This is my first experience reading the self-published novel, and I believe it was a successful attempt. I sincerely and responsibly state that I enjoyed reading this novel. It was not a breathtaking read, neither was is a classy read when you enjoy and devour the literary dessert of words, phrases, and sentences, but not all books are created to be literary masterpieces. Some of them serve a laudable and pragmatic function to entertain its readers. This novel surely does.
The premise of the novel is the return and the new leash of life for one of the fringe but memorable Dickens characters, Jack Dawkins, also known as Artful Dodger.
Jack Dawkins tries to reestablish himself in the society and finds himself split between two societies: the underworld of London thieves, prostitutes, muggers, kidnappers, and other shadowy characters, and the world of the genteel and rich society, the upper crust. He even entertains the idea of being a gentleman thief. Eventually, he does have to make a choice, but it is upon the reader to decide how plausible his choice is.
The character of Jack Dawkins is a flawed character that is always torn between his natural impulses to be good and his desires to practice his superb skills. It might seem strange, but namely this duality is one of his most sympathetic features. The spontaneous combination of doing good things and being remorseful with his permanent desire to pick pockets is truly authentic.
I also believe that though the book is highly entertaining, it provides an interesting historical insight into the underworld and does convey a certain social message: the book reflects the societal structure of nineteenth-century London, the indulgent and decadent life of rich students, the dietary habits, means of transportation, and other facts that create a certain feeling of historicity.
On the other hand, there are things in this novel that prevented me from giving four stars. I refuse to believe that the life of one person could be so intensely built on serendipity: how he meets Oliver, Tom, and the policeman who eventually recognizes him, how other characters’ lives are interwoven, all this is highly questionable. For the situation to develop the way it developed in the book, too many things should come together, and they did, which, in my opinion, is a stretch.
Another weakness is the choice of words. The author makes a laudable effort and painstakingly diffuses the text with the professional argot of thieves, but he refuses to create a minuscule semblance to the Victorian discourse. Conversely, I have to admit that the author is definitely well-versed, but his choice of words, though elaborate, reflects his position as a modern man of letters. Again, some of those high-brow words and verbal moves did look sparklingly beautiful, hilarious, and even tongue-in-cheeky when they were used in the mundane context.
All in all, I spend a couple of enjoyable evenings in the company of this novel. If you want to know more about the dark underbelly of London in the 19th century and, surprisingly, about the ambrosial desserts, this is the book for you.