Thank God this is over! I had previously read six books by Dickens and I loved them all. I even gave 5*s to one or two. This one, however, was a painful read. I think part of the problem might have been my own current personal issues. Rather a lot of heavy stuff has been going on recently and I have been having problems focusing. So perhaps the vapid piffle just didn't work because I wasn't able to take it all in. To be fair, the book was a better read in the middle. I was sorely tempted to give up during the first 10-20%, but after that, I was interested enough to finish it up.
In reading this book, I was reminded of Harriet Vane's comment (in Strong Poison
) that someone would like to marry Lord Peter Wimsey merely for the pleasure of hearing him talk piffle. Well, Dickens, who was 75 or so years before Wimsey, was a master at piffle. Normally, I like piffle. My very own spouse considers me to be a regular fountain of piffle. But, this book had a bit too much of it and a bit too little else. It basically had no point other than piffle. There's no real plot. Dickens just made up stuff for a year or two and eventually republished it wrapped all into a single volume as a novel. His first to be exact.
His later novels seem to have some point from the beginning and eventually, with lots of entertaining piffle along the way, get to their appointed ends. In this case, there was no point except for the piffle and Dickens eventually ran out. Something like that. He does show some signs of his future greatness. He has some rather interesting and quirky characters. He has shyster lawyers all over the place. He has blaggards and scoundrels, albeit in this novel they're not also physically marred in some way as per usual. I don't remember any orphans in this book, and not really any sickly innocents. But, I suppose for Dickens, it's a good beginning. Or something.
Perhaps the best way to view this book is akin to a modern sit com. There's a new episode each week that has some entertainment value in itself, but which is only marginally connected in any way with past or future episodes, other than that the characters remain the same and some of their past experiences are recounted in some way in the future. In essence, it's a Victorian-era version of the 1990s TV show, Friends
As a side note, Amazon claims that the book contains 514 pages, the book itself says only 508, but the exact same edition on GoodReads has a more reasonable view of the page count, 914 pp. I checked that the ASIN numbers were the same on GoodReads and Amazon. Virtually all the dead-tree versions are closer to 1000 pages than to 500 pages. So why is Amazon so far off on it's alleged "real page numbers"? This isn't the first time I noticed that Amazon was page-count challenged. Why do I care?