The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is closely modelled on the 18h-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.
Public Domain (P)2010 Tantor
So many books, so little time.
Nicholas is a wonderful character: brash and hot-headed, he often gets himself in trouble. But his courage, unerring loyalty and faultless goodness always get him out again. Like all of Dickens' books, this one contains an unforgettable array of characters, including great villains such as Ralph Nickleby (a foreshadow of Ebenezer Scrooge), Wackford Squeers and Sir Mulberry Hawk; as well as the hilarious, outrageous, flamboyant, foul-mouthed Mr. Mantalini. Simon Vance's performance was compelling; each character was rendered perfectly. I adored this audiobook and will listen again!
great story that rollicks along. absolutely beautifully read - i am completely hooked and sit in the car after reaching my destination just to listen further.
No, I would not recommend this book to a friend. As embarrassing as it is to admit that a classic by Dickens is tedious, it was true for me. Perhaps because it was first published as a serial, it is separated into separate "adventures" that have little connection to each other. At different times, I began to feel like, "what is the point of this story line?" The story is clever and funny, but it just wanders along. Finally, despite an excellent narrator, I stopped listening to this novel. The narration is excellent. I did listen to this novel for a long time because the narrator made the story come alive.
It took me a while to get into Nicholas Nickleby, but one I muddled through the extended misery that begins the book, there was reward aplenty.
It struck me that was a book of heroes and villains - and much like a fantasy adventure, the central Hero, Nicholas, must engage his band of heroes to defeat the villains that he encounters. The object of the adventure - well, nothing more than a life of happiness and being with those one loves.
The villians are dastardly. Wackford Squeers, the schoolmaster, is as cruel, greedy, and false as a character can be, and by casting himself as the great father to the poor boys pawned off to his oversight, the depth of his evil is unrestrained. His minions, Mrs. Squeers, daughter Fanny, and son Wackford, all reflect this evil core. You might recall that Squeers' "methods of teaching" were admired by Roald Dahl's headmistress Miss Trunchbull in the delightful children's book Matilda.
Sir Mulberry Hawk, the lecherous egomaniac that sets his lusty designs on Nicholas' sister Kate. His has the ability to appear gallant and charming, making Nicholas' and Kate's mother think he is a Hero, but all the while he is conniving to sordid mischief. His minions included the very efficient Misters Pluck and Pike - ready to do anything for Hawk at any time, no matter how base or vile. Lord Verisopht is another of Hawk's minions, but not due to an evil nature, but to a combination of extreme naivete and apparent innocence. Too late, he recognizes Hawk's nature and how he has been used for evil purposes.
Walter Bray, the father of Nicholas love interest, does his best to ruin his own family, playing the role of ungrateful, tyrannical father to a beautiful young lately who has won Nicholas heart just by crossing his path on two occasions in her life.
And the central villain, Nicholas' Uncle Ralph, a man of money and influence, who from the beginning seems unwilling to give Nicholas even the least morsel of respect, and instead, interprets Nicholas every act as being to embarrass and stain him, and sets as his life course the utter destruction of Nicholas and his quest for happiness and love. Ralph associates with the other villains, and a lesser villain named Arthur Gride to bring misery to Nicholas.
Contrasted with these mean villains are the clan of Heroes:
Newman Noggs actually works for Ralph, and at times, must do errands that contribute to Ralph's evil intent, but he befriends Nicholas, and eventually emerges as the hero inside the villain's camp who can help save the day. There is so much to like about Newman Noggs.
Vincent Crummles is the head of the theatre troupe where Nicholas' fortunes begin to turn. A chance meeting betweeen two is the place where Nicholas adventure turns from one of flight and exile to one where Nicholas becomes a man of talent and personality that will pay off in his future endeavors.
John Browdie is the muscle of the party of heroes in this story. There is also much to like about John Browdie; he is the guy you want on your side because of the combination of a can-do spirit and a winsome personality, but when his ire is raised, he becomes decisive and impactful.
Ned and Charles Cheeryble are angelic in their heroism, full of generosity and a willingness to intervene to make the path straighter. I found their lack of spouses and children of their own somewhat unbelievable, as they were so magnamious to a degree that seemed to beg to be shared on the most intimate level. Whereas Noggs was a hero who has some specific and very obvious skills to be used to help Nicholas achieve his quest, the Cheerybles are more transcendant in their ability to effect good.
And then there is Smike. Smike is the initial catalyst in turning this from a story of drudgery to a story of hope and adventure, and the relationship between Nicholas and Smike is a story of loyal devotion and companionship. Nicholas saves Smike's life, but that favor is returned in both tangible and intangible ways.
And most importantly, the Hero of Heroes, Nicholas Nickleby. I think Nicholas is more purely good to the core than either David Copperfield or Pip in Great Expectations, a couple of other great Dickens heroes I have recented gotten to know. And Nicholas is fighting a more intentional evil. As this is only Dickens 3rd book, Nickleby is far less complex than the later heroes. For example, his love for Madeleine is overly simplistic, especially when you compare it to David Copperfield's two great loves, both of which were fraught with complexity.
