It’s always nice to be asked to read a book with someone and be able to chat about your impressions, likes/dislikes, and what you got out of the book. So it was on this Thanksgiving weekend of traveling back and forth by train to Albany by reading the classic Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. When I was approached by the RA (Michael) about reading it, I was surprised I hadn’t read it previously, but it has never been one of the RA Favorites, so I agreed.Oliver is born an orphan, after his mother dies in child-birth delivering him in the doctor’s office. All we seemingly know of is mother is that she is a poor woman, with no identifiable information pertaining to who she is, or where she comes from, of course later as the story progresses we learn of the deceitfulness of one of the nurses who steals information about the mother and her note and gift for the unborn baby. The doctor names him Oliver Twist and he is sent to an orphanage, where he is treated cruelly, much like all of the other children who reside there. He is sent to one apprenticeship after another, and finally escapes to London, where he is introduced to a group of children who use pickpocketing as their means for making money. The band of boys invite him into their “home” and Oliver begins a series of unfortunate choices that captures him into a life of thievery, even arrest, which he gets out of when he meets the kind Mr. Bronlow, who believes in the smile and sweetness of Oliver. But once again, Oliver is captured by the man who run the band of boys, Fagin (The Jewish criminal). A plot is set against him by Fagin and a mysterious man who appears with Fagin so that Oliver never finds out about his past. Oliver is used as bait to help Fagin and his accomplices to rob a house, but that is thwarted, and Oliver is shot and left to die, but somehow returns to the scene of the crime, where the mistresses (Mrs. Maylie and her niece Rose) of the house have a deep connection to him and restore him to health. Of course there are many connections underlying all of the various characters that Oliver interacts with in his short life, Bronlow, Rose, Mrs. Maylie, his former bosses during his apprentices, the orphanage owner, Fagin, and Monks that lead Oliver to learn of his past, whom his mother was, and the biggest lesson that Oliver has family members still alive.
Dickens provides a good deal of social commentary on the life of an orphan, the treachery involved in crime and prostitution, and abuse of the poor in the urban center. This is a book about how corruption of resources/education and good vs. evil exist in our society. Dickens is a pre-cursor to many of today’s authors on how each character in the story will have a role in the ending. It is a period piece that shows us what life was like in this time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to the conversation that will ensue during my debriefing later today! A story that you can’t put down, always looking for the next turn and connection in how Oliver will survive! A classic very much worth reading!