Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Pickwick Papers Read-a-long: Chapters One to Eleven


Spoilers abound below.

Thus dubbed by this conversation and the misery that was The Tale of Two Cities.

This year, Bex is running another Dickens read-a-long,to which news we all reacted with sighs and moans of despair... and then joined in anyway. 

I have to admit, I was absolutely not looking forward to this. I really didn't get on at all with A Tale of Two Cities, and this new book is absolutely huge. I even had to get it on my Kindle (which I barely use) just so I wouldn't be constantly reminded by how much of the damn thing was left to read.

As it turns out, it's actually not so bad. 

There's no overarching plot, which is slightly odd. Instead there's four men, bumbling around the countryside in the name of the Pickwick Club. Their job is to report back on interesting happenings... and also the grass. Or at least, I think that's the idea as the chapter that explained all this is horrendous.

The first chaper is written in the form of meeting minutes and I swear I just wanted to shoot myself. I had no idea the rest of the book was going to pick up and I thought I was in for 50 million pages of secretarial babble. I mean, just look at it. 

Thankfully, that ends with Chapter Two, or I don't think I'd still be continuing with this read-a-long. After that, it's actually funny. There was a place where I literally laughed out loud, and who does that with Dickens!?
   'All right?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, with an inward presentiment that it was all wrong.
   'All right,' replied Mr. Winkle faintly.
   'Let 'em go,' cried the hostler.--'Hold him in, sir;' and away went the chaise, and the saddle-horse, with Mr. Pickwick on the box of the one, and Mr. Winkle on the back of the other, to the delight and gratification of the whole inn-yard.
   'What makes him go sideways?' said Mr. Snodgrass in the bin, to Mr. Winkle in the saddle.
   'I can't imagine,' replied Mr. Winkle. His horse was drifting up the street in the most mysterious manner--side first, with his head towards one side of the way, and his tail towards the other.
I'd forgotten how well he does satire. There's a part where a barmaid gets 'playfully' shot for refusing to serve an already drunken soldier, and how dare she complain!?

However, do you know what the most fun thing in the entire world is? Reading Charles Dickens describe the minutiae of a cricket match when you have a raging hangover. I recommend it always.

Because, after all, we are still talking about the same author. There is a lot of 'and then there was the butcher which was redbrick, which was next to the baker which was also redbrick but that house had a gate, unlike the attorney's which was next to the butcher because that had a gold door knob, just like the surgeon but without the garden...' Ad nauseum. 

Parts of this are very amusing, Mr Pickwick especially. It was touch and go whether we'd get on or not, but we do, so isn't that nice? In my head he pretty much looks like Benjamin Franklin though. 

I really liked Rachael and it really irritated me when she ran off with That Person Whose Name I Can't Remember But Talks In A Very Annoying Way. Mr Tinkle? You know who I mean. I wish he'd had more of a comeuppance but then I always do in novels. *shakes her fist at Lydia Bennett.*

So I am enjoying this... but only when I'm reading it. I'm quite happy to read this and be amused by the antics of The Pickwick Club, but it gets quite old quite quickly. The lack of overarching plot means that I struggle to pick it back up when I've put it down as I know there's not going to be any actual development or grand revelation to look forward to.

Fellow read-a-longers... how are you finding Pickwick?


  1. I think I enjoyed it much more than you did, maybe because I'm sort of allowing myself to not pay too much attention to it when it gets to boring sections (I think I took in about a quarter of what was happening at the cricket match, heh.) I also enjoyed the opening chapter, does that make me weird?

    I liked Rachael too, I found it annoying how easily manipulated she was with no comeuppance! Maybe it will happen at some later point though? I didn't think that Mr Jingles was going to come back after the first time he went away but then he did, so maybe it isn't the last that we've seen of him!

    1. I'm doing the same with not concentrating too much on the boring stuff! it's the way to go I think :-)

    2. *wails* But I AM enjoying it! I always sound like I hate everything but I do like this. I just don't always want to pick it back up again.

      But yes, it ABSOLUTELY makes you weird that you liked the opening chapter. Sorry about that. There may be Self-help Classes you can attend? :)

      That's a good point actually. I hadn't expected him to pop back up again either so I'm sure he'll be back. I really do hope he gets some sort of comeuppance and Pickwick doesn't just welcome him back.

