I can’t remember how many times I pass through the Charles Dickens section at the Kinokuniya bookstore, Plaza Senayan shopping mall, Central Jakarta, without buying one of his titles until a couple of days ago my mind suddenly shifted from Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Cranford’ to Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop.’
I have wanted to read ‘Cranford’ not long after I was so head over heels for Gaskell’s adorable language in her ‘Mary Burton’. I read the first few pages of ‘Cranford’ and as usual, Gaskell’s writing is so superb. She can always craft a gold out of straws. What seems to many of us as ordinary, boring views can instead be her rich resource. ‘Cranford’ is no exception.
But how didn’t I purchase it right after ‘Mary Barton’? Ok, let me be honest here. It’s because ‘Cranford’ features spinsters. No matter how light and cheerful the book is, as suggested by reviewers, becoming spinsters is by all means gloomy. I tend to avoid novels that touch spinsterhood. Apart from private matter about spinsterhood, I faced a very limited option to read after I had completed reading ‘Agnes Grey’ in the bookstore. Knowing that I didn’t have many choices since I have read almost all novels from my favorite authors that are in the store, I immediately remembered ‘Cranford’ once I had decided to read more materials in the Victorian era.
“Better to read a book that will satisfy my hunger on beauty amid personal issue than experiencing something I know it won’t even ignite my imagination,” my mind said at that time. So, I forced myself taking a very tough journey from office in Ciputat, South Tangerang, to the mall. It was a very tiring trip for I had to pass through some traffic jam points all along the journey. But I must not give up and directly went back at home because there was a good book awaiting me.
After a few hours on the road, I reached the store and found out ‘Cranford’ remained at the same point the last time I spotted it. I looked at ‘Cranford’ for a few times and almost brought it to the store’s cashier for payment but the spinsterhood issue moved my mind to reconsider the would-be decision. So, my eyes shifted to a tall bookshelf next to the ‘Cranford’ section. George Eliot, Sir Arthur Conan Dyle and definitely Charles Dickens. Prior to this visit, I have read at some initial pages of Dickens’ most popular novels, such as ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Hard Times’, and ‘The Pickwick Papers’, none of which wowed me by the words. My most wanted masterpiece from Dickens is ‘Our Mutual Friend’. I love it from the first words I read, giving the kind of sensation after I just read books by Thomas Hardy. Unfortunately, the store does not sell ‘Our Mutual Friend’ and I know not when it will be available.
I have read the title of “The Old Curiosity Shop’, definitely but I never thought of it until that evening. I made use some valuable seconds to check some first pages of the novel at the internet given the battery of my smartphone was running out. I was not really awed with them but somehow I made a compromise. I was considering that I should try reading books from first-person narration as the reading experience with ‘Agnes Grey’ that applies such method proved to be impressive. Besides, it was time for me to seek books with complex plots with not many drama focusing on major characters. It was time for me to read novels that would overwhelm me with conflicts.
A refreshment from usual preference of beautiful, magical language as in Thomas Hardy or Elizabeth Gaskell’s masterpieces. So I bought the novel at the end. I was prepared for the long reading journey given its 500-something pages and by the time I currently on the page of 134, I am deeply immersed by the book.
The first page captured my heart. It keeps me wondering what the book will be at the end. Despite the many characters on the book, I can still follow what it has to offer because I know beforehand the core of the book. The characters of Nelly Trent completely touches my sympathy. I suddenly associate her with Hardy’s Tess. Then, I can feel the good humor sense of the book and finally………..
I applaud Dickens’ unquestionable writing skills, his vivid imaginations and his overall mind and heart put in the book. The book is so wealthy by far. In terms of story plots, language, human emotions and all important elements that readers want to digest within one book.
Thank you for myself. Thank you for eventually getting touch with the British most-beloved, prolific author after some years launching a journey into the Victorian literature. I am so relieved that I come to this point where I read books from Dickens, who can be said is the pivot of the Victorian literature.