Wittier, cleverer minds have already given the world their thoughts on The Old Curiosity Shop, so there’s little left for me to add other than Oscar Wilde’s comment that you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at Little Nell’s death is probably the best review of the book you’ll ever hear.
For my part, I didn’t so much want to laugh through those final few chapters that set the scene for Little Nell’s death, as sigh with boredom. LN is so good she doesn’t feel human (Dickens intention?) and the heavy-handed English Lit student-friendly (something to underline!) symbolism would put even Thomas Hardy to shame.
So thank goodness that Little Nell and her tedious, spineless grandfather, despite being the backbone (if lacking one themselves) of the novel, are largely sidelined to allow a host of witty, compelling, eccentric characters to take centre stage. There’s the sinister, evil dwarf Qulip, the cold, calculating snuff-addicted lawyer Sally Brass; the thoughtless, but ultimately kind hearted Dick Swilliver (I loved those chapters with him and the Marchioness towards the end of the novel – he completely charmed the socks off me), and good honest, but not, thank goodness, too good, Kit who ultimately to each other that kept me turning the pages.
by Suzanne Elliott