Well, the first phase of my TBR challenge is over. The TBR/Double Dog Dare challenge ends today. While I didn’t read as many books as I hoped from my physical TBR pile (I started off with a few too many holds at the library), I did stick to the challenge and didn’t get distracted by the new and shiny. Going forward, I’m going to try to restrict my library books to two or three at a time as I found this really helped me to not get distracted in my reading.
My main reading accomplishment this month was finishing Oliver Twist. I have been meaning to read this for a while and had put it on the original Readers’ Choice Voting List for my book challenge last year, although it was not one of the final selections. As I mentioned last month, I read this following the original serialization pattern (the Penguin clothbound edition marks these divisions), which was a great way to do it. Of course, that did mean it took me longer than I originally anticipated, so I’m not sure I would want to do that for longer books. But I definitely want to read more Dickens.
Please, sir, I want some more.
The story is melodramatic and sentimental, and the coincidences in the plot are extremely far fetched, but it’s a fun ride and an interesting exposure of the social welfare and criminal justice system of the time. It’s difficult to read Dickens’ characterization of Fagin (“the Jew”) today, but there were other “bad” characters who were exceptionally drawn, such as the Bumbles or Bill Sikes, and other characters I would have liked to see more of, such as Mr. Grimwig or Jack Dawkins (aka The Artful Dodger, who virtually disappears from the narrative at a certain point). The portrayal of the relationship between Nancy and Bill Sikes is particularly strong and sadly relevant even today.
As a follow-up to reading the book, I checked out the soundtrack of Oliver! from the library. The show has a very different plot and focus from the book that I now realize was the source of most of my (often mistaken) impressions of the Twist story. Yet, despite this divergence from the novel, it’s really a great piece of musical theater. In addition to the well-remembered “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,” “I’d Do Anything,” and “As Long As He Needs Me,” among others, there were many forgotten gems such as “Be Back Soon,” “Who Will Buy?” and “Reviewing the Situation” that bear repeated listening. Of course, at the same time, I also got the soundtrack to Django Unchained, which makes for an interesting musical juxtaposition. Frankly, I think Bill Sikes could give anyone in Django a good run for their money.
Speaking of the library, a number of books, including Wolf Hall, finally came off hold this month, which is one reason I didn’t make as much progress on my home TBR. It is also the reason I decided not to tackle Middlemarch for the current book salon theme of marriage. Instead, I recently began reading my Georgette Heyer TBR books, starting with The Grand Sophy, one of Heyer’s highest rated novels on Goodreads. But I think I will wait until I have finished all four to assess these.
Other library books include This is Life by Dan Rhodes and Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, both of which I heartily recommend. This is Life is the second great book I have read from the Fiction Uncovered 2012 Booklist (after Lucky Bunny) and I will now be more actively seeking to read others. One much-hyped book that did not work for me was The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis, which I returned after reading the first chapter and deciding it was too much of an “Oprah” book.
As always, you can see my reviews of these library books at Goodreads.