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Old Curiosity Shop
by Charles Dickens
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Amazon.com Audiobook Review
The sound of Little Nell clattering hurriedly over cobblestones immediately sets the stage by bringing to mind the narrow and dangerous streets of Victorian London. No fewer than 20 performers are called upon to conjure up the Dickensian world of wanderers, ne'er-do-wells, con artists, and kind Samaritans--and each performance is excellent. Tom Courtenay plays the sadistic Quilp, "the ugliest dwarf that could be seen anywhere for a penny" with magnificent sarcastic glee, and Teresa Gallagher's silvery, childlike voice is ideally suited for the role of the angelic Little Nell.
Nell is on her way home to the dusty shop where she and her grandfather live a rather mysterious life. The old man disappears every night--visiting gambling dens with the naive hope of winning a fortune. Instead he sinks deeper and deeper into debt. Enter Daniel Quilp, moneylender, who becomes furious upon learning that the grandfather is a pauper and will never be able to repay his tremendous debt. Quilp seizes the curiosity shop and begins making lecherous overtures to Nell, so she and her grandfather steal away one morning to seek their fortunes elsewhere. But the demonic dwarf is never far behind.
Sound effects are employed judiciously and serve mainly as a springboard for the listener's imagination. The sound of a crying baby is enough to convey the image of crowded lodgings and genteel Victorian poverty, while raucous laughter and high-pitched squawks evoke the barely controlled chaos of an outdoor Punch and Judy show. The dramatization pares Dickens's weighty novel down to two and one-half hours, but does so skillfully, retaining Dickens's wit, marvelous dialogue, and delightful characterizations. (Running time: 155 minutes, 2 cassettes) --Elizabeth Laskey
From School Library Journal
Grade 7-12-Dickens story of contrasts: youth and old age, beauty and deformity, freedom and restraint.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This 1841 exercise in pathos and villainy defines "Dickensian" in all its fascinatingly repulsive excess, containing as it does one of the most celebrated scenes in all Victorian fiction--the death of Little Nell. The abridgment heard here excises many of the author's tedious redundancies (he was paid by the word) while retaining most of what makes Dickens Dickens. Scofield, one of the giants of the British stage, turns the redaction into a lesson in actor's tact. He has decided to meet the melodrama head on but with the utmost control. He gives us the lush narrative intimately, as if reading to us at our elbow, and engraves the characters with all the vividness of an aural Daumier or Hogarth. He pulls out the stops on heaviness and gloom without actually becoming bogged down by them, his warmth and love of the material keeping him buoyant. In addition to his histrionic acumen and artistry, he possesses one of the most distinctive and exciting voices of the English-speaking world. It would be a pleasure to hear him read the London phone book. Warning: Sensitive listeners should purchase a box of Kleenex to keep handy before playing this recording. Y.R. An AUDIOFILE Earphones Award winner (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
The sensational bestselling story of Little Nell, the beautiful child thrown into a shadowy, terrifying world, seems to belong less to the history of the Victorian novel than to folklore, fairy tale, or myth. The sorrows of Nell and her grandfather are offset by Dickens's creation of a dazzling contemporary world inhabited by some of his most brilliantly drawn characters-the eloquent ne'er-do-well Dick Swiveller; the hungry maid known as the "Marchioness"; the mannish lawyer Sally Brass; Quilp's brow-beaten mother-in-law; and Quilp himself, the lustful, vengeful dwarf, whose demonic energy makes a vivid counterpoint to Nell's purity.
The story of 'Little Nell' gripped the nation when it first appeared. Described as a 'tragedy of sorrows', it tells of Nell uprooted from a secure and innocent childhood and cast into a world where evil takes many shapes, the most fascinating of which is the stunted, lecherous Quilp. He is Nell's tormenter and destroyer, and it is his demonic energy that dominates the book.
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Novel by Charles Dickens, first issued serially in 1840-41 in Dickens' own weekly, Master Humphrey's Clock; it was published in book form in 1841. The novel was enormously popular in its day but in a later age was scorned for its unabashed sentimentality. The Old Curiosity Shop is the story of Little Nell Trent and the evil dwarf Quilp. When Little Nell's grandfather gambles away his curiosity shop to his creditor Quilp, the girl and the old man flee London. Nell's friend Kit Nubbles and a mysterious Single Gentleman (who turns out to be the wealthy brother of Nell's grandfather) attempt to find them but are thwarted by Quilp, who drowns while fleeing the law. Little Nell dies before Kit and the Single Gentleman arrive, and her brokenhearted grandfather dies days later.
From the Publisher
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Inside Flap Copy
Introduction by Peter Washington
About the Author
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was born in Portsmouth, England, and grew up in poverty, one of eight children. He became the preeminent writer of Victorian England, with most of his novels appearing in serial form before being published as books.
Norman Page is emeritus professor at the University of Nottingham and the University of Alberta, Canada. He has published several studies of Dickens as well as other nineteenth-century writers.
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