Review: Little Dorrit

Posted 17 June, 2010 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

Apologies in advance if this entry is a bit meh; I had started this entry days ago but got busy with offline stuff and plus I’m recovering from my wisdom teeth surgery (got my remaining two removed yesterday) so the mind might be a bit la-la at the moment, lmao xD

Little Dorrit
By: Charles Dickens

Amy Dorrit’s father is not very good with money. She was born in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison and has lived there with her family for all of her 22 years, only leaving during the day to work as a seamstress for the forbidding Mrs. Clennam. But Amy’s fortunes are about to change—the arrival of Mrs. Clennam’s son Arthur, back from working in China, heralds the beginning of stunning revelations not just about Amy but also about Arthur himself.

I learned about Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit after watching the 2008 BBC adaptation starring Matthew MacFadyen and Claire Foy (which I greatly enjoyed). I received both the DVD and the book last Christmas as a present but didn’t get around to reading it until recently. I’m surprised that this novel doesn’t get more love, it was highly enjoyable! Spoilers ahead!

To be honest, I don’t know exactly where to begin…well, there are two sections to this novel; the first traces the Dorrits during their time in the Marshalsea and the adventures and issues that they (and particularly Amy) faced while the second follows the Dorrits after their change in fortune. In reference to the adaptation (and I will do this throughout this entry), it actually followed the chronology of events in the book fairly well save for a few switches in scenes.

As always, Charles Dickens manages to create an interesting cast of characters to populate the novel, from the good-hearted and kind Arthur Clennam to the dutiful and self-sacrificing Amy Dorrit, the stern and cold Mrs. Clennam to the devious and dangeround Rigaud. I love the character interaction (I actually can’t think of a particular one that’s my favourite from the lot; I love Arthur and Amy’s scenes together (they are so cute together!), John Chivery’s scene with Arthur towards the end, Mrs. Merdle and Fanny’s scenes, etc.) and you really feel for Amy whenever one of her family members sort of takes her help and sacrifices for granted. Flora’s lines were a little confusing to get through, but it really reflects her character so it wasn’t as annoying as I normally would’ve take it as.

What particularly delighted me about this novel was how funny Dickens can be with his prose. I enjoyed his dialogue in Our Mutual Friend but in Little Dorrit I finally understand what people mean when they talk about Dickens’s sense of satire towards Victorian society. The sections about the Circumlocution Office (a brilliant creation of LOL towards the bureaucracy’s inefficiency in getting things done) and the Barnacle family that operates it (such a hilarious and annoying family—and so many of them! Them showing up at Mr. Gowan and Minnie Meagle’s wedding was pretty hilarious) was fun to read. I also laughed out loud at his prose when Arthur first beheld his childhood sweetheart Flora for the first time in years.

Having watched the adaptation first, I greatly appreciated the amount of detail and explanation behind the motives of a good number of characters. The adaptation sort of rushed the ending so the explanation of (especially) Miss Wade’s involvement in the Meagles’ affairs and the particulars of Mrs. Clennam’s secret were lost in the scenes. So I’m glad for the explanation and how they fit into the story; cleared up a lot of questions that I had from the adaptation.

I also thought the segments about Society was interesting just because if conveys a lot about how Society worked at the time and how important it was for people of a certain standing in society (this isn’t the first time I’m read a Dickens book that touches on this subject; Our Mutual Friend also discusses the subject). It was interesting particularly how Mr. Merdle had no interest in Society despite of his position and of his wife. In retrospect, I wonder how much of it had to do with the problems he was facing (off-screen/off-page) in keeping his bank and all his investments thriving. Granted, his job was a pretty stressful one and both in the adaptation and the novel he struck me as the type of man who wouldn’t have been very interested in mingling with Society even if his job wasn’t so stressful. The requirements and the types of people who populate Society also made it pretty clear that someone like Amy Dorrit would never be truly happy in her circumstances because her personality and her overall-perspective on life.

Just to note about the adaptation, I thought they did a wonderful job in presenting the story. Claire Foy was wonderful as Amy Dorrit and Matthew MacFadyen was lovely as Arthur Clennam. Cinematography was lovely and I think Andrew Davies did a good job in extracting the core of the story and translating it to a film format. The only issues I had with it was obviously the rushed ending. They also added a scene in episode 13 that wasn’t in the novel but alas, it happens.

Overall, Little Dorrit is a wonderful novel of rags to riches and a powerful commentary on what is truly important in life. There’s a lot of great lines and moments in the book and the novel wrapped up quite nicely (though I did think it was odd that Tip was notably absent at the end). Definitely recommended if you’re into classic literature, novels set in the Victorian period and if you’re a fan of Dickens.

Rating: ★★★★★

Read Charles Dicken’s entry on wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

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One Response to “Review: Little Dorrit”

  1. Superb review, Li!

    This is in my top-four favorite Dickens novels, and the BBC film adaptation was simply wonderful! “Little Dorrit” is one of those novels that I try and re-read every few years.

    Have a wonderful weekend! Cheers! Chris

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