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The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

Written by Charles Dickens

Narrated by Simon Vance


The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

Written by Charles Dickens

Narrated by Simon Vance

ratings:
4/5 (43 ratings)
Length:
30 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Dec 24, 2010
ISBN:
9781452670249
Format:
Audiobook

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Description

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is closely modelled on the eighteenth-century novels that Charles Dickens loved as a child, such as Robinson Crusoe, in which the fortunes of a hero shape the plot. The likeable young Nicholas, left penniless on the death of his father, sets off in search of better prospects. His meandering route to happiness includes work as a teacher at Dotheboys Hall, where the brutal Wackford Squeers ill-treats his impoverished pupils, and a spell as an actor with the absurdly melodramatic Crummles troupe.



Nicholas's many adventures give Dickens the freedom to follow the eccentricities of a vivid gallery of characters, exploring themes of class, love, and self-awareness with exuberant comedy and biting satire.
Publisher:
Released:
Dec 24, 2010
ISBN:
9781452670249
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as ebookEbook

About the author

Charles Dickens was born in 1812 and grew up in poverty. This experience influenced ‘Oliver Twist’, the second of his fourteen major novels, which first appeared in 1837. When he died in 1870, he was buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey as an indication of his huge popularity as a novelist, which endures to this day.


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What people think about The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

4.0
43 ratings / 48 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    Nicholas's father left him, his sister, and his mother without a home or any money at all at his death, and so they seek help from a rich uncle, who turns out to be the great villain of the plot. Nicholas must seek his own fortune and meets an outstanding variety of characters along the way, who run the spectrum from angelic to despicable with plenty of comic relief in between. It reads like a Shakespearean comedy on a grand and intricate scale, complete with a coming-of-age story and multiple marriages at the end. I loved it. I absolutely loved it.
  • (5/5)
    What is not to love about Nicholas Nickleby? Everything you love in normal Dickens, plus righteous fisticuffs.
  • (4/5)
    Dickens 4th book, and 3rd novel, published in 1838-39 and cementing his speedy celebrity, Nickleby combines the angry social statements of Oliver Twist with something of the sense of sharp satire of The Pickwick Papers. True, neither Nicholas nor Kate exhibit much in the way of interesting features, but as Tintin-esque Everypeople, they are surrounded by a gallery of delightful characters. The Victorian pathos is there in spades, and some of it is really quite silly, but one can feel Dickens gaining such a sense of self-assuredness as he works through this novel, and the picaresque nature of Nickleby's travels will not be equalled by any of the other novels that feature extensive journeys. The acting troupe, the brutal world of Mantilini's dress shop, and the figure of Ralph Nickleby, who extends on Fagin's sparks of life to suggest that the author might one day be interested in creating characters with more than one-and-a-half dimensions.