I cannot pass without commenting on Nicholas' sister Kate and his mother. Kate is a loyal and devoted sister who plays a significant role in the book by daring to resist the lewd advances of Sir Mulberry Hawk. But, I would again describe her character as simplistic.
The one character who is not simple is the mother. Given to long rambling monologues, Dickens shows a tremendous appreciation for this woman's beloved role in the family. While you know everyone around her is wishing she would shut up, you are so grateful that she is asserting her place in the middle of everything. Sometimes she is foolish, stupid, and downright embarrassing, but at others she is just humorous and pitiable. But in all, she is Mom, and she is loved.
This is the 4th Dickens book I have devoured over the past couple of years, and I continue to be amazed at his characters. I liked David Copperfield a bit more, perhaps because of the aforementioned digging into Copperfield's feelings about the women he loved. This book had some very good drama, and did a nice job of intertwining the characters.
Bottom line, don't get discouraged by the early misery of the book. Plod on through, and you will be rewarded!
Unquestionably. Vance is a master narrator
Nicholas' encounters with Mr. and Mrs. Squears.
No tears or excessive joy - Dickens' sense of irony keeps the reader on an even keel in the face of disaster or great joy. This is one of teh reasons I endorse Dickens to my children. His stories are not epic but his perspective is worldly beyond his years.
The very next audiobook I purchased was David Copperfield because I was not ready let go of Simon Vance's narration.
Worthwhile, thoughtful read
Well performed and a classic story that contains lessons the apply to today
Good story and characters I could love (and hate) as well as believe.
The title character of course. We get to know him best.
No spoilers! But there are plenty of good scenes.
Too long to think of it. But I always looked forward to my next walk to listen more.
One of the best audiobooks I have read
Performance by Simon Vance is outstanding. He brings different characters to life with his vocal portrayals.
Engrossed. Over 30 hours of listening but thoroughly engaging
Dickens' first pass at a romantic novel and a fine romance it is too, centred on a young hero of conspicuous gallantry and peopled with pantomime villains and damsels in distress by the seeming coachful. Simon Vance handles it all with wit and dexterity, relishing the various dialects and stages of youth or decrepitude in the array of characters. I can't resist mentioning in this context the preposterous provincial thespian Vincent Crummles, and wishing that Dickens had found more for him, through Vance, to say. Amid all the swashbuckling exploits, though, Dickens finds time to depict in Ralph Nickleby one of his most chilling portrayals of evil, a man as close to purely malicious as ever was committed to paper, but withal restrained, subdued, sardonic, and wholly believable. Some critics have found fault with the characterisation, and one can concede that point, particularly in relation to the impossibly cheery Cheeruble brothers and their almost transparent ward Madeline Bray. There is also a drawn out side story involving the fawning relatives of a petty government official with little connection to the main plot that would clearly be a candidate for "abridgment". However to make too much of these points would be carp unduly at what in the end is intended as, and succeeds extravagantly as, no more than a ripping yarn.
A Fun Book
When Nicholas is talking with Smyke as he is nearing deat.
Really captured the spirit of each character.
"I couldn't switch this one off!"
I suppose this must be my favourite Dickens story so far in as much as I'm surprised my earphones didn't need to be surgically removed by the end of the audio book. I just found the pace of the action more intense than David Copperfield, Great Expectations and The Pickwick Papers though I certainly loved them all. I think Dickens has created some of the nastiest and most irredeemable characters in Nicholas Nickleby, which really got my outraged juices flowing. I felt the relationship between Nicholas and Madeleine seemed to develop a bit quickly and perfunctorily, but I suppose there is only so much you can fit in without making the story too long. There were some great scenes and characters and I thought Simon Vance was a great narrator, his characterisations weren't quite up to the level of some of the most distinguished on Audible, but was still brilliant and I found his voice quality excellent, that could have been another reason for my not being able to switch him off. Thoroughly recommended
This is a very good rendering of the book. At times though I wished I had chosen the abridged version.
"So sad Ive only just found Dickens"
I tried to read dickens when i was younger and couldn't handle it - im now on my fourth tour de force - i loved it i just loved it
"A well toned read"
The characterisation of this wide set of characters was excellent and the reading caught the measure of Dicken's superb irony without overdoing it. An amusing and also a shocking book with the unforgettable Wackford Squeers in the hideous Dotheboys Hall played perfectly.
"Monty Python, who?"
Yes, life is short and oh so many good books but Dickens is always worth a second, third listen. It is so rich something new can always be found.
Loved it all and laughed out loud many times. Rare for me. Such wonderful observation and irony.
I didn't notice the narration, which is a very good thing He allowed CD to shine through.
No, Dickens needs to be favoured in small bites. I suspect that this was originally published as a periodical series.
The story is rather predictable but almost irrelevant as the strength lies in the observation of life and the characterization - saints and sinners and few in between. I return to Dickens every dozen or so books and am never disappointed. Without him I really do not think we would have had enjoyed the pleasure of Monty Python. I offer think, when listening, wow that was so Pythonesque Of course it should be - Python are so Dickensian.
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