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Penguin Classics Our Mutual Friend [Paperback]

Charles Dickens , Adrian Poole
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 2 2004 0140434976 978-0140434972
Charles Dickens' last complete novel, "Our Mutual Friend" is a glorious satire spanning all levels of Victorian society, edited with an introduction by Adrian Poole in "Penguin Classics". "Our Mutual Friend" centre??i??i??'s on an inheritance - Old Harmon's profitable dust heaps - and its legatees, young John Harmon, presumed drowned when a body is pulled out of the River Thames, and kindly dustman Mr Boffin, to whom the fortune defaults. With brilliant satire, Dickens portrays a dark, macabre London, inhabited by such disparate characters as Gaffer Hexam, scavenging the river for corpses; enchanting, mercenary Bella Wilfer; the social-climbing Veneering; and the unscrupulous street-trader Silas Wegg. The novel is richly symbolic in its vision of death and renewal in a city dominated by the fetid Thames, and the corrupting power of money. "Our Mutual Friend" uses text of the first volume edition of 1865 and includes original illustrations, a chronology and revised further reading. As Adrian Poole writes in his introduction to this new edition, 'In its vast scope and perilous ambitions it has much in common with "Bleak House" and "Little Dorrit", but its "Our Mutual Friend" uses text of the first volume edition of 1865 and includes original illustrations, a chronology and revised further manner is stealthier, on edge, enigmatic.' Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved novelists in the English language, whose 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. His most famous books, including "Oliver Twist", "Great Expectations", "A Tale of Two Cities", "David Copperfield" and "The Pickwick Papers", have been adapted for stage and screen and read by millions. If you enjoyed "Our Mutual Friend", you might like Dickens' "The Mystery of Edwin Drood", also available in "Penguin Classics". "The great poet of the city. He was created by London." (Peter Ackroyd).

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From Amazon

Our Mutual Friend was the last novel Charles Dickens completed and is, arguably, his darkest and most complex. The basic plot is vintage Dickens: an inheritance up for grabs, a murder, a rocky romance or two, plenty of skullduggery, and a host of unforgettable secondary characters. But in this final outing the author's heroes are more flawed, his villains more sympathetic, and the story as a whole more harrowing and less sentimental. The mood is set in the opening scene in which a riverman, Gaffer Hexam, and his daughter Lizzie troll the Thames searching for drowned men whose pockets Gaffer will rifle before turning the body over to the authorities. On this particular night Gaffer finds a corpse that is later identified as that of John Harmon, who was returning from abroad to claim a large fortune when he was apparently murdered and thrown into the river.

Harmon's death is the catalyst for everything else that happens in the novel. It seems the fortune was left to the young man on the condition that he marry a girl he'd never met, Bella Wilfer. His death, however, brings a new heir onto the scene, Nicodemus Boffin, the kind-hearted but low-born assistant to Harmon's father. Boffin and his wife adopt young Bella, who is determined to marry money, and also hire a mysterious young secretary, John Rokesmith, who takes an uncommon interest in their ward. Not content with just one plot, Dickens throws in a secondary love story featuring the riverman's daughter, Lizzie Hexam; a dissolute young upper-class lawyer, Eugene Wrayburn; and his rival, the headmaster Bradley Headstone. Dark as the novel is, Dickens is careful to leaven it with secondary characters who are as funny as they are menacing--blackmailing Silas Wegg and his accomplice Mr. Venus, the avaricious Lammles, and self-centered Charlie Hexam. Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickens's most satisfying novels, and a fitting denouement to his prolific career. --Alix Wilber

