Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens’s story of a powerful man whose callous neglect of his family triggers his professional and personal downfall, showcases the author’s gift for vivid characterization and unfailingly realistic description. As Jonathan Lethem contends in his Introduction, Dickens’s “genius . . . is at one with the genius of the form of the novel itself: Dickens willed into existence the most capacious and elastic and versatile kind of novel that could be, one big enough for his vast sentimental yearnings and for every impulse and fear and hesitation in him that countervailed those yearnings too. Never parsimonious and frequently contradictory, he always gives us everything he can, everything he’s planned to give, and then more.”
This was my next classic for my Classics Club challenge and I was so happy that I had decided to include it on my list. This isn’t my favourite Dickens novel as that is A Tale of Two Cities but it is definitely a very close second. I could not put the book down.
There is so much going on within this book which is all linked with Dombey, so many lives all touch even if just briefly. Though the real reason all these lives connect is because of Dombey’s children, Paul and Florence. Paul Dombey is the wanted son whose father has so many big plans for and Florence is the daughter who is not wanted and ignored. But Florence still loves and worships her father and tries to do everything in her power to make him love her. In a way this book is Florence’s story rather than her father’s story.
This book focuses on the Dombey household mainly which after the death of the mother becomes a very sad household which starts to become dysfunctional. This is put into stark contrast with the other two households we encounter in the book which are so full of love and happiness although they are poorer financially than the Dombey household but they are richer in so many other ways.
There are so many interesting characters within this novel. The forever smiling James Carker who is always compared to a grinning cat. The adorable Captain Cuttle who is terrified of his landlady but will do anything and give anything to those he loves. The wonderfully strong Susan Nipper who protects Florence and loves Florence with every fibre of her being. The faithful Walter whose faith never wavers. The loving Uncle Sol who will do anything for his nephew. Then there is one of my favourite characters the devoted Mr Toots, who is funny without meaning to be and gets into some interesting scrapes and friendships. Then there is Edith, who I felt sorry for but who I also disliked greatly because of the pain she caused.
Dickens addresses so many things in this novel; pride, deceit, the value of love, child and parent relationships, unrequited love, revenge and much more. Dickens is such an expert in exploring and writing about the human condition and even though he was writing in the Victorian times so many of his themes are as relevant today as they were today. I laughed out loud whilst reading this book, I cried, I got angry, I went through so many emotions whilst reading this book. I loved this book so much and easily give it 5 out of 5 Dragons and it is definitely one of my favourite books this year.
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About the author
Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870) was a writer and social critic who created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.