Little Dorrit

by Charles Dickens

Paper Book, 1953

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

London : Oxford U.P., 1953.

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
Little Dorrit, published in 1855–1857, is often described as Dickens' creative re-imagining of his experiences at the Marshalsea Prison, where his father was imprisoned for debt in 1824 when Charles was twelve. The Marshalsea looms over this story in various forms; sometimes it feels ominous and other times it is congenially familiar.

The characters are wonderful, as is usual with Dickens. I think John Chivery is my favorite. He proves that heroism doesn't have to be dashing. More often than not, it's humble. I also love the Plornishes, especially Mrs. Plornish's linguistic abilities. Flora is also so much fun... I know people just like her, who never use punctuation in either their speech or writing. She drove me crazy at first, especially with her constant silly references to her previous love for Arthur. But she grew on me and I started to enjoy her scenes. Dickens can be so funny!

Little Dorrit herself is so sweet and selfless that she is a little hard to believe, though most people will be able to empathize with her when she is walked over by her family. She is a character that I would seek to emulate, rather than immediately identify with. I don't know anyone in real life who would be so patient with selfish, thoughtless family members; I know I couldn't!

The villains are as varied as in real life. Rigaud Blandois, that "gentleman," is insufferable. His speeches of self-justication and self-satisfaction are just sickening. Miss Wade is simply mesmerizing... so much of what she says *could* have a basis in reality, but is so twisted. Is it really okay to adopt an orphan and raise her to be a servant to one's own daughter? But it's all in the interpretation of reality, and her bitterness is clearly wrong. It's the same with Mrs. Clennam, that merciless, religious woman. She is legalism personified.

And who could forget Mr. Merdle! I knew we were setting up for a big fall when Dickens was hyping him so much, but I didn't suspect what actually happens. Other "public" villains include the family Barnacle, who cling stubbornly and uselessly to the ship of State, and also what Dickens is pleased to call the "Circumlocution Office." This is his name for all the bureaucracy in English government that ever stifled good sense and public well-being — and he is not kind to it.

Unfortunately for this novel, I have been reading it since May (it's now August), due to various life circumstances and general busyness. I usually read very quickly and it's unusual for me to spend over two months in one book. And so I felt that this story dragged, and my emotional involvement with its characters was less than it might have been.

I have enjoyed many of Dickens' books and am used to his sprawling plots, but this one had so many subplots going in so many different directions, it rather faltered at the end. So much was left unresolved. It isn't that everyone has to have a happy or at least satisfying ending. They just need to have an ending, period!

Also, the plot device by which Little Dorrit becomes possessed of her fortune is so convoluted. I was shamefacedly thankful for the breakdown in my Penguin Classics copy which explained all the events that transpired before the story started. Arthur Clennam's intuition that there was some dark dealing in his family's past that wronged the Dorrits was also a little too precipitate; how could he have known?

There were moments when I was overtaken by the mastery of Dickens' storytelling, like when the businesslike Pancks betrays a fondness for the happy little Italian, Baptiste Cavalletto. It is also very poignant when Arthur keeps trying to convince himself he is not in love with Pet and when Mr. Meagles tells him about Pet's dead twin sister. I was rather in awe of Dickens right there; it was perfectly put. I felt so much for the Meagles and for Arthur at that moment.

However, despite its great characters and moments of genius, Little Dorrit is not one of my favorite Dickens novels. In fact, it's probably my least favorite thus far. That isn't to say that I did not enjoy it, but it just didn't have the overmastering, unifying idea that it needed to bring everything together at the end. It was just about too many things. Sometimes it was about the asinine abuses of the Circumlocution Office; sometimes it was about feminism and the unspeakable insult of charity; sometimes it was about financial devastation by swindlery; sometimes it was about the deterioration of personality brought about by imprisonment.

At the end, I felt that I was left still holding the strings of some of the subplots. I wasn't sure how to put them down and Dickens did not gently take them from my hands and lay them to rest. This is a good novel, but flawed. I would not recommend this as one's first foray into Dickens.
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
This is a dark, even cynical look at 19th century British society in general and the effects of imprisonment on the soul. The first two reactions I had upon finishing was that no one should try to read it in its entire version, get an abridged copy. It was originally puplished in 19 monthly installments, and to read it in the complete version all at once is as nauseating as eating an entire chocolate cake at one sitting. Dickens belabors every point and over emphasizes most characteristics. After the 100th time Rigaud's moustache went up under his nose and his nose came down over his moustache I found the characterization rather like nails on a chalk board. As cute as Flora's rambling stream of consciousness monologues were, we didn't need quite so many to get the point.