    Excepting parts of Little Dorrit and David Copperfield, this is the Dickens novel that has the purest sense of fun, and combined with some of the powerful statements about the workhouse and the place of women, it's a very worthy read. To be honest, I think this is the height of the Dickens canon for several years, until Copperfield comes along.
  • (4/5)
    A very mixed book, this is an early Dickens, coming after the great Pickwick Papers and the melodramatic but wholly absorbing Oliver Twist.The positive aspects of the novel are led by the marvelous comic characters: Mrs Nickelby, who would drive the most patient of listeners to commit mayhem; Mr Lilyvick of the modest fortune and ever-changing will; Mr Crummles and his unusual family, which includes the Infant Prodigy, and several others. Another two believable, if less comic, characters are Newman Noggs and Miss LaCreevy. The settings are beautifully developed, and there’s a considerable amount of humor in the book. And the horrors of Dotheboys Hall are Dickens at his best—so good, in fact, that several headmasters considered suing Dickens for his portrayal, citing it as libelous.But my heavens! The plot is, even for Dickens, too full of coincidence and deus ex machina for the modern reader to take seriously. Parts of the ending are eminently satisfying, but other parts are too pat. And the book is so very, very long.Taken as a whole, this is an above-average novel, but it’s certainly not one of Dickens’s best.
  • (5/5)
    This was a great read. Romance and evil villains and minor theatricals. A from rags-to-riches kind of tale. It was relaxing to read about a time where things moved only as fast as your feet (or your horses) and not faster than your brain can conceive of. If everyone today read a course of Dickens I think we'd be much less stressed out and more happy. Turn off your screens.
  • (4/5)
    My favorite Dickens read so far. Never thought I would find one that would surpass Great Expectations, but this one did. While Dickens continues to bring forth, in vivid strokes, the bleak and terrible realities of his time period, there is a vibrancy of melodrama - and a bit of a carnival spirit - that gives this story a more lighthearted feel. While I have only scratched the surface of Dickens' writings, I find that he has a flair for creating some rather interesting characters. As much as I despise Ralph Nickleby, his fierce and calculating business mind is something to marvel at. Mrs. Nickleby comes across as a bit of an aristocratic "ditzy" woman but even she makes the odd observation that made me hit rewind once or twice. Overall, one of the better Dickens reads for me - and redeems Dickens in view of how much I despised Bleak House - giving me the incentive to consider reading more of Dickens works.
  • (4/5)
    Great opening paragraph eases readers smoothly into the challenging life of Nicholas Nickleby.The plot moves gently along with lovely entries like "Snow Hill!" "coffee-rooms,""...for gold conjures up a mist about a man."and: "He had but one eye, and the popular prejudice runs in favor of two."Dickens weaves his humor into Nicholas' conversation as he exposes the vivid contrastsof the lives of the poor with the wanton material wealth of the rich.Unfortunately, he also proceeds to lapse us into catatonia with his muffins resolutions parody.But, what does Dickens have against Smike?!? His trials were painful to read,even when John Brodie brings actual comedy.This was welcome to both readers and to "...Nicholas sat down, so depressed and self-degraded by the consciousness of his position, that if death could have come upon himat that time, he would have been almost happy to meet it."Nicholas' words on Shakespeare were a true delight in the midst of the paid-by-wordserialization that made for some truly boring side plots.This is my favorite of all Dickens novels.
  • (4/5)
    After his father dies, Nicholas Nickleby must go to work to support his mother and sister. The family is at the mercy of the "wicked uncle." Nicholas, at Ralph's arrangement, takes a position with Dothebys, a boarding school run by Mr. Squeers. Squeers and his equally corrupt wife regularly abuse the boys in their charge. After an incident, Nicholas leaves for London, being joined by Smike, one of the older boys. Newman Noggs, an employee of Ralph Nickleby,delivers a message to Nicholas. Life, love, and corruption continue to abound in the novel. Like most of Dickens' novels, social problems of the day are prominent. Enjoyable, but probably not Dickens' best work.
  • (4/5)
