Today I finished reading Nicholas Nickleby, which I started reading so long ago that I don’t remember exactly when I started it, but just have a vague notion that it was around the middle of the year last year, and so I must have been reading this epic tome for about eight months, give or take a few weeks.

To be fair, it was certainly not the only book I was reading in that time – there were several Book Club books scattered throughout, and attempts to re-read The Hobbit as well as re-read Sabriel (both of which are favourites from my adolescence) – not to mention interception of my time by other pursuits, most notably Farsi and piano.

But Nicholas Nickleby is finished now – all 777 pages of it – and, because it is as masterfully written as any Charles Dickens classic, I thoroughly enjoyed it (despite what the 8-month reading of it would suggest).

[If you choose to read on, be warned there are some very minor spoilers.]

I would have thought that having read it over such a long span of time, and it being such a long novel, I’d have trouble remembering everything that happened, but it’s actually not entirely the case. Some parts at the start and in the middle are a bit of a blur, but I still have some recollection of those events. I think perhaps it is precisely because I took so long to read it that it is easier to remember, because it was thus that it had a chance to cement itself in my long-term memory.

Whether I remember it a month or a year from now is another question, now that I’ve closed it, put it down, and probably won’t open it again for who knows how long; so maybe it’s all just recency bias (but you wouldn’t exactly say eight months ago was “recent”, would you?)

Nonetheless, whatever part of my memory this story and its characters happen to be in, I want to note some thoughts on certain characters lest my memory fades (as it inevitably must, and since it’s such a long book, I doubt I will re-read the whole thing, although it would be quite interesting to do so with the knowledge of how things will pan out…)

Certainly one of the most excellently cheerful characters in the novel is John Browdie. With his heavy Yorkshire accent, it was sometimes quite a task to decipher what he was saying, but his disposition was so much geared toward righteousness and good humour that he could be nothing short of endearing. Not to mention his wholehearted laughter, which was positively infectious!

Newman Noggs – at first a bit dubious of character, as some kind of assistant to the treacherous Ralph Nickleby – later becomes one of the real heroes of the tale, instrumental in the bringing down of several of the antagonists, and sending them to their rightful fates.

I thought Mrs Nickleby, mother of Nicholas and Kate, was alternately highly amusing and highly time-wasting (although the two qualities are not mutually exclusive). I don’t think she had any fragment of speech in which she did not go on a tangent of some sort, or did not reproach someone for something they were innocent of or which she, herself, was guilty of. Nonetheless, an entertaining character overall!

Lastly, I believe some kudos must be paid to Lord Frederick Verisopht for eventually standing up to his mentor Sir Mulberry Hawk. Sometimes doing the right thing is hard, but you have to stand by your morals, whatever the outcome.

Perhaps there are more characters I should mention, but I think that will do for now.

Nicholas Nickleby has been, if not always my primary companion, then at least a constant companion to me for the greater part of a year, and while I’m not sure it has quite attained the status of my favourite Dickens novel, I do believe my memory of it could only grow warmer, not cooler as time passes.


6 thoughts on “Nickleby

  1. Congrats on finishing the novel. I never read it nor even know the plot of it. I read Great Expectations as part of my senior thesis in college, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but don’t remember a lot of the details, just that some of the characters have stayed with me as I’ve lived my life. What tome will you be reading next?

    • Great Expectations is actually my favourite, but even so, I don’t remember all the details either 😅 I just remember the main story and that I’ve never enjoyed a book more.
      Next on the list is Little Women because someone insisted that I give it a go. Have you read it?

      • I read it as a girl and have seen a movie, years ago, based on it. In honesty, it didn’t thrill me as a girl, but my friends loved it. Maybe I should revisit it as an adult. 🤔

        • Same! When I watched the movie as a kid, it bored me so much that I could never sit through the whole thing. Now that I’m older, I’m hoping that I can at least appreciate the book

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