My second observation was that perhaps if Mr. Dickens had been able to see both halves of humanity as being equally human he wouldn't have been so imprisoned in his own bigotry and perhaps would have been less cynical. There's not a fully realized, psychologically healthy woman in the whole 895 page (Penguin edition) book.
There's the Good Mother, Mrs. Meagles(who serves no other purpose), the Bad Mother, Mrs. Clennam - imprisoned in her unrelentingly, impersonal Calvanism; the romantically deluded Minni Meagles; the haughty Fanny, imprisoned though not at all unhappily, by her social climbing; the pitiful Affery imprisoned by both class and sex; the Strong Woman - Miss Wade - very accurately depicted as a pre-Freudian paranoid; Mrs. Merdle, The Boosom; and the poodle-named Tattycoram who could have been whole, and would have been had she been an adopted orphan boy named Fido, but as a mere female needed only to fight the temptation to consider herself anyone's equal. Oh, and let us not forget Little Doormat herself. One sentence from the book gives a complete description: "Little Dorrit yielded willingly." That she did, to everyone in everything. There's not an ounce of self preservation about the little woman. The interplay of the need for self preservation and the urge toward altruism makes for human drama. There's no drama in this character, because she has no self, only the urge to be of service.

If one is willing to overlook Dickins' sexism, as one must overlook other authors' racism, we can appreciate the book as excellent social commentary and for the perfect construction of the Circumlocution Office - the epitomy of bureacracy, and a wonderful foreshadowing of our financial collapse and the effects of Bernie Madoff in the person of Mr. Merdle.
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LibraryThing member atheist_goat
Whoa! Dicken does Wilkie Collins and international intrigue, and the coincidental meetings that strain credulity when they take place in London in other Dickens novels take place all across Europe, which is just hilarious: at one point, six British characters all come upon each other in an Alpine monastery in the dead of night. This book is a great time.… (more)
LibraryThing member fillpail
I just finished Little Dorrit and feel that it speaks to our contemporary social, political and moral problems. This novel seems to me to be quite different from so many of Dickens' novels; the main character is introduced not as a child but as a middle-aged man. The main female character is not vapid, but an interesting person. The writing seems to be even more symbolic than usual. Of course one might consider the main characters to be the Office of Circumlocution and the Marshalsea Prison. Both of these institutions represent the class-bound corruption of England. The Office of Circumlocution is, of course, the corrupt civil service system. It was supposedly reformed in 1855, but in reality the senior civil service remained in the hands of the upper classes. Dickens called them the Barnacle and Stiltstocking families. Their power was later illustrated in a novel, and then mini-series, entitled A Very British Coup. One important part of Little Dorrit is that the English aristocracy had little interest in, and actually opposed, the progress of invention in England and indeed tried to stifle it. Dickens was prophetic when he has the engineer Doyle begin to work for a foreign power (obviously Germany) from whom he received many honors. Germany, with its Realschulen and technische Hochschulen and emphasis in engineering and other practical matters (such as the health and education of its citizens) moved ahead of Britain by the end of the century.

The Marshalsea Prison also illustrates the power of the wealthy in that it was run for profit and clearly favored the well-established. The article about the Marshalsea in Wikipedia is quite enlightening. The brilliance of Dickens is shown in how he parallels the lives of the prisoners of Marshalsea and the prisoners of Society. Of course Dickens indicated this duality by dividing the novel into two books: Poverty and Riches.

I was very much taken by how this novel speaks to our present condition; the English and increasingly the American senior civil services seem to be reserved for the Barnacles and the Stiltstockings. The disregard for progress in engineering is certainly prevalent in the U.S. and probably England. In today's CBS News Money Watch section on the internet, there is much information about the banks' loan modification programs which seem to be run by the Office of Circumlocution. The character of Merdle appears again regularly in the news media. Suicide is no longer required.

Of course we must remember that the reason we read Dickens is that he always has a compelling story; I became quickly involved in the affairs of Arthur Clennam and Little Dorrit and fascinated again by the great eccentric characters always present in a Dickens novel.
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LibraryThing member DSeanW
Dickens functions in his books the way people wish God did in our world, always arranging every little event and chance encounter and directing them towards a neat and tidy moral finish where the good prosper and the wicked die in house fires. Very satisfying.
LibraryThing member Mercury57
Corruption; inept officialdom; capitalism, the pretensions of social class and status: few elements of Victorian life seem to escape Dickens’ scrutiny in Little Dorrit.