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up-With a cast of characters that covers the whole spectrum of London life, Dickens weaves a tapestry of tales that are by turn funny, moving and tragic.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
IN these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark Bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
In the works of Charles Dickens, a reader can find many valuable life lessons threaded into the myraid plots, subplots, and character diversions. In Our Mutual Friend, those life lessons are no less abundant than in other works that I have read.
Perhaps the darkest Dickens novel, in terms of plot-driving devices; murders, theft, blackmail, beatings and the lot, the reader is left to derive the lesson each is there to offer. The story, lacking in a real hero or heroine as a focal point, is a far bleaker portrait of English society than in his past works.
However, woven into these dim themes, Dickens has interjected his typical wit and joviality to lighten even the blackest of plot twists.
Of course the usual roster of colorful, lively Dickens characters grace the pages of this book, although the novel is seemingly bereft of a hero and heroine, at least in the traditional sense. However; the denizens of Dickens' world in this novel will entertain and enchant every bit as much as in his other works.
Dickens imparts many words of wisdom in the pages of this book, his last completed novel: Money cannot buy happiness; be careful what you wish for; keep your friends close and your enemies closer; and many other time-honored cliches that stand true today.
For a good time, call Charles Dickens. His novels never fail to deliver.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is my favorite novell. July 20 1998
By A Customer
Some may say that it is one of Dickens' darkest novels, but I only see the humor and the intricacy. This is a novel where he focuses on greed and hypocrisy. The sub-plots are masterfully inter-woven with the main plot (surrounding John Harmon's inheritance) and there is a surprise twist in the end, which makes everything come out blissful. (Like most of Dickens' novels.)
Dickens explores some of the bizarre occupations that might have been found in old London. For example: Dress-Maker for Dolls, Taxidermist/Curator of Human Bones, Street Sales of Ballads and Folk-songs, and (of course) Purchaser/Processor of Garbage (or "Dust").
There are so many examples of brilliant and hilarious stories he uses to illustrate human nature that, to begin to list them (which I could) would not do them justice.
Sure, there may be some dark subjects, but that is part of Dickens' creativity and therefore part of this masterpiece--full of intrigue and dark humor. My all! -time favorite novel.
Note: The Penguin edition always has good notes at the back of the book to explain dated references.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Startling Vision April 19 1997
By A Customer
There are at least half a dozen moments in Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, the last book the great master was to complete before his death, when it becomes clear to the reader that he/she has left the London of nineteenth century earth for one deep inside the nightmare landscape of sleep. This is an angry, disturbing book (as all books by old men are), one that presents a vision of a great city coming apart at the seams and stuffed with sinners of all shapes and sizes. At the same time, and this is what makes Dickens both a great artist and a great humanist, there are flashes of beauty and humor that literally bring tears to one's eyes. At a time when so many of our own great cities are on the verge of imploding, there is no one hundred year old novel more pertinent--or saddingly familiar
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens' Novel Shows Humor of Human Nature. Jan. 14 1999
By A Customer
I was first drawn to this book when I watched the mini-series on PBS and thought it facinating. So many reviews said it was "dark and dreary", but I found it to show the humor in so many outragous situations. The book presented a good handful of characters who were extremely selfish and greedy, yet through Dickens' amazing skills they became good once more. He shows that people are not one sided, nor can they ever be. They have a well of emotions and usually don't know why they do what they do.
Yes, the book may have a dark and complicated twist to it, but everyday life is not a walk through the park. It is full of tough decisions that we must face head on. Dickens' showed this brilliantly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Jane Austen... March 31 1999
By A Customer
Charles Dickens novel "Our Mutual Friend" is by far the best novel I've read to date. He masterfully portrayed Victorian London society, and the overwhelming emphasis of money at that time. In this novel Dickins work is similar to that of Jane Austen, aside from the dark underlying settings the novel at times goes. This book by far to me, is a story of how love conquers all, even money.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only buy one Dickens Aug. 27 1999
By A Customer
Yes Yes Yes
Dickens writes a towering saga of greed and love and jealousy and manifold other emotions.
At times it seems as though the happy ending will never come, yet at the end wrong is righted and the heroine wed.
Forget this book as great literature - it probably is -(I'm just not pompous enough to say so) This book is a book that makes you glad you read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Perils of greed Feb. 25 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The general background theme of this very Dickensian and complicated work is the perils of greed for money in what for Dickens was contemporary society. It's also Dickens last completed novel, and he proceeds to play around with various techniques (or experiment, if you like). The experimentation provides the novel with originality in overall construction, even if the individual stories aren't terribly original or inspiring. In many ways this is a frustrating book, there seems to be some greatness in it but it's always just out of reach.

Plot is never Dickens' greatest strength and that's no exception here. In fact, it seems Dickens had some intention of deliberately making the plot frustrating at points. It's characterization where Dickens really shines, in putting preposterous characters on the page that you have to believe in, because they're preposterous in the way real people are, not the way actors on a stage are.

Ultimately, Dickens was fully immersed in his craft as a writer when he wrote this, and that alone makes it worthwhile. There are frustrating elements and unbelievable elements and things that might seem to stack up against a recommendation, but somehow none of them are insufficient.

Henry James hated this book. But Dickens always had a better grip on how to reach a reader's heart than James ever did.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A definite keeper!
This book was purchased for my son and is the beginning of his planned Classics library and was unaware of the Nonesuch editions prior to receiving this item. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Ruth Gerrard
1.0 out of 5 stars A Victorian Soap Opera!
Apparently, this is the last complete novel written by Charles Dickens.

Certainly, it is not his best.

The number of characters in this novel is astounding. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Pierre Gauthier
5.0 out of 5 stars Another outstanding effort by the master storyteller...
Anyone, such as I, who is a fan or a student of Charles Dickens owes it to himself to explore this more obscure and less popular title. Read more
Published on May 29 2012 by Ronald W. Maron
4.0 out of 5 stars A Patchwork of Plot Lines
One character in Dicken's novel, Our Mutual Friend, the crippled Jenny Wren pieces together scraps of cloth and thread out of London's refuse to create beautiful doll gowns for... Read more
Published on April 7 2004 by "mr_corvo"
2.0 out of 5 stars Dickensian Quagmire
"Our Mutual Friend" is the last of Dickens's completed novels, and apart from "The Mystery of Edwin Drood", the only one of his novels I had hitherto not read. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2003 by MR G. Rodgers
2.0 out of 5 stars sad
reading "our mutual friend" is like watching michael jordan play basketball - today, i mean. every once in a while there is a flash of the old brilliance, but most of the time it's... Read more
Published on Dec 23 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Murky Educations by the Thames
Charles Dickens's 1865 novel, his last completed novel, "Our Mutual Friend" is an extraordinarily dark and convoluted work. Featuring such unforgettable figures as Mr. Boffin, Mr. Read more
Published on May 21 2002 by mp
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Dickens book I've read
This book is great. It is very complex and full of suspense so i never get tired of reading it! When i first read it in 8th grade i was impressed by the size until i found out how... Read more
Published on May 14 2002 by missjay
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every effort to read.
I think that it may be hard for the modern reader to find the time to read _Our Mutual Friend_. It's length makes it undeniably difficult to fit easily into the daily allotment of... Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2001 by frumiousb
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of books, the darkest of books
...of all the mighty works that his pen produced, hard pressed as I am to choose, I would say - if forced - that "Our Mutual Friend" is my favourite. Read more
Published on July 18 2001 by peter wild
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