This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2013 Hub Reading Challenge.
Of the 25 books I read for the Hub Reading Challenge, Dodger by Terry Pratchett was one of my favorites. I’ve always associated Terry Pratchett with writing in the fantasy genre, so when I saw this book on the list, I assumed it wouldn’t be one I’d want to read — I’m just not a big fan of fantasy. Instead, I was immediately engaged in the world of a poor orphan making his way on the streets of a slightly altered Victorian-era London.
One of my favorite genres to read is science-fiction. I love science-fiction because when it’s done well, the author has immersed the reader into a whole new world. Terry Pratchett made the street life of Victorian London a whole world that I could step into: I could use its vocabulary (peelers, tosher, etc.) and walk down the dingy, odiferous, crime-filled streets watching Dodger protect his fierce reputation and (quietly) take care of the downtrodden. There is also a subtle humor running through Dodger — the passage where Dodger mixes up the words unguent and ungulate and talks about hoofed animals giving him a massage at the sauna — hilarious!
Here’s another reason why I liked this book: it redeemed my opinion of Charles Dickens. After being forced to read Charles Dickens in high school (and hating every minute of it) I had nurtured a dislike of Dickens and his novels. This book made me see Dickens as he might have been, and it changed my feelings towards him. I even had a moment where I thought about the book Great Expectations in a positive light for the first time. Imagine if Charles Dickens (in real life) met a boy like Dodger and decided to base Pip from Great Expectations on that orphan boy who literally rose from the sewers to society … it just twists the mind. You can almost see it happening within the pages of Dodger as Dickens is inspired by one of Dodger’s utterances and writes it down in his ever-present notebook. Yes, thank you Terry Pratchett. I don’t have to nurse such terrible feelings for Dickens any longer.
As often happens with books I really enjoy, I stay up late to finish the book because I can’t put it down, and as soon as I’m finished I wish I had read more slowly. I want another adventure with good old Dodger at the helm. What can he do now that his mischief and antics have been secretly requested? “By whom?” you may ask. Well, you’ll just have to read the book…
— Cheresse Thoeny