Published in monthly instalments between 1855 and 1857, first reactions from the critics were not very favourable. They completely overlooked the social critique element and focused their attention instead on what they considered an unnecessarily incoherent plot and insubstantial, two-dimensional figures. Fortunately the mid twentieth century saw a revival of interest in the novel and a significant shift in attitude. In fact attitudes shifted so far that George Bernard Shaw claimed Little Dorrit was a more seditious text than Marx’s Das Kapital while George Orwell declared that ”in Little Dorrit, Dickens attacked English institutions with a ferocity that has never since been approached.”

Much of Dickens’ ire in Little Dorrit is focused on government bureaucracy. He brings it to life with the wonderfully imaginative invention of the Circumlocution Office. It’s a government department run entirely it seems by the incompetent and the inept (ring any bells???). Its sole purpose is to frustrate and obstruct anyone who has the temerity to ask for information or assistance. Forms need to be filled in just to request permission to fill in more forms to ask for an appointment.(the Soviets learned a thing or two from the Circumlocution Office methinks).

Some of his greatest anger is directed at debtors’ prisons such as the notorious Marshalsea in which people who owed money were imprisoned until they repaid their debts. It was an impossible situation because they were not allowed to work so had to rely on family or friends to help pay bills and to provide food and clothing. Such becomes the fate of William Dorrit who moves his entire family into the Marshalsea when he becomes a bankrupt. His youngest daughter Amy (the Little Dorrit of the title) is born within its walls, becoming a true child of the Marshalsea.

But even in prison the appearance of gentility and the gradations of class and status must be maintained. The Marshalsea inhabitants refer to themselves as “collegians” rather than prisoners; Papa Dorrit pretends ignorance about the fact his daughters go out to work every day to put food on the table, and openly solicits financial gifts from visitors, masks their true nature by calling them “tributes” and ‘testimonials’. As his status within the prison rises and he becomes the longest-serving resident, so his consciousness of his status increases, going into orbit when he is released upon discovery that he is in fact a very wealthy man.

What Dickens shows is the personal cost of such esteem for one’s position in life. Mr Dorrit is so blinkered by his sense of his own importance that he fails to connect with the one person who loves him without question – his daughter Amy. Though she has loved him without question for decades, cared for him and undergone personal suffering so that he would be spared, he does not recognise the debt he owes her. Instead he subjects her to criticism over petty mistakes and castigates her when she doesn’t wholeheartedly welcome and adopt the trappings of the family’s new-found wealth. Does he repent on his deathbed as characters do in so many novels? I won’t spoil the plot by disclosing that; you’ll just have to read the novel yourself.

The Dorrits are a far cry from the epitome of the happy loving families found in Dickens’s earlier works. None of the families in Little Dorrit actually fit that particular description being neither loving nor happy. They’re all rather dysfunctional in fact. When Arthur Clenhome, one of the book’s good guys, returns to London from China where he ran the family business for twenty years he gets as much of a welcome from his mother as if he’d just returned from a weekend in Brighton.

Like most of Dickens’ big novels, the plot does require attention to keep all the threads intact but this book isn’t anywhere as complicated as Bleak House. It also relies on a remarkable series of coincidences – the first two characters we meet in a prison in France not only turn up again in London many many chapters later and somehow manage to play key roles in the plot. But it wouldn’t be Dickens without coincidence would it. Nor would it be Dickens without a wildly extravagant female character. Just as Dombey and Son has the dippy Miss Lucretia Tox, and Martin Chuzzlewit has the drunken nurse Sarah Gamp, in Little Dorrit Dickens serves up the garrulous Flora Finching to entertain with her gushing and breathless simpering talk of nothing in particular. A brilliant invention.

So in case you haven’t twigged by now, yes I did enjoy this book. And yes I would definitely read it again.
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LibraryThing member hardlyhardy
"Little Dorrit," published in 1857, is such a remarkable novel that I wonder why it has not been honored as much as some of the other works of Charles Dickens, such as "Great Expectations," "Bleak House" and "David Copperfield." It is not easy reading, both because of its great length (855 pages in my edition) and because of its complexity, but it is never boring. The novel is not flawless by any means, but its many strengths outweigh its few weaknesses.

