Rife with Dickens' disturbing descriptions of street life, the novel is buoyed by the purity of the orphan Oliver. Though he is treated with cruelty and surrounded by coarseness for most of his life, his pious innocence leads him at last to salvation - and the shocking discovery of his true identity.
I think most have read this, but it was one I'd neglected, and am so glad that audiobooks allow me to "catch up" on the things I've missed, but don't have time to sit down and enjoy.
Simon Vance is a stellar narrator, bringing stories to life w/ his flawless transitions between characters. What a pro! His narration made this story for me.
I absolutely love Simon Vance as a reader. After listening to his reading of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, I decided to try something a bit more classic, and went with Oliver Twist, since, despite being an English major, I had only ever read one Dickens novel (Great Expectations) and then with a looming exam deadline so it wasn't fun at all.
Simon Vance made the book come alive, made the humor in Dickens' descriptions and dialog funny, made it easy to keep track of a wide cast of characters in all of his different voices.
Any flaws in the book are more a weakness of Dickens...it gets off to a good start and has a riproaring set of climaxes, but there is a pretty badly sagging middle where not a lot is going on, some mawkish sentimentality and a few needless episodes that I chalk up to the book's origin as a serial and a need to have some sort of "cliffhanger" to lead to the next segment. Also, as many others have noted, Oliver is such a paragon of meek and grateful innocence that he pales in comparison (as do all of the "good guys", pretty much, except for the surgeon and the friend of Mr. Brownlow who constantly threatens to "eat his own head") to the vivid villains and lowlifes who oppose him.
But trust me, even with these weaknesses, Vance makes it worthwhile. I have added all of his Dickens books to my wishlist and plan to start on Nicolas Nickleby as soon as my next credits arrive!
Hard to improve on this combination of Dickens and Vance! I almost cried at one point in the book, when little "Dickie" request a pen and paper so he could express to Oliver his love.
It' a great story, a brilliant social critique, and a keen observation of human nature that holds up.
I listened to Oliver Twist on audible while I also read it as a paperback novel. My reading experience was enhanced by the terrific voices and phrasing of Simon Vance. If you haven't read any Dickens, try this one,
Tell us about yourself! Lifelong reader and passionate pursuer of knowledge. I love Audible because I never have to stop reading.
The story is more of a moving commentary on the evils of being poor and being punished for it than it is a true novel, like other work by Dickens, but the prose is so masterful, that it is merely magnificent rather than transcendent.
Like much 19th century literature, the plot requires too many coincidences. London and its environs had a pretty big population even then. But lo and behold, Mr. Brownlow just happens to know the father of Oliver's half brother, and Oliver's aunt just happens to be living with a woman whose house Sikes sends Oliver to break into. So, sure, the social depiction is valuable, but such unlikely coincidences detract from the story. Nevertheless, it is a very worthy book. A lot has been written about Fagin and his being called "the Jew", when that is not relevant to the story at all. Charles Dickens definitely did not need to do that, and he is reflecting a sad state of the social attitudes among even those who should know better. So, on one hand he consciously shows the societal ills of poverty, treatment of children, etc., but on the other hand he unconsciously shows the societal ills of prejudice. Sure, there were Jewish crooks in London, but being a criminal does not seem to be particular to any ethnic, racial, or religious group, so unless there is some redeeming reason to point out a person's race, ethnicity, or religion (or sexual identity, for that matter), such as happens in To Kill a Mockingbird, why do it if not for prejudice?
I'm pretty sure this is the most well-known Dickens work besides "A Christmas Carol" (which is, I believe, technically a novelette?) Probably because it's been made into countless movies, series, and at least one musical.
And for good reason--it's a sweet story with a happy ending, but not without plenty of colorful villains mucking things up on the way.
The suspense hinges entirely on circumstance--will the heroes unite before the villains intervene?--rather than character development (heroes don't evolve into villains or visa versa), but we get so attached to all of the players, both good and bad, that it doesn't really matter.
This is junk melodrama at it's best--no real-life little boy could possibly be as sweet and adorable as Oliver--but the character was also Dickens's way of illuminating what he perceived as social ills, and it would be a mistake to think his portrayal of the institutions of the day were just exaggerated and/or fictional constructs.
Oliver Twist is essential Dickens, and you won't find any better narration than this.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.