    I found the plot of Nicholas Nickleby hard to follow at times, but in the end felt that it was a book I might enjoy watching a film adaptation of. As writing, it pales in comparison to its predecessor, "Oliver Twist." Dickens tries to mix some of the same social criticism of the former work into this book (and apparently had quite an effect on the general population at the time, much to the detriment of the Yorkshire schools portrayed in this book), but with a greater focus on comedy. I was disappointed that he reverts back to such shallow portrayals of women after doing such an outstanding job of writing Nancy in "Oliver Twist," but to his credit I would say that I could imagine Kate as a living breathing character (and one who was far stronger than he seemed to be willing to portray her). Dickens also goes for the twist ending again here, but the melodrama seems forced. I would concur with critics who say that this book suffered from the time constraints on the author as he sought to hastily complete one overlapping manuscript after another.
  • (3/5)
    I enjoy Dickens very much and fin some of his novels have had a deep impact on me. Nicholas Nickleby is a typical Dickens novel--memorable names, poor family survives adversity to prosper, and commentary on social evils (a certain class of for-profit schools and usury) and it was enjoyable to read. Somehow, it felt to me a bit below-par for Dickens. I was very conscious of the "plot machinery" creaking along toward the entirely predictable denouement, something not true of most of the other Dickens novels I have read.
  • (5/5)
    One of the great books of English literature - so no need to bore you with a review. I loved it.
    Also - the unabridged audio read by Alex Jennings is nothing short of phenomenal.
  • (2/5)
    It's with a weary heart that I end my patient, obdurate reading of one of the great Victorian novels. Flowery syntax aside, let me confess that I meant, at many times, to abandon reading. The punctuation and epithet of this book was very trying to me. In the end, my unusual patience prevailed and I now declare that this was a not completely futile experience. It was justly so that the book ended where it did. Had I ditched this book I would be under the impression that all would end well. Alas it did not. Nicholas Nickleby would have earned 4 stars had the character called Smike - my fondest character in this book - not had a link with the Nicklebies. All grumblings aside, all imagined or inherent grievances aside, I wouldn't say no to a second Charles Dickens novel.
  • (4/5)
    A picaresque novel by Dickens gives us a smorgasboard of delightfully crafted characters. The good the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Dickens tells the story of a widow and her two children who seek help from her deceased husband's brother and are treated meanly and stingily by him. A social commentary told through the characters in this book and the main character, Nicholas Nickleby is a young man who comes to age as he takes care of his mother and sister and is kind to others he encounters on the way. This is Dickens third novel and a episodic and humorous book and also a first for romance for Dickens.
  • (5/5)
    Very entertaining and fast-moving, although quite fairy-tale like in places: Nicholas seemed to lead a charmed life. I particularly enjoyed his stint as an actor/playwright and most of his mother's speeches. The Cheerybles were too good to be true (did Nicholas ever do any real work for them), but handy for the resolution of the plot. I found Madeline to be very underwritten, and Smike's true identity came completely out of left-field, but it was such a romp that it didn't really matter.The potential fates of both Madeline and Kate, while realistic, seemed quite racy for a Victorian novel, especially as I have read of Dickens asking Trollope to alter things in his novels on morality grounds...
  • (3/5)
    3.5 stars. Typical Dickens which I normally love but this was not one of my favorites. It is the first one that I listened to and it took me quite awhile to get through so I think I just never got fully engaged with it. Despite that an average book by Dickens is still really enjoyable. Good characters with a strong narrator made for some entertaining scenes.
  • (2/5)
    Not one of Dickens' strongest tales. I just couldn't make myself care much about Nicholas although I liked Kate a bit more. But his secondary characters were brilliant as usual -- Ralph Nickleby, Wackford Squeers, Smike, the Brothers Cheerfull -- all wonderful. But my favorite part was the happy ending for Linkinwater and Miss La Creevy in the final chapter -- a beautiful, sentimental, feel-good poignant passage.
  • (4/5)
    I liked this book even more than Great Expectations - maybe because I was reading it on the beach. Dickens creates such wonderful heroes and such funny conversation.
  • (5/5)
    I started re-reading Nicholas Nickleby thinking it was something like my 13th or 14th favorite Dickens novel (Hard Times has an uncontestable hold on 15th, or last, place). In reading the second quarter or so that judgment felt vindicated. After the excellent last half, however, I am starting to think I was unfair. Not that there are other obvious candidates one would want to downgrade.

