Mr. Timothy

Mr. TimothyMr. Timothy by Louis Bayard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1860s London, 10-year-old street urchins, and every bit as atmospheric as Dickens himself. Add a grown-up “Tiny Tim” in his early 20s, trying to find a meaningful life for himself, and a cruel prostitution racket preying on young, foreign girls. Bawdy humor, gripping action, a few ghosts, and coming-of-age introspection. Mr. Bayard has not been sentimental in imagining the lives of the Cratchits post Dickens. Timothy is somewhat lost and floundering following the death of his father. The tale is sometimes charming, sometimes very dark and brooding. Fast-paced action at times, and threatens to bog down at other times, so a bit uneven. The narrator of the audiobook was marvelous. This is one I will probably reread.

Book Description:
Welcome to the world of a grown-up Timothy Cratchit, as created by the astonishing imagination of author Louis Bayard. Mr. Timothy Cratchit has just buried his father. He’s also struggling to bury his past as a cripple and shed his financial ties to his benevolent “Uncle” Ebenezer by losing himself in the thick of London’s underbelly. He boards at a brothel in exchange for teaching the mistress how to read and spends his nights dredging the Thames for dead bodies and the treasures in their pockets. Timothy’s life takes a sharp turn when he discovers the bodies of two dead girls, each seared with the same cruel brand on the upper arm. The sight of their horror-struck faces compels Timothy to become the protector of another young girl, the enigmatic Philomela. Spurred on by the unwavering enthusiasm of a street-smart, fast-talking homeless boy who calls himself Colin the Melodious, Timothy soon finds that he’s on the trail of something far worse — and far more dangerous — than an ordinary killer. This breathless flight through the teeming markets, shadowy passageways, and rolling brown fog of 1860s London is wrought with remarkable depth and intelligence, complete with surprising twists and extraordinary heart.

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The Pickwick Papers

The Pickwick Papers: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (Illustrated Modern Library)The Pickwick Papers: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club by Charles Dickens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A comical romp through the English countryside, which pokes fun at politics, lawyers, medical students, aggressive middle-aged women, fat people, costume parties, and “scientific” research, for starters. Along the way, it is also a morality tale. The genial, bumbling Mr. Pickwick learns something about human nature along the way and is a better person for it. Goodness, generosity, mercy and forgiveness will triumph over greed, meanness, cruelty, and deception. Dickens is at his best when describing parties, Christmas festivities, and the conviviality of food and drink and friendship. My favorite character is Sam Weller, the faithful servant, friend, and surrogate son to Mr. Pickwick. One wonders if Tolkien modeled Samwise after this character. The plot, if you can call it that, is frequently interrupted by story telling. While the result is a bit rambling, the stories do usually either parallel or contrast something in the current situation. And of course, the whole thing is told with wickedly funny dialogue, satire and wordplay already mature in this first work of Dickens.

Description: Meet Mr. Pickwick, General Chairman and Member of the Pickwick Club, whose aim it is to advance knowledge (meet the good people of the neighborhood) and diffuse learning (talk with the good people of the neighborhood) by widening its members’ sphere of observation (traveling to and between the good people of the neighborhood) so long as the effort be not too great (which it rarely is) and that there be plenty of room for good cheer (of which there is never a lack). Meet Mr. Pickwick, and you cannot fail to meet those cheery gentlement Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Tracy Tupman, Mr. Jingle, and Mr. Nathaniel Winkle. Meet Mr. Pickwick, and without a doubt your day will dawn a little brighter, and your temperament will be a little sweeter for the aquaintance. Narrated by Patrick Tull.