Thursday, August 24, 2006

Book Thoughts : Oliver Twist

By some cruel twist of fate, I was never properly aquainted with Mr. Charles Dickens in my high school reading. This is strange because while back home recently I discovered a list from my high school senior english class and "A Tale of Two Cities" is smack on the list. I don't remember a word of it. I wanna say that we never got to it, but anyone who knows me knows that my memory isn't my best feature and it's highly possible that the book simply took no hold on me at the time. Regardless, it's back on my list. I finished Oliver Twist last night and it was excellent. It's a bitter sweet tale of loss and bliss at the same time. From the stupid introduction I learned that it's one of his earliest books and not thought to be one of his best. It also annoyingly revealed a major plot point which then caused me to cease reading said intro. Lesson - Don't read the introductions to classics before reading the book. I read some Jane Austin last spring and enjoyed it immensely, however Dickens paints the victorian world in decidedly different hues. I don't know enough of the era to know all of the facts, but I don't think I'd have wanted to have been a pauper in those days. He is a master of illuminating description even in this early work; I can't wait to see what he does in his later ones. Here's one of my more favorite passages in which someone is calling to his mind faces from the past:

He wandered over them again. He had called them into view and it was not easy to replace the shroud that had so long concealed them. There were the faces of friends, and foes, and of many that had been almost strangers peering intrusively from the crowd; there were the faces of young and blooming girls that were now old women; there were faces that the grave had changed and closed upon, but which the mind, superior to its power, still dressed in their old freshness and beauty, calling back the lustre of the eyes, the brightness of the smile, and beaming of the soul through its mask of clay, and whispering of beauty beyond the tomb, changed but to be heightened, and taken from the earth only to be set up as a light, to shed a soft and gentle glow upon the path to Heaven.
Beautiful. Writing like this reminds me why I love books so much.

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