    There is an unfair misunderstanding of Dickens that he wrote in a hurry, by the word, in serials, and that as a result his books are not well thought out integrated novels but instead one incident following another in a somewhat muddled progression. That is unfair for just about all of Dickens
  • (4/5)
    Before there was Scrooge, there was Ralph Nickleby. Years before “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens had already created a character in “Nicholas Nickleby” who could have given Scrooge lessons in miserliness.The novel, published in 1838, opens with the death of Ralph's brother, making him responsible for his brother's widow and her two grown but not yet independent children, Nicholas and Kate. First he moves them into much more humble accommodations, then finds Nicholas a position as a tutor in a boy's school far from London. With the brother out of the way, he uses pretty Kate to entice two playboy noblemen into some business dealings, unmindful of what might happen to Kate afterward.Nicholas soon discovers the headmaster at the school to be abusive toward the boys in his care. He flees with one of those boys and finds himself for a time with a wandering theater group before learning of his sister's situation. When he returns to rescue her, a long struggle between uncle and nephew begins, with many complications and adventures.“Nicholas Nickleby” was not a successful novel in its day, at least in comparison with “Oliver Twist,” but it is hard to understand why. While it may not be one of the best novels Dickens wrote, it provides nonstop entertainment (except for one chapter that is obviously just padding and could be skipped without missing any of the story). It would make an excellent entry-level Dickens novel for those intimidated by that author's reputation for meandering plots and multitudes of characters. Here the plot rarely strays far from the Nicklebys, and the characters, while plentiful, are easy to keep straight. If the reader becomes confused about who a character is, Dickens soon enough makes it clear.This was one of the early Dickens novels. He was still learning the game he would soon master, but we can already find evidence of some of the writer's greatest personal interests and concerns, among them the plight of boys in schools operated for profit, young women coerced into careers in the sex trade and the theater, his greatest love, perhaps even including writing.There's humor here (Mrs. Nickleby ranks among his greatest comic characters), an abundance of romance (the clergy will have all the weddings they can handle by the end of the novel) and all the plot twists a reader could want. It's a massive novel, of course, but this is Dickens in an age when writers were paid for bulk. When a novel is this much fun, however, size is more blessing than curse.
  • (5/5)
    Great book very well president, on of the greatest novel in history
  • (5/5)
    Verbose, meandering and even shallow, but full of Dickens genius for sarcastic humor and memorable characters.
  • (4/5)
    Nicholas Nickleby is the tale of a young man whose father has died leaving his family penniless. Nicholas must find a job to support his mother and sister, Kate. The family turns for help to their uncle, Ralph Nickleby, a ruthless businessman, who has taken a dislike to his relatives. Nicholas, aided by many diverse characters, must protect his family from his uncle’s machinations.Nicholas Nickleby was the third book written by Charles Dickens, and it was published in serial form monthly in 1838 and 1839 before being published as a book in 1839.At first, I found the book very readable. As with many books written in the 1800s, the prose tends to be very wordy, and the style of the language is more stilted and formal than in books written more recently. However, I feel that Dickens’ style is perhaps a little more casual than some authors of that time which made reading the book more enjoyable. I felt there were a lot of descriptive passages in the book that could have been edited, making the book more streamlined. After a while, I felt that I got bogged down in the detail which made it somewhat less enjoyable to read. Also, Dickens introduces many characters throughout the book who really do not have a bearing on the overall tale. The characters seem to be part of amusing anecdotes used as filler to keep the serial going as long as possible. I felt that there was a lot of buildup to a climax, and then the story just petered out with minimal wrap-up compared to the amount of buildup. For instance, we learn much about two aristocratic gentlemen and also a family of performers, none of whom figure largely at the end of the story, but there is very little to be learned about the future spouses of both Nicholas and Kate, even though they would have more bearing on the longer story. Please skip the next paragraph as there are spoilers contained. I felt that there were some inconsistencies in how certain characters reacted. Nicholas seemed to be a very kind and honorable young man; however, at the beginning of the story, he seems to have a terrible temper which gets him into trouble. Not long afterward, he seems to have matured, and there is little reason for this given by the author. He may have realized the error of his ways, but Dickens did not see fit to mention this. Also, Ralph Nickleby is portrayed as a mean and heartless man. He finds that he has a son who was ill-treated before he was befriended by the Nickleby family and has now died. Because of this Ralph commits suicide, which seems very out of character. I did enjoy the classic good-triumphs over evil storyline. I also enjoyed meeting the many and varied characters introduced by Dickens, although there were a lot to keep track of. Dickens does a fabulous job of fleshing out some of the characters, but he does leave other characters feeling flat.
  • (5/5)
