Summary of Dickens’ Little Dorrit Read-along Experience

The Dickens’ read-along with my friend extended from November 2012 to almost the end of February 2013. Reading more or less Issue by Issue as they were published gave a different flavour to the experience as it kept one always conscious of what it might have been like to be following this story as it was published: a little like following Downton Abbey on a weekly basis on PBS. For anyone who likes notes for a Dickens’ read and is considering Little Dorrit do check out the posts back in the archives and see if they are helpful to you.

I became  most aware of the techniques Dickens’ employed to ensure sufficient interest in buying the next issue.It was also interesting that in the last issue he hurriedly tied everything up as neatly and as quickly as possible because there as no need for any further suspense.

It seems clear looking back that it was not about wealth or happiness or marriage for these are far less interesting than poverty and squalor, unhappiness and maltreatment, failure or lonliness. The marriage of Arthur and Amy is anti-climactic and I, for one, felt a little let down for some reason or other. They “went down into a modest life of usefulness and happiness…to give a mother’s care …to Fanny’s neglected children no less than their own..and to give a tender nurse and friend to Tip for some few years.” Doyce is totally reconciled with Arthur, Pet is at home with her mother, Amy shakes John Chivery’s hand, Mr. Pancks has become chief clerk to Doyce and Clennam and has Flora on one arm and Maggy on the other as the happy couple signed the register.

Was anything  not resolved to your satisfaction?

In his introduction to my Modern Library edition of Little Dorrit, David Gates writes that after 1850, Dickens’ novels “tended to be more elaborately constructed and harsher and less buoyant in tone than his earlier works”. These late novels include Bleak House (1853), Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1857), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861).

I have not read Bleak House and am considering it as my next Dickens read. Or a reread of A Tale of Two Cities? Or Edwin Drood? hmmmm   Or perhaps it is time to read one of the novels written prior to 1850 and see if Gates’ observations hold true?

Well, first I will watch the BBC video version of Little Dorrit with Matthew McFadyen, Claire Foy, Tom Courtney as William Dorrit, Alun Armstrong as Flintwinch, Eddy Marsan as Pancks, Amanda Redman as Mrs. Merdle and James Fleet as Frederick Dorrit.  Anyone seen this?

2 thoughts on “Summary of Dickens’ Little Dorrit Read-along Experience”

  1. I haven’t watched the film yet, and find myself in the old bind of wanting to always read the book first and, yet, without plans to read this one (still being stuck in a Dickens novel myself, which I’d begun reading in an issue-by-issue project, but which, apparently finds many “months” of imagined news-sheets stacked up, thanks to an extended period of inattention). I noticed a group on GoodReads recently for folks who intend to read all of Dickens, loosely going about their own reading plans…wondered if you had noticed that one, in lieu of another F2F readalong.

    1. Sometimes watching a good film version can actually inspire one to read the book but this doesn’t work for everyone. I was not aware of the GoodReads group you referred to so I will check that out: company on Dickens’ reads provide great inspiration I find. Thank you for the idea.

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