Little Dorrit is a small woman who was born in a debtors' prison and, until she is in her early 20s, has spent every night of her life there. Her beloved father is the prisoner. She and her brother and sister are free to come and go as they please, but it pleases Amy (Little Dorrit) to stay with her father each night.

Arthur Clennam, who may actually be the novel's main character, is a middle-aged man who returns to England after many years away to find that his mother and her butler have taken over the family business after the death of his father. Their actions are mysterious, but he has no intention of interfering. Arthur notices a tiny servant girl working for his mother who eats little and disappears mysteriously every evening. He calls her Little Dorrit, and he learns that she saves her food to give to her father and that she spends every night with him in the prison.

Through Arthur's efforts, Mr. Dorrit is not only released from prison but receives a very large inheritance that makes him a wealthy man who doesn't like to be reminded of his many years in prison. Because Arthur Clennam is a reminder, Mr. Dorrit keeps him at a distance both from himself and his daughter, who secretly loves Arthur.

The novel has many subplots and multiple characters. It is a complicated love story (Little Dorrit is not the only woman who loves Arthur, who loves somebody else, and somebody else loves Little Dorrit), a mystery (what are Mrs. Clennam and her butler up to and what secret is she hiding?), a social commentary on business, government and the imprisonment of debtors and an outrageous satire.
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LibraryThing member MickyFine
Recently returned to London after spending twenty years abroad working in China, Arthur Clennam finds himself taking an interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and her father, William Dorrit, a long-time inmate, due to his debts, in the Marshalsea Prison. As Arthur befriends Little Dorrit, he encounters a wide cast of characters on whom the shadow of the Marshalsea falls. While there are dark and conniving characters and others whom are simply superficial and flawed, Little Dorrit remains constant and is the impetus for far more changes in his life than Arthur ever could have imagined.

Charles Dickens, for all his flaws, knew how to create a compelling novel. While there's no denying that he created some hefty tomes (my edition of the novel comes in at 860 pages), they are filled with rich characters and expansive and intricately detailed plots. In this novel, Dickens begins with a mystery that slowly unravels over the course of the narrative, shedding new light on relationships and characters but always leaving the reader wondering just where the plot might be going. The characters are vivid from Amy Dorrit's diminutive stature to Pancks and his hair that defies gravity to Rigaud with his terrifying smile. And while Little Dorrit is very demure as all of Dickens' idealized heroines are, she still has an independent spirit that is never quite subdued regardless of her circumstance. In addition to the plots and characters, Dickens includes some truly delightful turns of phrase. His wit comes through in a multitude of places, whether he be ranting about the general ineffectualness of government or describing a character with a healthy dose of snark. Full of sympathetic characters and a plot that pulls you on to discover what will happen to all of them, Little Dorrit also explores the long-term effects of imprisonment and poverty on the psyche with pathos. A delight throughout, the novel will leave you with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when you reach the final page.
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LibraryThing member therebelprince
A true delight, Dickens' second masterpiece, coming soon after Bleak House. The 19th of Dickens' 24 major works, and the 11th of his novels, Dorrit was written over a span of two years, and brings us into CD's final act, as he begins to lavish careful attention on his works and aims to realise his characters far more greatly, and tie his works together. Dorrit is more diffuse than Bleak House yet feels even more like a novel rather than a serialised work.

The lead characters, Amy Dorrit - a child of a debt-ridden family, whose essential goodness has created a community in the most unlikely of places - and Arthur Clennam, the soulful sailor uncovering his family's ill deeds, are like most of Dickens' lead characters to date: a bit vanilla. This alone is a step back from Bleak House although they continue to greatly reflect the world around them, and in this case their positive qualities form a part of the novel's plea for sanity and simplicity in an increasingly material world.

The novel excels in its portrayal of Victorian England's ludicrous class system, through the absolutely fantastic caricatures of the Meagles and the Merdles, and in examining the idiocy of a culture that refuses to allow the downtrodden any relief. The Marshalsea - a real debtors' prison in which Dickens' father spent time, which had closed down shortly before the novel was written - is vividly realised, and the delightful supporting characters, from Mrs. Plornish to the conflicted Pancks, from the babbling Flora Finching to the eternally hilarious Mr. F's Aunt, still provide much merriment and intrigue. And the groaning, heaving mass that is Clennam and Co is perhaps Dickens' most powerful individual symbol.