    3. Bex - Yay for skipping over boring stuff! I think it's probably important with Dickens, hehe.

      Hanna - Hehe, I didn't think it sounded like you hated it! I think I end up sounding like I hate everything that I talk about on my blog too, hehe. I was actually looking forward to carrying on reading it when I put it down though and was having to force myself to read it a bit more slowly, plus I liked the first chapter because I'm some kind of meeting minutes loving weirdo, apparently.

      I'll look into the self-help thing! I feel so ashamed.

      As it's Dickens, I'm sure he will get his just deserts in the end! Hopefully.

  2. I am SO glad I'm not the only one to laugh out loud at the horse going sideways!! Off to write my post now!

  3. Ok so now that's up, I'm really enjoying it! I was actually in hysterics over the sideways horse and have had a few other little giggles as well so that's a nice surprise. Like you I can kind of take or leave it though, I'm reading a lot of other good stuff at the moment as well, but it's definitely better than last years so far!

    Jingle is his name. I find him kind of annoying and the way he speaks is really difficult to take in which means I'm probably not absorbing half of it! I wrote it in my post but I was kind of annoyed with the three of them really. Just grow up and realise that you a)probably aren't in love after five minutes of knowing each other and b)shouldn't run off with the first man who asks you who you've only know for the previously mentioned five minutes without questioning his motives at all. Urgh.

    Don't even get me started on Lydia Bennett.

    1. That's pretty much exactly how I feel about it - it's made me laugh a few times, but (whilst it's better than last year) I'm not OVERLY fussed. I like it, but there are other books that are nudging me :p

      Ah, Jingle. To be honest, Twinkle has stuck in my head now. I kind of picture him as a scruffier version of Stuart Townsend from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen... I can't take in what he says either, so I have been skimming a lot of it.

      The others don't really bother me. I wouldn't want to be FRIENDS with them or anything, but I'm happy to metaphorically pat them on the head and continue.

      Damn it Lydia!

    2. I wonder whether the reason that I want to pick this up a lot is that the other book that I'm reading (The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth) is pretty difficult to read, so reading this seems like a bit of light relief!

      I'm glad that I'm not the only person who has trouble following what Jingle (or twinkle, that sounds a bit too cute though) is saying!

      ...I've never read Pride and Prejudice (I know), but I did watch the TV adaptation with Colin Firth in approximately 600 times when I was younger, but although I can remember thinking Lydia was stupid, it was at a time when I figured that that is just how love works. I do plan on reading the book at some point so I shall look forward to being pissed off at her for being a moron. :D

    3. If Mr Jingle looked like Stuart Townsend's Dorian Gray, I'D have run off with him too. Go Rachael! ;)

  4. Ok, so I made it to the end of chapter 3! Lame, yes but at least I've started! We have a pretty quiet weekend coming up so I'm planning on getting some reading done then. I mean sure, I have 20 chapters of tales of randomness but I'm sure it'll be great and I'll be done before I know it!

    That's all I've got - I had to skim read these posts just in case I find out something. Because obviously a book with very little plot to begin with doesn't have a lot to loose. I feel like I have moaned about this book enough to you so I'm going to go and actually read the damn thing instead of talking about it!

  5. I'm with everyone here, skimming the boring and latching onto the satire. The Rachel/Jingle story made me want to reach in and shake her until she came to her senses. Yes, the pickings are slim, and yes, girlfriend, you are "expiring", but don't run off with basically the first guy you meet, ughhhh.

  6. I didn't realise there were so many people DREADING this readalong. Am I the only person who was looking forward to reading Pickwick, knew it was funny, and DIDN'T join in just because they wanted to be forced to read another Dickens novel? Anyone? Bueller? *sighs*

    I don't think we've seen the end of Mr Jingle, never fear. He's Wickham, he'll be back for something before long. I'm really enjoying it so far! It's nice being able to pick it up and put it down in between other things instead of feeling like I'll forget lots of character details or tiny plot moments if I don't just read it all at once. I don't find the detail boring either - I mean, the cricket section was, like, two pages. Hardly a drag. I like the stories, I like the humour (and Dickens IS funny, even in his darker novels), I like the characters... This readalong's going to make me sad if everyone hates it. :(


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