the girl Simplicity. The assailants 'take to their heels' and manage to get away.

This is a deceptively easy book to read. On the face of it, the book has a very easy plot to follow that is quite straight forward with a mystery to boot. But on a more serious note, the book also sheds light on the machinations that were taking place in London during that period that were to instigate the beginnings of social reform and the awareness of the British government as to the miserable conditions of the poor thanks to the work of people such as Dickens and Henry Mayhew, among others.

A really good read that you must have a go at yourself. Why? because everyone knows the Dodger and you don't want to be the one left out. Do you now?

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