At the heart of the work is Mr. Dorrit, a portrait of pathos like many prior, but far more interesting and realistic than any Dickensian character we have yet seen. A really strong work (with an equally beautiful and faithful BBC adaptation) that I heartily recommend.
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LibraryThing member markbstephenson
I loved the satire of the Circumlocution Office as well as the leitmotif of human captivity which runs through the whole novel.
LibraryThing member GeorgeBowling
Just finished my fourth reading of this volume, and, I am bound to say, this time round I found myself a bit irritated by some things that had not really bothered me before.

I secretly rather enjoy the more melodramatic bits of Dickens, but Rigaud was just so pantomime villain – complete with his cloak – that I found him hard to swallow, particularly as the author could not, it seemed, be bothered to work out a proper plot for him to work through. He just keeps having him pop up from time to time to look sinister and vanish again, and then he breathlessly explains some rigmarole at the last minute, that is so confusing the Penguin editors have been kind enough to provide an appendix to explain it.

Then, it is quite notorious that Dickens could not do sexuality. So, though we are told that Little Dorrit is head over heels in love with Clennam, and that he in turn is besotted with Pet Meagles, it just does not really ring true. And, as Orwell noted, Dickens does not allow romance to cross class boundaries, so Clennam and Dorrit can only be brought together when circumstances have brought them social equality.

Then the fact that Clennam has spent his life in China just does not convince for a moment. No one but Flora (confusedly) asks him a bout China; he never speaks of it himself, and his twenty years in a distant continent have just left no mark.

Of course there are a lot of good things in the book, which is why I came to read it four times in the first place. The sad, funny father of the Marshalsea, the comedy of the Circumlocution Office, and the faux grandeur of the Gowans, combine to make a sharp satire on the whole concept of aristocracy. But it is definitely an object of weaknesses as well as strengths.
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LibraryThing member santhony
It was a happy day when I, for whatever reason, elected to sample Charles Dickens. Having read A Tale of Two Cities in high school, I digressed to more popular fiction (Michener, Clavell, McMurtry, King, Grisham), as well as periods of science fiction and even non-fiction (Ambrose, McCollough for example), before making an effort to upgrade my reading list.

I read some Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Steinbeck and Hemingway with mixed success before reading Great Expectations. I liked it enough to read David Copperfield, and I was hooked. A Tale of Two Cities followed and then Oliver Twist (not my favorite), Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby, Martin Chuzzlewit, The Pickwick Papers and Dombey and Son before taking on this door stop of a novel.

Many of Dickens’s works tend to be lengthy and excessively wordy, perhaps due to their nature of having been serialized prior to being printed in a single volume. Truth be told, after having read Great Expectations, David Copperfield and Tale of Two Cities I confess to being disappointed with several of the following Dickens novels, particularly Bleak House, Martin Chuzzlewit and Dombey and Son. This novel however restored my faith. While Dickens is certainly famous for character development, and I’ve found no one better, the novels that I’ve truly enjoyed have been those that also feature an advancement of story line and this one is no different in that regard. It is simply an outstanding story, with all of the outrageous characters that you’ve come to expect in any Dickens work.

As in other Dickens works, a period of acclimation is required to become comfortable with the vocabulary and social conventions of the era. Having read almost all of Dickens’s work, I would have to rank this as my third favorite, after David Copperfield and Tale of Two Cities.
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
It is a rather mixed bag of mystery and intrigue between characters both well-off and not. The theme of prisons and imprisonment permeates this book with the title character residing with her family in the infamous "Marshalsea" prison for the first part of the book. The main plot is focused on the efforts of Arthur Clennam to assist Little (Amy) Dorrit's family in paying their debts so as to escape the prison and Arthur's own quest to solve the mystery of his family & identity. The Dorrits succeed in leaving the prison due to discovered inheritance. The novel moves on to the second part and advancement of the love interests of several characters along with new developments in the life of Arthur. One of Dickens most complicated tales, the novel has several "shady" characters that create difficult situations. Moreover Dickens demonstrates some of his most effective satire in the description of the Circumlocution Office and its administrators, the predatory Barnacles.
This novel exhibits some of the characteristic traits for which Dickens is famous, including a plethora of characters, atmospheric descriptions and a somewhat convoluted plot line. While exhibiting these traits it also has two of the most decent and truly good protagonists (if not hero and heroine) in all of the Dickens which I have read. That Arthur Clennam and Little Dorrit (Amy) finally join together in wedded bliss is a consummation not unexpected and certainly deserved. Arthur has survived his 'quest' for identity and understanding and while not entirely successful he has reached a point from which he can satisfactorily go forward with his life and with his Amy.
For this reader the novel was both satisfying and perturbing. The continual railing against the Circumlocution Office and skewering of debtors' prisons with the 'Marshalsea' was not convincing and the weakness of the plot undermined the quality of the novel. However, the fecundity of curious and wonderful characters who consistently charmed and challenged the reader with their psychological complexity helped to overcome all other weaknesses. And this is the great strength of Dickens as a novelist which he demonstrates again and again as he continues to increase his mastery of this literary form.
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LibraryThing member JeroenBerndsen
A bit too long for my taste, though undeniably a literary work by high standards. Not a Dickens I recommend tot start off with.

