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Read of the Week: Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Written by The Reader, 5th April 2017

Our latest Read of the Week comes from Practice Mentor Katie who has recommended Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens.

I have just worked out that it is 13 years since I read Dombey and Son, as an undergrad student back in 2004. At the time I was reading two or three books a week. This is one that stayed with me.

The book tells the story of Paul Dombey, the proud business man who places all his hopes in being able to hand his business onto his son, and of Florence, his devoted daughter who tries ceaselessly to earn his affection. The book has been in my mind again recently following the death of my brother, as I remembered a passage about the strangeness of being in a state of grief and feeling separated off from the ordinariness of day to day things.

"And can it be that in a world so full and busy, the loss of one weak creature makes a void in any heart, so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of vast eternity can fill it up!"

And yet there comes on top of that a more painful loss, more painful because unlike the separation of death it is avoidable, as Dombey pushes away the daughter who loves him. At one point in the story Dickens describes a look the father gives his daughter.

"There was not one touch of tenderness or pity in it. There was not one gleam of interest, parental recognition, or relenting in it. There was a change in it, but not of that kind. The old indifference and cold constraint had given place to something: what, she never thought and did not dare to think, and yet she felt it in its force, and knew it well without a name."

I love that idea of feeling and knowing something without needing, or daring to give it a name. But I don't want to give the impression that this is a novel which is devoid of hope. Even in the midst of the darkness in its pages, there is friendship, resilience, bravery and love which doesn't give up.


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