There’s something about going into a British supermarket and seeing all the things you no longer see on a regular basis. It’s so much fun to pile everything into your trolley. To pay in British pounds.
But then the fun is short-lived. The memory of these treats is much stronger than the delight of indulging in them in the present day.
We decided this was due to the joy an infant experiences from a treat. As opposed to an adult. That treats were less frequent when we were children. That they came from others, rather from ourselves. And that gorging on all the chocolate was not in the spirit of the memory. Whatever the explanation, the experience now is no match for then.
In that spirit, I read Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop. Now, you know that this was one author on my Classics Club challenge list that was most intimidating. Since my high school experience. Which I really disliked. Whenever I think of Great Expectations, the memories are dark and painful. All hail York Notes for getting my through my exams.
And yet, years later, I’m writing that I really loved this little tale of Nell, Kit and co. It was a surprisingly easy read. It’s short, I know. But still, it was a most pleasant experience. In stark contrast to the expectations I harboured in the shade of my memories.
It has very dark moments. Quilp is a terrifying character. The situation of the grandfather and child appalling. Of Quilp’s wife, tragic. The end comes along a tad abruptly. And not totally satisfactorily, I might say.
But the tale is animated and colourful. And dispatched with lighter treads on the page than I could have conceived.
Nell is the prematurely wise young orphan trying to protect her much less sagacious grandfather. In their dire need, they meet some reassuringly generous, kind people. And as though to balance out the dire being that is Quilp, there are those whose fortunes enable them to prosper others.
In a very simplistic overview of the whole, it would seem that Dickens buys or sells the idea that evil will not prevail. And that those who suffer will be saved to something better. For the most part.
Having conquered one Dickens, I am drawn to the challenge of his other works. I remain somewhat cautious, but less intimidated. Maybe The Old Curiosity Shop was just the easiest of his novels to read. Can anyone help me? Guide me? Direct me? Or should I wait another few years before daring to open another Dickens?