by Charles Dickens
Amy Dorrit was born in debtor’s prison, where her father has been incarcerated for so long that he is called the Father of the Marshalsea prison. Arthur Clenham has just returned to England after spending most of his adult life abroad. He investigates a family mystery, believing that his parents have somehow wronged the Dorrit family, but unsure how to make restitution. He befriends Amy, nicknaming her “Little Dorrit”, since she is the youngest of her family.
Typical of Dickens, there are numerous subplots, a complex tapestry of connections between characters, and various plot-lines that intersect and combine. I love the complexity and depth of his plots! There is a lot of wonderful family drama, blackmail, financial ruin and sudden financial gain, romance and despair, and of course, that inimitable Dickens’ charm.
I was not terribly impressed with the ending though. It was all wrapped up too neatly and easily, and some of the circumstances seemed really far-fetched. But I do like a happy ending!
The setting of the Marshalsea prison was really well written, and I could imagine the people and places so vividly, not just from Dickens’ descriptions, but from seeing how the characters reacted to the prison whether visiting or imprisoned there. More than once, characters felt claustrophobic, as though they couldn’t breathe or were choking on the close air of the prison. It made the setting very real and powerful in the story.
I adore Amy Dorrit’s character! She is utterly selfless and generous, even though her family do not appreciate everything she does for them. She’s sweet and kind and soft-spoken. I do wish that she had a little more backbone, and would stand up for herself more against people who take advantage of her generosity. But I was deeply attached to her character almost immediately, because of her long-suffering and sensitive nature.
I really loved Arthur Clenham too! He’s noble and compassionate, hard-working and trustworthy. He is haunted by the rigid upbringing he had as a child, and tries to bring joy into other people’s lives, so that no one will have to suffer alone as he did.
Many of the supporting characters are memorable and interesting with really weird quirks or funny personal habits. There is such a variety of people, young and old, poor and rich, and they all have their own story, their own moods, and their own motivations that affect the main story. I love the depth of these characters!
But a couple of the supporting characters (mainly the villains) didn’t have that depth, and I was confused as to their motivations, and found their scenes really boring.
Overall, I enjoyed this book! I always love Dickens’ writing style, after I skim past some of the lengthier descriptive passages.