Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Pickwick Papers, Week One

The first eleven chapters of The Pickwick Papers are done, and frankly I'm amazing I finished them in time considering I only remembered that the readalong I'm hosting was starting when I read Ellie's post about it. Major fail, but since then I've been doing well with it!

Because this is a readalong post it will probably contain spoilers.

So I love this book. It's probably not going to go on my favourite books of the year or anything but after the experience of last years' A Tale of Two cities readalong (which wasn't that bad at the time - I quite enjoyed the book - but remembering it feels painful) my expectations were low, so I've been pleasantly surprised.

As people have said, the first chapter was difficult. I'll be honest and say I kind of skim read it with a sinking feeling because this book is really long and if it had all been like chapter one I think I would have been calling the readalong off. Thankfully it got a lot better and I really do love the characters, they're so... interested and indignant that I pretty much just want to hug them (especially Pickwick) all the time. I feel like this probably isn't a normal reaction, but bless them they can't even ride horses properly! I was actually in fits of hysteria during the bit where Mr Winkle is riding his horse sideways up the road. I think Rhys was quite concerned about my sanity, we had a whole conversation about how comfortable (or uncomfortable as the case may be) I am being the kind of person who has hysterics over Dickens novels...

Although it really does have no sense of any eventual destination, due to the lack of an actual plot, it's kind of just ambling along from one ridiculous thing to the next (getting caught up in military re-enactments, having a picnic in a carriage with a boy who keeps falling asleep, accidentally getting shot in the arm, a wild chase to rescue a random woman from being taken advantage of) and it's just quite easy and lovely.

It being Nonfiction November, I'm reading a couple of other things as well, so my head isn't totally full of Dickens at the moment, but I am finding Pickwick a really immersive experience. I find this with Dickens in general usually, I'm not sure what it is but something about his writing just makes me feel very much as if I've fallen headfirst into the world he's writing about. I think it helps that so far the whole experience has been set in Kent where I'm currently living, and so when he was talking about Rochester I had it in my head as I'm fairly familiar with the area. Coincidentally I think that's also what made me like all the mist last year, because it was surrounding the coach to Dover and so it felt familar. I like familiarity in writing sometimes, it feels comforting, and especially when it's familiarity from over a century and a half ago!

I will admit I got a little bit annoyed with the whole Rachael/Tupman/Jingle thing. I know this will make me sound like a cynic and absolutely doesn't parr up with my own experiences, but I was a bit sighing and eye rolling when Tupman decided he loved her after five minutes, and I was even more sighing and eye rolling when she ran off with Jingle without even slightly questioning his motives. Clearly she didn't love either of them and was just sick of all the men preferring her nieces. To be honest if I'd been her brother I probably just would have left her to it - if she's still silly enough to run off with the first man who asks her at her age, let her get on with it.

Ostensibly the point of the book is for them to collect these observations which keep appearing throughout the novel, but I'm not sure what I think about them to be honest. They seem a little bit random, but they don't particularly detract from the story so I'm willing to let them go for now and see what happens as we progress!

Don't forget to link up your week one posts below and use #dickensindecember to chat about it on twitter!


  1. Is there a linky or do you want us to comment with our posts? My laptop's being funny so maybe it's just not loading for me.

    Anyway. *scrolls back to the top of the post*

    I like this too, although I feel like my post doesn't really give that impression. I wouldn't say I LOVED it but maybe I just resent Chapter One and Mr Twinkle too much (I KNOW that's not his name but I can never remember what it is, so that's stuck in my head...)

    The horse part made me laugh though. And then it made me RElaugh when I found it again to type out the quote :)

    I think you may have actually put your finger on the problem... I don't find Dickens immersive (aside from A Christmas Carol but that doesn't count). I mean, I can read him and even enjoy some of his books but I struggle to get past the text, if you know what I mean? It takes a real effort for it to stop being just words on a page and I don't know why.

    Aww, poor Rachael! I mean, if you were in your forties in 18-whatever and were referred to as 'the Spinster Aunt,' wouldn't YOU want to marry the first (and second) person that showed an interest? I really hope it worked out for her.

    Thanks for hosting this - I AM enjoying it!

  2. Am I the only person who enjoyed the first chapter? I think when I was reading the first paragraph I was rolling my eyes a bit, but as soon as I realised it was mocking everything I was like yay!! Hehe.

    If I was trying to ride a horse I think that is exactly what would happen to me (it doesn't help that I'm scared of horses), so I found myself feeling sorry for Mr. Winkle more than I found it amusing!

    Although I liked Rachael, that whole I've just met you and now I'm in love with you! thing that happens a lot in stories is a load of crap in general. Although, having said that when I first met my husband within about 5 seconds I knew that I wanted to go out with him, so maybe if I had been living at a time when dating people for a long time before marriage wasn't a normal thing then I would have thought "Ah I love him, marriage, babies!!" when I first talked to him, hehe. Maybe Rachael was just bored of being there... to be frank, if I was living somewhere where people were completely scandalized by the idea that a member of the opposite sex was interested in me and tried to stop anything from happening, I might be willing to run off with the first man (well, second) man who showed a bit of interest.

    I'm really glad that we ended up doing the Pickwick Papers this year, unless the tone of the book somehow dramatically changes in the rest of the novel I think I'm going to enjoy it, and not end up putting off reading it till the last minute like I did last year with A Tale of Two Cities, hehe.

  3. Added my link - omg sooooo late. The nefarious Jingle's plans to woo Rachael made me so angry and I pitied the poor spinster :( I love how clueless and clumsy the Pickwickians are, given their sheltered lives back at the club!

  4. Dickens IS funny. When I read Oliver Twist I was surprised by some of the funnier bits. I mean, OLIVER TWIST. I just read the chapter with the breakfast party, and I was crying laughing at the Ode to an Expiring Frog. CRYING. It's like a P.G. Wodehouse novel and I'm in love.