Sunday, July 05, 2020

Nicholas Nickleby

Nicholas Nickleby is the third novel by Charles Dickens, coming after Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, and was first published serially in 1838 and 1839.

It has all the hallmarks of a serial novel as well as a Dickens novel--chock full of aptly named characters, lots of digressions and a few side stories that don't really relate to the plot, coincidences, mysteries, authorial sermons on pet topics, and acrobatic plot maneuvers. No wonder Dickens became such a popular author in his day--he definitely gave readers their money's worth.

This was a reread for me, but since I last read the book more than 30 years ago and only once, much of the story was fresh and highly entertaining. I really enjoyed spending the last two months in the company of stalwart Nicholas and his lovely sister Kate, though I found their mother more tiresome than Miss Bates in Austen's Emma. About the only part of the story I remembered well was Nicholas's employment at Dotheboy's Hall in Yorkshire and his dealings with the horrible Wackford Squeers and his befriending poor Smike. What I hadn't remembered was that Squeers remained a villain throughout the book.

I had completely forgot about Kate's various employments, Nicholas's time with the acting company, the completely heroic Newman Noggs who is like a guardian angel to Nicholas and a demon to wicked Uncle Ralph. And then there are the Cheeryble brothers who couldn't have been given a better name, the delightful Tim Linkinwater, sweet Miss La Creevy, good-natured John Browdie and his wife Tilda, and on and on.

The illustrations by Hablot Browne (aka Phiz) were a fun part of the overall experience.

I couldn't possibly provide a synopsis of the plot without writing a short story, so I'll just say it was a long, enjoyable romp with one of literature's most lovable heroes who can jest, flirt, and fight with the best that Dickensian London has to offer and come up smelling like a rose.

I know I will be rereading this novel again, but first I need to finish up the remaining three Dickens novels I still haven't read--Martin Chuzzlewit, Barnaby Rudge, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

This is my first book in the 2020 Big Book Summer Challenge, and qualifies for the 2020 Back to the Classics Challenge in the category Classic With a Person's Name in the Title.


  1. Oh, you remind me, I still need to commit to this. I'm so intimidated by Dickens, and yet, three of his books are my my five-star favorites. It's the size of this one. I gave up on Pickwick Papers, but my best bookish friend said this is her favorite. And you make a good case why I shouldn't be afraid. I just have to do it!

  2. Another Dickens novel I haven't read. You make it sound very fun! :)

  3. It's funny what we forget and what we remember from novels, isn't it! Nicholas Nickleby is definitely one of my top favorites. I think part of this is because Nicholas is such an energetic hero. Martin Chuzzlewit was the first Dickens I ever read and I loved it, so I hope you enjoy it. It does have a very slow section in the middle when the action moves to America. But other than that, it also has all the hallmarks of a classic Dickens title. :D

  4. You make me feel it's high time I re-read Nicholas Nickleby again. Years ago as a High School student, there was a huge, 8 hour long stage production some of us went to, and read the book at the same time. I loved Nicholas and Kate, and do vaguely remember the long play within the play.

  5. It's a nice accomplishment of yours to finish Nickleby. I also (like Paula) attended due to my parents a very long stage production of Nicholas Nickleby (1980?) in Los Angeles .... where we were sitting in the back and couldn't see well and fell asleep for hours & it'd still be going on... where every once in a while someone would yell "Nicholas Nickleby" and we'd wake up. but I think the book would be better!