Gavin F (gavluvsga) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Gavin F

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Book #33: Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

Number of pages: 744

This book is different from other Charles Dickens books, as it is not set in the author's Victorian-era Britain. Like A Tale of Two Cities, it was written as a historic novel, weaving in real-life events. Whereas the latter revolved around the French revolution, this book is set in 1780 and involves the Gordon riots against the Catholic Church, something I'd never heard of previously.

The book opens with the arrival of three strangers at an inn, including a highwayman, before the cast of characters is introduced. Strangely, Barnaby Rudge himself hardly appears in the first half and I started wondering early on why the book had been named after him. Thankfully, he does eventually become central to the main plot.

I noticed that Barnaby was referred to as a "village idiot", and I wondered if this was a non very politically correct 19th century term for an autistic person. I found him very easy to sympathise with, and I enjoyed reading the chapters involving him and his talking raven.

The first half of the book was a bit hard to get into, and mostly involved character romances, although I did enjoy the literary style; for example, at times Dickens tells an entire episode more than once, from the point of view of different characters.

The sections of the book I enjoyed most were in the second half where just about every main character got involved in the riots. The vivid portrayal of events was very compelling, and the scene where Newgate prison gets attacked reminded me of the storming of the Bastille in A Tale of Two Cities. At times, the story felt very dark, especially when the subject matter involved executions by hanging, and it felt like there was unlikely to be a happy ending.

Overall, I was glad that I persevered with this book, because I enjoyed it a lot.

Next book: A Feast for Crows (George R.R. Martin)
Tags: 19th century literature, book review, british, classic, drama, fiction, gritty, historical fiction, history, literary, literature, politics, realism

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