    Before Ebenezer Scrooge, there was Ralph Nickleby. In Nicholas Nickleby, Dicken's third novel published in 1839, Dickens combines the humor of Pickwick Papers with the graphic social ills of Oliver Twist. Our hero is a young man named Nicholas Nickleby whose father recently died, leaving his son, daughter, and wife nearly destitute. When they travel to London to seek help from their miserly Uncle Ralph, they have no conception of the struggles they will face as they learn to survive in a hard world. From the crowded streets of impersonal London to the flamboyant color and drama of the stage, Nicholas' adventures are thoroughly entertaining. Please be advised that there are spoilers to follow.The characters are brilliant. Dickens, you've gone and done it again — created characters I love and many I hate, with a few weak ones in between that I'm just glad I don't have to deal with in real life! The Cheerybles, the Crummles, Tim Linkinwater, and dear Miss La Creevy are great fun, and their warmhearted goodness more than balances the evil characters. Over the top they may be, but they live vibrantly in the novel, and I won't forget them. And the villains are wonderfully villainous: Ralph Nickleby, a great Dickensian misanthrope, Mr. and Mrs. Squeers, the epitome of selfish, blatant cruelty, silly and malicious Miss Squeers, greedy Wackford Jr., and the dissipated debauchee Sir Mulberry Hawk. Dickens' character names are delicious, as usual... Peg Sliderskrew, Arthur Gride, Mr. Lillyvick, and the rest.Despite the heaviness of the subject matter — the nauseating abuse and neglect occurring in Yorkshire boarding schools of the time, the plight of women who are prey to rapacious men, the agony of poverty — Dickens still manages to infuse his story with some wonderful humor. Whether it's the wry narrative voice ("Mr. Squeers's appearance was not prepossessing. He had but one eye, and the general prejudice runs in favour of two"), the characters' own merriment (John Browdie, your laugh is infectious even from the page), or the ridiculous comic situations (like Mrs. Nickleby's senile admirer coming down the chimney to find her), there is much to laugh over in these pages. It's one of the things Dickens does so well: mixing the heavy and/or melodramatic moments with unabashed humor that is still funny today.One of the darker themes of the story is how female beauty is a commodity to be bought and sold like anything else. Dickens represents this as a heinous evil, and if he over-glorifies the delicacy and virginity of his two young heroines, I can forgive him because of his anger toward their oppressors and concern for their happiness. Early in the story he indignantly notes that the birth dates of girls were never recorded, just those of boys. Modern feminism may find Dickens a bit of a soft chauvinist, but he shouldn't be judged by standards he never knew. It's more fair (and enjoyable) to look at the gender issues of his work in the context of his own historical period, not ours. Dickens is rather like Victor Hugo in this way.Sometimes Dickens' social and moral causes get away from him and take over the narrative. In one scene Nicholas gives a lengthy diatribe against playwrights who steal the plots of struggling novelists (clearly Dickens had NO personal experience with such abuses!). The diatribe is intelligent and eloquent, but rather odd in the mouth of Nicholas, who had no previous experience in the story with that particular evil and who could hardly have been expected to possess such an articulate opinion on it. It's a technical flaw to make Nicholas a mouthpiece in such a clumsy way, though I can understand the indignation that prompted Dickens to do so.There have been several film adaptations of the story, but the only one I have seen is the 2002 version written and directed by Douglas McGrath and starring Charlie Hunnam, Anne Hathaway, Christopher Plummer, Romola Garai, Jim Broadbent, and Jamie Bell. The film itself is gorgeous, and I loved the opening credits rolling in front of the painted miniature stage props; such a nice allusion to the theatrical nature of the story. The casting and acting are excellent, for the most part (with some slight qualms about Hunnam's Nicholas, but nothing major). As in the book, John Browdie is a wonderfully congenial and funny character, and Jim Broadbent and Juliet Stevenson as the Squeers are truly sadistic in a very dark (rather than maudlin) way. It was nice to see Timothy Spall (who plays Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter films) play a good guy in Charles Cheeryble. Romola Garai was lovely as Kate, and Ralph Nickleby's character is handled deftly by Christopher Plummer.As expected, parts of the story were condensed or completely dropped from the film: no Kenwigs, no Mantalinis, no Arthur Gride (Hawk takes his part), no Tim Linkinwater (he is conflated with Frank Cheeryble), barely any Miss La Creevy, no inheritance for Madeline, and no duel between Lord Frederick Verisopht and Sir Mulberry Hawk (though Verisopht does keep his brave speech!), to name a few. But though I am generally a purist, I do understand that some things will have to be cut in the process of adapting an almost eight-hundred-page novel to a two-hour film. Compressing events, changing a letter to a face-to-face confrontation, and making other similar changes don't bother me overmuch as long as there is a good reason. It's when the screenwriters start changing characters and plotlines dramatically that I have a problem. That didn't happen in this film, thankfully. Nicholas Nickleby is considerably more serious than McGrath's Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow, but it has hints of the same light humorous touch in places. Overall, I enjoyed it very much.This story is complete with all the unlikely coincidences requisite for a good Dickens. Sometimes the characters are a bit too dramatically Victorian to seem realistic, but you've just got to go with it. Yes, characters will die in each other's arms; yes, it's going to take Kate three days to compose herself after her first assault by Sir Mulberry Hawk; yes, Newman Noggs will devote his life to the enemies of his employer Ralph Nickleby out of sheer revenge. And somehow it all works. I don't think that Nicholas Nickleby is considered one of Dickens' stronger works, but I loved it and would probably rate it third among my favorites (right behind Pickwick Papers and Bleak House). Nicholas is an engaging, imperfect, humorous character who really grows into his strength throughout the course of the novel, and I greatly enjoyed cheering him on. Bravo, Dickens!