Little Dorrit is a classic tale of imprisonment, both literal and metaphorical, while Dickens' working title for the novel, Nobody's Fault , highlights its concern with personal responsibility in private and public life. Dickens' childhood experiences inform the vivid scenes in Marshalsea debtor's prison, while his adult perceptions of governmental failures shape his satirical picture of the Circumlocution Office. The novel's range of characters - the honest, the crooked, the selfish and the self-denying - offers a portrait of society about whose values Dickens had profound doubts.… (more)
LibraryThing member Smiley
A decided Dickens masterpiece. Compelling but it bogs a bit in the middle (Italy) and it suffers from a few of the Great One's particular flaws. On the whole I liked Bleak House better and this is just a slight cut above Our Mutual Friend.
LibraryThing member samfsmith
The theme of this Dickens novel is imprisonment, and many of the characters are in prisons, either of their own making or forced on them. As usual with Dickens, it is long, convoluted, full of coincidences and fortunate happenstance, but still satisfying.
LibraryThing member idiotgirl
Audiobook. I do love this book and loved it again. A good book for our times with the ponzi scheme that is one of its major plot schemes. The world would be a tricky place right now if all debtors were sent to prison. This is a complex, somber, fine book.
LibraryThing member firebird013
The complex structure of this book adds to its power; when a good man falls on hard times in a merciless world, who will help him? Little Dorrit is wonderful creation by Dickens who enters the heart; a moving book about friendship, courtship and greed. The evocation of the debtor's prison in London is masterful.
LibraryThing member Seajack
Free at last, Free at last! Not really, but nearly two months and 32 listening hours later, I can move on!
Now I'm a fan of Victorian Lit, and have enjoyed many Dickens adventures, but this one I'd rate as suitable for hard-core fans only. It's dated, with the premise of debtors' prisons and the Circumlocution Office. Yes, we have red tape today, but also Freedom of Information Acts, etc. I just couldn't relate to the circumstances here. As for the writing itself, the subplots seemed to be going nowhere except to serve as serialization fodder (word count). By the middle, I feared the ending would be hurriedly wrapped up; indeed - that turned out to be so true that I swear I missed some points by not paying the strictest of attention every single minute to the audio.
Bottom line: I found it a less interesting/exciting/compelling version of "Our Mutual Friend". Those who haven't read (much) Dickens, or are trying this one to "give him another chance" likely won't finish the book ... and I wouldn't blame them.
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LibraryThing member mbmackay
Originally published by installments from 1855 to 1857. This is a good book - the plot is a little fantastic, but is developed progressively, not requiring the crazy devices at the end like some others (Great Expectations). The characters are rich and believable. Ms Wade is almost a text paranoid, 40 years before the syndrome was medically described. Flora has the speech babble of a Valley Girl. I find Dickens highly variable, but this is one of the books that justifies his reputation as a master. Read June/July 2009.… (more)
LibraryThing member JonRob
When I first read Little Dorrit, I felt it was significantly too long for its material. After numerous rereadings I no longer feel that - in fact it may be my favourite Dickens novel. One fascinating feature is the way the theme of imprisonment extends so far beyond those who are pent-up in the Marshalsea debtor's prison; we have the swaggering Rigaud and the cheerful Cavalletto, in prison at Marseilles at the book's start; the imprisonment of Mrs. Clennam in her own room, for some medical reason never disclosed; the imprisonment of ideas by the Circumlocution Office, whose watchword is How Not to Do It; Pet Meagles' self-imposed imprisonment in what we cannot see as a good marriage; and there are numerous other possible examples. Best of all are the wondefully apposite little turns of phrase Dickens uses - and it has my favourite last sentence of any novel at all.… (more)
LibraryThing member kambrogi
Little Dorrit, the daughter of a debtor, is born and raised in a debtor’s prison in England. Gentle and self-sacrificing, the motherless child grows up to be a generous young woman, an angel of mercy to her father and numerous others, as well as her thankless brother and sister. She is delivered by Arthur Clennam, the true protagonist here, a middle-aged man who was raised in a cold and cruel household. He sets out to discover the source of his own father’s unspoken regret at the time of his death, and settles on the Dorrit family as a vehicle by which to make amends. The book is peopled by the most extensive and amazing cast of characters I have yet discovered in a Dickens novel, and each and every one simply walks off the page. I’m sure I shall live with them for the rest of my life, just as if they had peopled my neighborhood as a child. This is Dickens’ great gift, and it is not in short supply here.

