Two different reviews!
I first read this as a tween and I honestly didn’t remember much of it at all.
Though I kind of have a love/hate relationship with Dickens, it’s pretty tough to say anything bad about this story. It’s so unbelievably canonical I have trouble putting it into words. List off a mystery / horror cliche and it probably originated with this story. I exaggerate, but the arc of so many mysteries and horror tales follow a very similar pattern.
Dickens may have not been the first to use so many of these tropes, but he was likely the first to achieve so much success with them, and to put them in a package so accessible – i.e. in the story of a child, that can then be told to children. And at the same time, he includes his usual social comment. It’s when he’s brief like this, and when he still thinks about suspense, that I can appreciate it him.
A true classic.
[Then I read it again, by accident, or something, and wrote the following:]
Dickens second novel is a landmark is socially conscious novels and I can well imagine the impact it had on the reading public, given not only its story of a helpless young boy, but also the description with which Dickens captures, with a great deal of vividness, the lives of the poorer people in greater London at the time. Dickens’ irony and sarcasm in the opening chapters is particularly withering and you can imagine well-to-do people who thought themselves leading lights of humanity reading this book and having their hypocrisy and the true results of their efforts smacked in their faces.
The novel has dated rather a lot, however, as Dickens’ story gets more preposterous as it goes and the ending feels not only absurdly happy, given the nature of the story, but a bit of a deus ex machina. However, it’s hard to criticize him for that, given the other strengths of the book.