  • (4/5)
    It was a happy day when I, for whatever reason, elected to sample Charles Dickens. Having read A Tale of Two Cities in high school, I digressed to more popular fiction (Michener, Clavell, McMurtry, King, Grisham), as well as periods of science fiction and even non-fiction (Ambrose, McCollough for example), before making an effort to upgrade my reading list.I read some Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Steinbeck and Hemingway with mixed success before reading Great Expectations. I liked it enough to read David Copperfield, and I was hooked. A Tale of Two Cities followed and then Oliver Twist (not my favorite) and Bleak House (another below average Dickens novel in my opinion) before taking on this lengthy tome.As in many of his previous works, Dickens introduces his protagonist and then follows him throughout succeeding adventures, introducing many quirky and fascinating characters. It is these characters that spice up the narrative and are the strength of Dickens’s writing in my opinion. Midway through this novel, I compared it favorably to David Copperfield (the gold standard), but as the book droned on, it diminished in enjoyment. Perhaps the fact that it was introduced in serial form had an effect on the flow of the story once it was incorporated into a single novel, but for whatever reason, I grew tired of it before its conclusion. Having read several Dickens works prior to this one, I was aware that a period of acclimation is required before becoming comfortable with both the language and the cultural landscape. Unlike Bleak House, whose dialogue I found to be overly florid and tortured at times, I had no such problem with this work. If you have never read Dickens, it may take a little while to become comfortable, but if you have, you should have no problem.Make no mistake, at nearly 900 pages this is a real door stop, and while it is not my favorite Dickens effort, it is nonetheless worth the time and effort to read.
  • (5/5)
    I found Nicholas Nickelby to be a very entertaining book with lots of humor. It is a long book but holds your attention because of the quirky characters that Dickens is noted for. In Nicholas Nickelby, Dickens is showing us the social injustice mainly to children. The theme of good vs. evil is also very prevalent but in the end good is victorious and the novel finishes with the characters living happily ever after. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in reading about Victorian England.
  • (4/5)
    I found this Dickens classic very enjoyable. I had seen a film adaptation so I was familiar with the basic plot, but (as always with Dickens!) the book has so much more to it! I was surprised by the character of Nicholas's mother in particular -- so self-centered and annoying!
  • (5/5)
    My favorite Dickens, partly because it helped close down abusive residential "Public Schools" like Mr Squeers'; this effective critique of education holds much appeal to a lifelong teacher whose critiques of education have had much less dramatic effect. The scenes from the North England Dotheby's Hall are both convincing in their detailed cruelty and devastating as satire. Nickleby rescues the handicapped (or "retarded") Smike and they both leave after Nicholas is driven to beating the sadistic headmaster. The complex plot also satirizes the semi-professional theater of the day, in the Dover company of Crummles that includes the "infant phenomenon"--reminiscent of our own child actors, like Justin Biber, whom nobody satirizes now. Nicholas is hired as juvenile male lead and playwright-adapter of French plays to their minimal acting skills. This is a lively, generous, myriad-plotted book that will engage and amuse any reader with sufficient time not to feel rushed and burdened--i.e., most readers not reading for a college class. Other strands include the millenary business which Nicholas's sister Kate works in, and the machinations of the cruel "rich uncle."
  • (2/5)
    I remember finding this one pretty tedious, although some of the characters intrigued me deeply.
  • (3/5)
    it always seems a little pretentious to rate a true classic. I'll just say that this was by far the most delightfully charming and funny dickens I've ever read...and that in our modern times, one can't help but long for a savage editor to rein it all in.
  • (5/5)
    Q: Why, more than 140 years+ after his death is Charles Dickens still regarded as the greatest novelist the English language has ever seen?A: Because that is what he is.Nicholas Nickleby is a good illustration. I set myself to finish this - 776 pages in this edition - in a month; in the event it took twelve days. On most days, I only put it down because my eyes were throbbing from the small print.Of course, 776 pages is a lot of book but there is a lot of story; a lot happens to a lot of people. The reader must be given a chance to get to know these people if he is to a give a damn what happens to them. Dickens gives us this time; it is part of his art. He takes time, too, to describe people and places; remember that he wrote in the days before television, or newsreels, or even cheap picture-books. If he wanted the reader to know what something looked like, he had to describe it.To many, in this world where one death is a tragedy but a million deaths is a sound-bite, such a deliberate approach to story-telling will prove too taxing. To those with a more traditional attention span, it must simply add to the experience.And experience it is. Nickleby loses nothing with the passing of years. Dickens dealt, as do all great writers, with human nature and the real world. At root, neither changes. We are still afflicted with businessmen who know no morality beyond the p&l account; educationalists who substitute cant for understanding and choose to forget the humanity of their charges; gold diggers, cheats and frauds; and parents who care nothing for their children.Nicholas Nickleby was a page-turner in 1838 and it is a page-turner today. It has, by turns, villainy and romance, comedy and tragedy, sudden death and new beginnings. Truly, all human life is here.