First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
The story of ‘Little Nell’ gripped the nation when it first appeared. Described as a ‘tragedy of sorrows’, it tells of Nell uprooted from a secure and innocent childhood and cast into a world where evil takes many shapes, the most fascinating of which is the stunted, lecherous Quilp. He is Nell’s tormentor and destroyer, and it is his demonic energy that dominates the book.
The Old Curiosity Shop is a novel of contrasts: youth and old age, beauty ad deformity, freedom and restraint. Expansively comic, sentimentally tragic, it is sometimes fairytale, sometimes myth and often Victorian life at its most bleak – haunted by the figures that live in the shadows, some of the strongest of Dickens’s many creations.
Today is the 24th of December. It is Christmas Eve! The Christmas spirit has already permeated the air but it is about to get more tedious as families and friends gather to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. Christmas in the Philippines is almost always a grand family affair and for the first time since 2019, I get to celebrate it with who matters to me most: my family. I hope you will too, or at least you will be surrounded by the people you love and the people who love you. I also you have already prepared everything you need for tonight and tomorrow’s celebrations. While we are in a celebratory mood, I hope you are all doing well and are healthy despite the uncertainties that have enveloped us in the past two years. I also hope that you have received everything you have prayed for, that you are reaping the benefits of everything you have sown. Merry Christmas everyone!
As it is Friday, it is also time for another First Impression Friday update. With the year drawing to a close, I have been lately focusing on books included in my reading challenges. Cramming has become such a tradition. HAHA. Nevertheless, this mad dash towards the finish line has finally borne some fruits as I have completed two of three active reading challenges I have: Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge and my 2021 Top 21 Reading List. I am now down to the last of these three reading challenges, my 2021 Beat the Backlist Challenge. After completing Charlotte Brontë’s Villette earlier this week, I am finally down to the last book in my 2021 Beat the Backlist Challenge, Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop.
Amongst readers and nonreaders alike, Charles Dickens always rings a bell. The British novelist has certainly established a reputation that transcends time. It has been over a decade since I first my first Dickens novel, Great Expectations, and it has stayed with me despite the passage of time. It remains one of my all-time favorite reads. There was a bit of a lull between my third (A Tale of Two Cities) and fourth (Bleak House) Dickensian novels as it did take over a decade for me to get from one book to the other. Nevertheless, I am now reading my fifth Dickensian novel, The Old Curiosity Shop. I have also lined up A Christmas Carol this year; it is a literary piece that I have long been pining for and with the Christmas season, I feel like it is the right time to read this novel.
But before I forget, The Old Curiosity Shop is the subject of this First Impression Friday update. HAHA. It was originally published serially from 1840 to 1841 before it was published as a single volume in 1841. So far, I am glad with the progress I have made on the book for I have already completed 27 chapters. Two characters loom large in the story: Nell Trent and Daniel Quilp. In true Dickensian fashion, Little Nell, as she was fondly referred to, was an orphan of “not quite fourteen”. She lived in The Old Curiosity Shop, a shop of ends, odds and various curiosities owned by her grandfather. Her grandather adored Little Nell even though she lived a virtually solitary life, with no friends of her age. The only friend she had was Kit Nubbles, the shop’s only employee and whom she was teaching to write.
To ensure her granddaughter’s future, Little Nell’s grandfather gambled heavily at night. Hoping for better fortune, he borrowed heavily from Daniel Quilp, a dwarfish man, with the Old Curiosity Shop as the collateral. Daniel Quilp, however, was a man of malicious intentions. His evil designs had him lusting after Little Nell. When Little Nell’s grandfather was unable to repay his debts, Quilp immediately seized ownership of the Old Curiosity Shop. To escape Quilp’s evil designs, Nell and her grandfather fled from London. I have made it this far in the story.
The Old Curiosity Shop contained several elements of the typical Dickensian novel. Little Nell being an orphan was just one of the parallels it shared with Dickens’ other works. Apart from this, the novel also introduced a vast cast of characters (as expected I guess). But despite covering a hefty ground, I still feel like there is still a lot to the novel that I have yet to uncover. I am looking forward to where Little Nell and her grandfather, who I learned was anonymous the entire stretch of the story, will end up and how their life will pan out. While the two of them fled London obscured by the darkness of the night, I kept expecting Quilp to jump out and catch them surprised. The tenterhook gripped me until they were able find safety. Nevertheless, I still expect Quilp will jump out of the blue as the story moves forward.
So far, I have been enjoying the novel. Well, perhaps not enjoying considering how a young girl was forced to flee. I have read that The Old Curiosity Shop used to be Dickens’ most popular work, especially during his lifetime. However, it has lost some of that luster with the passage of time. Perhaps it has not escaped the scrutiny of keen and critical readers? It is as expected I guess, considering that the novel was written during the Victorian era. Still, I am curious how this once beloved literary work turned opinions around drastically. I do recongize that not every literary work by a great author would be great.
I think it will take me more time to read the novel, especially with Christmas celebrations kicking into high gear later today, tomorrow and even after Christmas. I just hope I get to complete it soon. How about you fellow reader? What book do you have on your hand right now? How are you enjoying it so far? I hope you could share it in the comment box. For now, have a great weekend ahead! And as always, happy reading! Merry Christmas!