Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Our Mutual Friend" by Charles Dickens

I know I have said it before, but I think we do our children a disservice by introducing Charles Dickens’ work to them in “Great Expectations” and “A Tale of Two Cities”.

I agree that these are both great books but, I still think his greatest book is “David Copperfield” and it is much more fun to read than either of the first two books mentioned. Dickens is the best at creating characters that you can “see” through his amazing descriptions of them in his tales, although at times he can be a bit “wordy”.

With that said, (again), I just finished what I think may be my favorite book of his and that is “Our Mutual Friend”. Not that the story is better than “David Copperfield”, but that I simply loved THIS story more. More romance is guess would be the reason. Also because I just loved the 2 main female characters, Bella Wilfer and Lizzie Hexam.

Lizzie Hexam protrayed by Keeley Haws and Bella Wilfer protrayed Anna Friel

As with most of Dickens’ work, there are multiply story lines introduced but they are all neatly tied together by the end of the book. So it is with this story. You have the Wilfer household and family, and the Hexam family. The Wilfer’s, a lower middle-class family, that barely makes it on their fathers salary, a wife who reminds him of it regularly and 2 spoiled daughters.

While the Hexam family, very poor, but Lizzie is able to save enough to help get her brother educated so he won’t have to “work the river” for his wages like her father. She loves her father dearly and is devoted to him but is ashamed that he scours the Thames River each night to find treasures that may have been lost that day. Occasionally he finds a body, and then claims what is available on the body for his pay, to drag the body to the coroner. Next to the all suffering Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”, I love Lizzie Hexam! She is all things that are good, and is a great example of what a woman should be.

Lizzie and Bella’s lives are inadvertently connected by John Harmon, whose body is found by Gaffer Hexam in the river one night as Lizzie is rowing for him, and it is to whom Bella Wilfer is engaged to, although she has never met him before in her life. The engagement had been arranged previously by Harmon’s father, because he was struck by Bella’s beauty and manner in meeting her and wanted his son, John, who was out of the country to marry her. That is just the beginning of the story.

There are numerous twists and turn along to the happy conclusion. The most memorable couple is the Boffins’, who had worked for the elder Mr. Harmon before his death, and now at the death of John Harmon, are in receipt of the large inheritance. I can’t explain what a sweet, devoted and wonderful couple they are without giving away too much of the story.

There are also the usual villains, Silas Wegg, Mr. and Mrs. Lammle, Rogue Riderhood, and then the confusing Bradley Headstone. All these villains are artfully created throughout the story.

Same movie-different covers

It is always sad to get to the end of a great book. You want it to continue further in the lives of these “friends” whose experiences you feel you have become part of. But all good things have to come to an end. That is what is great about books. You can put it back on the self and in a few years, pull it down again and rediscover the story all over again.

I recommend this book to everyone who loves a great story!

***note: the best adaptation of this into a movie is, of course, BBC's 1998 version.  It is GREAT!!!