Wrongly Named – a review of The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

Two weeks to read a book a year ago used to mean that I was totally engaged with a book. But nowadays if I read a book in two weeks it means the total opposite.

So yeah, guess how long it took for me to read The Old Curiosity Shop?

Nell faces poverty at the hands of her grandfather’s gambling addiction, though he means well. He seeks the wealth she deserves in massive earnings through card games. However, learning of this Mr Quilp seeks out lawyers and forms of manipulation to take over the old man’s shop and home. As a result Nell decides to run away with her grandfather, their absence turning their former compatriots’ lives upside down and Nell’s adventures changing the lives of many strangers on the road.

First off, most characters felt like copies of each other. The women were largely passive wives or maid who would never dare to utter anything impolite, and the men were inquisitive lawyers and businessmen doing their working journeys. Or if there were differences between characters, they were so vague that I couldn’t notice them. It didn’t help that in their dialogue the characters were barely distinguishable and that points of view changed so much and for such long periods of time that I don’t remember the goals or arcs of a good 80% of the characters.

Speaking of, these characters has such a disjointed plot. Sure, it was all connected at the beginning, but as the narrative went on so too did their stories split to bizarre levels. And they way their plotlines were revealed were downright bizarre, either disrupting flow or going off in unnecessary directions. Those that did matter had such small impacts to the overall narrative. Why wasn’t it just about Nell and her Granddad, maybe with some chapters from Quill’s perspective?

That plotline was good. I was always looking forward to Nell’s endeavor’s and seeing the addictions her grandfather had to get through – the best part of it all. But it’d be luck if it took up half of the book. It was the easiest to follow and had the most beautiful story – which didn’t need to be connected to literally anything else. Like the villain Quilp – he set the story in motion and was never part of their lives ever again.

But I think what maddens me the most about this novel is how little the titular “old curiosity shop” was a part of the story. Like a tenth of it. That maddens me the most as it robbed me off all my expectations for this novel.

The Old Curiosity Shop gets a score of 1.5/5. Why name a novel after the shop when they’re barely a part of it?

Yours in writing


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