Sunday, December 16, 2012
Although I can't find a citation for it, I know that about a month ago this book came to my attention through more than one article, review or "best of" list.
What an enjoyable book. It's the first Terry Pratchett book I've read and it will not be the last. All the while I was reading it I kept getting a little thrill of enjoyment because of a great turn of phrase or character description.
He's never called "Artful," but he is indeed THE Dodger that Charles Dickens wrote about in Oliver Twist. Dickens is a character in this book and meets Dodger soon after he rescues a young woman who has escaped from a carriage but is being beaten by two men who were riding in said carriage.
Dickens convinces Dodger to take the young woman to the house of his friend Henry Mayhew* to recuperate. Dodger becomes a hero again when he inadvertently captures the notorious Sweeney Todd, which enamors Dickens to Dodger all the more. The storyteller/journalist builds the legend of The Dodger
and Dodger, who has always tried to keep out of the way finds himself becoming a bit of a celebrity.
Dodger is almost a wise "Jack" (as in the Jack Tales). He stumbles into trouble and fortune. He meets all manner of people from Dickens himself to Disraeli, Sir Robert Peel*, Angela Burdett-Coutts*, Joseph Bazalgette* and even Queen Victoria. Like Jack Dodger is not impressed by the credentials of these people and charms them with his unaffected manner.
This is little bit of a mystery. Dodger is determined to find who is threatening the beautiful Simplicity, the woman he rescued. Along the way he learns many lessons about the world beyond his own life in the streets and sewers of London. He struggles with the "new" Dodger, the one who goes to fancy dinners and meets important people - the Hero Dodger.
I am glad that I have read so many Anne Perry books. She explained things like toshers, peelers, nobs, and other things from Victorian London that Pratchett throws out there without much definition. That's not a complaint against Pratchett. His picture of London is wonderful and not at all romantic.
This was one of my favorite books of the year.
*I had to look these names up as I read the book to find out who they really are (were). They are all real people.