The voting is done. Our Mutual Friend wins! Here is our thread.
As usual, we're hidden away in the author's forums--LitNet's equivalent of the back alleys in Dickensian London. Yet, I'm hopeful that the poll caught enough eyes to draw some people into this obscure corner of the site. I'm also hoping the book draws some interest, too. Our Mutual Friend is a good one. It's got a lot of funny scenes, great mystery, and warm moments. It's also got a lot of symbolic weight and thematic substance. It might take a while for everyone to read, but, once things get going on the thread, I'm sure there will be some excellent posts.
This is a late novel (1864-65) in Dickens career, but it reads more like a follow-up to Bleak House than it does like the works that actually precede it (Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities). Most of Dickens later work has a much more psychological focus, and, in general, it just has more focus period. Our Mutual Friend, though, returns to the sprawling social criticism that made Dickens the initial success he was. With this novel, he also returns to the bulky, twenty-installment, monthly format in which he wrote many of his other earlier classics (Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Pickwick Papers, etc.). Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities were smaller works published occasionally in magazines. Our Mutual Friend, on the other hand, came out at regular intervals in little blue books that were almost pamphlet size. They were about a forty pages each, but much of it was filled with ads for Fraiser's Miracle Ointment or Johnson's Magisterial Firm. You have to flip some pages to get to anything Dickens, and when you do get there the font is almost microscopic.
The Original April 1865 Version of Our Mutual Friend
Each of these would carry three or four chapters of the novel. Since this is such long novel, I suggest that we use these installments to pace the discussion. We could discuss the first installment (chps. 1-4) for a while, and then move on to the second (chps. 5-7)--then the third (chps. 8-10), etc. It might get a little chaotic if we try to discuss the book all at once, so I think breaking up the discussion into a series of mini-conversation would probably be a good idea. Also, this will give everyone some idea of how the novel was actually received at first. The large, clean texts that we're holding now are nothing like what nineteenth-century readers would have owned. We can't all get the little blue books (although if you're at a university library you might), but we can at least read the text in the chunks that Dickens had in mind. So, for both history's sake and this thread's sake, I suggest we break the discussion up. I can post introductions to each section, so that those just joining the thread will know where we are in the novel.
I don't mind if people want to make general comments about the book, as well. You might want to attach the spoiler tag to it, though, so that you don't give away anything--after all, there's quite a bit of mystery in the novel. Also, feel free to bring up anything and everything loosely related with the novel--like film adaptations or Victorian history. If there's lots of discussion on something like that, I can always open up a spin-off thread on that topic. In any case, this thread is up, and discussion starts whenever we have the time to read and post. Thanks for voting in the poll everyone.
Angry Cat Reminds You That Homework Help Will Not Be Forthcoming from This Thread!
Thanks again people. Comments, anyone?