I almost groaned in Chapter 1. How many books begin with this setting? Sheesh.
BUT, then I got caught up with the plot, and I did not have to force my way through the opening chapters. It reminded me of Drood, which has been my favorite, with its simplified character list and development of plot. The references to ghosts, mysterious bells, ravens, and dead bodies has completely distracted me from Barnaby Rudge as a historical novel. I hope that this will be more character driven than Tale of Two Cities because I missed getting to know those characters more.
Chapters 1-9 seemed effortless to read, and the characters are engaging, particularly Migg. Whether she is a bitter and jealous woman or not, her prank on Sim Tappertit was hilarious–probably because he is so annoying with the “‘Prentice Knights” business.
This was unexpected, for me. The conditions that children lived–and worked–in are depressing and disturbing, but Dickens’ portrayal of Sim and his brotherhood did not evoke my sympathies. No, children shouldn’t be told they’re worthless or called a “dreadful idle vagrant,” but I’m sure that Sim’s organization is going to lead nowhere good. “Death to all masters, life to all ‘prentices, and love to all fair damsels” seems to be a childish motto with little thought to the consequences. Is Dickens messing with me? I would expect to on the side of the child, but I’m definitely not.
By Chapter 10, Mr. Chester, Mr. Varden, and Mr. Haredale appeared to be the characters of consequence, despite the novel being titled after Barnaby. [Side Note: Something about Barnaby reminded me of Faulkner’s Benjy in Sound and the Fury and the boy in Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.]
And there is a forbidden love with quarreling families. Yep, I’m gonna like this one.