This book was originally written in magazine installments, and so it does seem to last longer than necessary. For my taste, Dickens wastes too much time attacking his favorite targets: Society and Bureaucracy. Whole chapters are devoted to satirizing them, and although admittedly humorous, most of the characters thus employed play no other part in the novel except to be the butts of his jokes. Still, the story is a pleasant journey for anyone who likes to be immersed in a complex human tale that ultimately ties up every one of its dozens of plot threads.
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LibraryThing member wbwilburn5
Great story about letting each other down, while still believing in the kindness of others.)
LibraryThing member charlie68
Good book by Mr. Dickens although didn't blow me away. In fact some of the book was very tough going. But there are good themes and the usual great characters and settings which is pretty much standard. The ending was confusing I ended up having to read it a couple of times before I got it.
LibraryThing member jmchshannon
That synopsis does not do this book justice. As anyone who has read other works by Dickens, his books are very rarely as simple as this synopsis would imply. However, considering the novel's length, a short synopsis is as good as any.

Given my unabashed love for all things Dickens, I am absolutely crestfallen that I could not rave about Little Dorrit. Instead, I have very mixed feelings about this monstrosity of a novel. For one thing, Dickens, in my opinion, is the master of suspense and of taking a complex set of characters and interweaving their lives in unique and unexpected ways. There was almost none of that here. The story is predictable with very little suspense. The characters are too black-and-white with almost none of the moral ambiguity that makes his characters so memorable and also helps build tension for the reader. As a result, I lost my desire to read this book about halfway through it. The predictability prevented me from being truly vested in any of the characters and staying actively engaged in the story. In fact, I struggled to stay awake while reading it.

However, there are still some very Dickensian things to love about this story. His descriptions of 1850s London remain absolutely stunning. The reader can all but smell the streets, hear the sounds of the horses' hooves as they clatter down the street and feel the despair of life in debtors' prison rising up from the pages. The picture he paints of London is very raw and real, and in a historical context, more accurate for what an everyday person's life was like than anything by Austen, the Bronte sisters or other English authors from a similar period who focused only on upper class society.

Staying true to form, Dickens has several pointed critiques of society he brings forward with Little Dorrit. Given his own personal history of life in the workhouse with a father who lived in a debtors' prison, Dickens typically mentions the downtrodden and the poor in his work. This time, he attacks the government and the idea of locking people away for failure to pay their bills and does so with gusto. From the not-so-tongue-in-cheek discussions of a bureaucracy that prides itself on doing absolutely nothing to the mindless following of the masses of the advice of the supposedly very wealthy to the discussions of life inside a debtors' prison, Dickens does not pull any punches in his critique of them all. Through his eyes, the reader understands that those government forms one has to fill out in triplicate are there only to keep you busy while preventing any actual work from occurring, that in London at that time, one could be imprisoned for failure to pay back one pound or one hundred pounds, and that money or piety does not buy happiness. It seems that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

I have debated with myself for the last few days on whether I truly enjoyed this novel or not. I cannot say definitively one way or the other. There was a lot to learn about society back then, as there always is in his works. However, nothing took me by surprise, and I had to remind myself that I needed to continue to read it. The idea of a debtors' prison definitely had me thinking about that entire system, why it was ever created, and wondering if we are really much better off without it. There are only a few minor characters which are truly memorable, but most, I feel, are just caricatures of what they could have been. In the end, I would recommend it to others, but I would do so with the utmost caution. While it does have topics that last throughout the ages, it really is not a book for someone who has never before read a classic. I have to say that I am glad I read it, yet even happier I finished it.
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