This post is mostly punctuated by my disappointment with this novel. I should start by telling you two things about Young Vel Veeter.
- Oliver! is one of my favorite movies of all time. It was one of those movies that my family loved and we watched when I was young and impressionable. It was a big hit when it was out, but it felt like one of those things that were HUGE when I saw it based on how much I loved it and watching it as a family and how that legitimates a movie. Just watch this!
- Great Expectations is one of the most important books I have ever read. I was assigned it for my 9th grade summer reading. I had one of those evil seeming but respect-demanding teachers. (I am no Ms. Bates, that’s for sure.) And it was 600 pages and chock full of complicated language and difficult sentences and rich characters. I remember reading it, feeling so enthralled and challenged, so aghast and appalled that my friends were not doing their summer reading, and so accomplished and proud of myself for getting through it. I just can’t think of another book that fits all these categories. There’s a few in college and grad school that are as influential, but none that both made me grow as a reader and that pushed to want to grow as a reader as that book.
So when I say I hated this book, take those under consideration. It’s an empty shell of a novel or a kind of soulless book. It has some charm and it has the trappings of a Dickens novel, but it has no life. It’s half a story filled with paper-thin characters.
Because it helped propel him to fame (he was only like 25) and launched such a storied and important literary career (you can deny his talent if you want to–you shouldn’t though–but you can deny his influence on writers, but especially readers), that it has a place. And because it’s such an almost archetype-creating novel, it feels like it should be better. But it’s just not. And the worst offending part of the whole thing is how he almost invariably refers to Fagin as “The Jew.” And every single time he does, it hit me right in the already offended chin. I will read more for sure (I plan on reading all his works) to add to the few I have read, but man, I am not looking forward to anything else he wrote in his 20s. This is just such a weak 25 year old writer’s early novel, deeply flawed, offering promise, which is often mistaken for actual quality.