One of the odder Dickens novels, in that the slightly stop-go nature of its writing is evident in the structure of the story. But it contains many memorable characters and the death of Little Nell is, as billed, melodramatic in the extreme. The best thing about it is the evocation of the rapidly changing society of Dickens’s time, with graphic scenes from the industrial hell that was the Black Country and the grey, foggy London that we know from so many other of his novels.

Not all that much comedy – a dark book, all in all.

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