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.
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.
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!
Worthwhile, thoughtful read
Well performed and a classic story that contains lessons the apply to today
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.
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
A Fun Book
When Nicholas is talking with Smyke as he is nearing deat.
Really captured the spirit of each character.
The narrator's skill and representing the dozens of distinct characters in this book was admirable.
The story was captivating, keeping my interest until the last few pages.
This was my first Simon Vance audiobook.
No, given its astronomical length! It was very engaging, though.
Dickens is an interesting writer. This was my first Dickens book, and I noticed that he makes choices that would be frowned upon today (repeating words frequently, using adverbs after quotes). His storytelling, however, is very good, and it is easy to see why he is counted among the great novelists of his time.
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