This morning I finished reading ‘Our Mutual Friend’ by Charles Dickens, and scanned the last three of Charles Keeping’s superb illustrations to my Folio Society edition of 1982.
‘Riderhood went over backward, Bradley Headstone upon him’
‘They both laughed, till they were tired’
‘A canopy of wet blanket seems to descend upon the company’
Christopher Hibbert’s introduction is useful and insightful.
I have to say that I found this novel at times quite heavy going. Hibbert opines that the author found the work difficult to write.
Dickens deals with the contrast between the false lives of the nouveau riche and the hardship and poverty of those living from hand to mouth. It is perhaps his distaste for the former group that makes their sequences boring to me.
The sets of parallel pairings of characters I found somewhat confusing – perhaps because I took so long to read the book. This possibly only became clear during the author’s typical summing up of how the protagonists lives panned out.
Dickens’s pacing, descriptive prose, and dry wit is still in evidence despite his struggle to complete the book.
Sensing that the River Thames itself is an important character sent me back to Peter Ackroyd’s history “Thames: Sacred River”. This former Literary Editor of The Times deals at length with our famous Victorian novelist’s drawing on the capital’s waterway, none more extensive than in ‘Our Mutual Friend’.
After lunch we sent a Birthday Card on it way from Everton Post Office, and continued briefly on a forest drive.
Burnt gorse and browned bracken straddled Holmsley Passage up which a group of women walked, passing pasturing ponies.
Among the woodland and the moorland alongside Bisterne Close grazed or dozed more ponies,
one of which enjoyed a good scratch against a convenient tree.
A log stack had been built to provide winter quarters for various forest fauna.
This evening we dined on Red Chilli’s excellent takeaway. Jackie enjoyed a Paneer Chicken starter with Saag Chicken to follow; my main choice was Tiger Prawn Dhansak. We shared Special Fried Rice and a Plain Naan. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Fleurie.