Every now and then, I turn back to the classics and remind myself why they are “classic.” Charles Dickens has always been a favorite of mine, but I had never read Little Dorrit. I picked up a Wordsworth edition (over 800 pages with introduction, preface and footnotes) which sat on my “To Be Read” shelf for several months before I plucked up the energy to tackle it. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.
The story is simple: a few good souls struggle with fate’s decrees, society’s vagaries, fools and evil-doers to find “a modest life of usefulness and happiness.” Oh, but what innocent souls, twisted evil-doers and delicious fools! There’s a reason why “Dickensian” is applied to certain well-drawn characters. Dickens saw deep into the heart of humankind and had a wonderful facility for bringing people to life in lush eccentric detail. Amy Dorrit, as the titular character, is tiny in size, but huge in impact. She’s gentle, giving, industrious and the emotional bulwark of her family and friends. In spite of being born and raised in a debtor’s prison where her gentleman father was incarcerated for over twenty years, Little Dorrit is beloved by all who come to know her. Arthur Dennam is a man entering middle age and haunted by a secret he suspects and his mother won’t divulge. He’s an honorable man and wants no one hurt on his behalf. But he falls into the trap of denying his emotions and settling for less than he’s worth. (more…)