Hey, book lovers! Hope you all are doing well. Today’s review is another class read, but one that, though time-consuming, I enjoyed more than any novel I’ve read in a while. Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend is a staggering 822 pages. Within them lies Dickens’s telltale complexity of plot: he weaves together characters’ stories and makes everything tie coherently together at the end, if with a bit too much optimism for some tastes.
Our Mutual Friend follows the story of figures around London interested in the fate of John Harmon. While returning to inherit his father’s fortune, John is murdered. Slowly, characters concerned in the affair are introduced: John’s will-prescribed future bride, now bereft of her husband; the next-in-line to the Harmon estate; and the well-to-do and the dirt poor who are all linked together in one of Dickens’s delightful story webs.
The narrator is one of the novel’s strongest appeals. Holding a reader’s attention through 822 pages of plot requires an arresting voice. Though his tone shifts throughout the story, the subtlety of it—the sarcasm, satire, and sometimes blatant statements—make for amusing interaction between narrator and reader. Additionally, Dickens’s imagery, specifically in his renown crafting of setting, is expressive and beautifully-worded.
Developing his characters so fully allows Dickens to throw them into scenes together and let the reader witness sparks fly. This was probably my favorite aspect of the novel: watching unique characters verbally spar with one another, and observing the amusing (or bewildering) effects. Thanks to this attention to detail, character deaths are also more effective.
The impressive thing about Our Mutual Friend’s complexities is that it was originally published serially, as all of Dickens’s works were at some time. The impossibility of immediate revision doubtlessly made crafting the novel difficult. In short, I realize why we’re studying this for History of the Novel class; but I also enjoyed it recreationally quite a lot.
Despite its length, the book’s comprehension isn’t too taxing. It’s one that’s best taken in several doses; however, once you get into the rhythm, you may find some of the pages slip by faster than anticipated, as I did. Multiple reads are beneficial, too—in scanning it over a second time for paper research, details and scene layout come to my attention more than they did the first time.
That’s the beauty of well-crafted literary works: they continue to speak into people’s lives long after their first encounters with them. As a Christian, I can only hope and pray that my hard work accomplishes the same results for Christ’s glory.