Number of pages: 815
Charles Dickens' satire famously involves Dotheboys Hall with its brimstone and treacle meals, and the notorious Mr. Squeers, which is where the title character Nicholas Nickleby is employed at the start of the book.
However, there is a lot more to this story...
[Spoiler (click to open)]
I was expecting the entire book to be set within the school, but I was wrong. Quite early in the book, Nicholas has a fight with Squeers and subsequently makes off with a boy named Smike, who wants to leave the school. Nicholas and Smike find careers as stage actors, and a significant part of the book is set within the theatre where they are employed.
However, eventually Nicholas returns home, taking Smike with him, and most of the remainder of the book involves his relationship with other characters, including his sister Kate, and also Madeleine Bray, who he falls in love with. Inevitably, we haven't seen the last of Mr. Squeers, who pursues Nicholas in a bit to get Smike back; one of the most thrilling chapters involves him capturing Smike, only for the boy to be rescued.
There was a good mixture of humour and drama in this book, and at times I found myself chuckling at some of the absurdities, mostly in the Dotheboys Hall segment, and finding myself shocked by the actions of the villains. The book has some moments when it becomes very sad, particularly near the end when Smike dies. However, the ending was happy and Mr. Squeers and the other villains got their comeuppances in different ways.
This book is quite long, and at times it was not a very easy read, but in the end I found it satisfying and worth the time it took me to get through it.
Next book: Maskerade (Terry Pratchett)