Great book, odd villain

Dear Charlie,

I’m making steady progress through Little Dorrit’s second volume, and as far as the Dorrits themselves are concerned, it’s like I’m reading an entirely new book. Correct me if I’m wrong, my friend, but I get the feeling you got half way through and said ‘that’s it. I’ve had enough of the Marshalsea. It’s depressing and is bringing up painful memories. Let’s go to frickin’ Italy already.’

nothing like a grand tour

nothing like a grand tour

So here we are in Italy, where the Dorrits are doing their level best to forget there ever was a debtor’s prison and are generally behaving like entitled assholes. And while I think Amy Dorrit is just a touch too angelic for her own good, I really do feel sorry for her, so far removed from anything remotely familiar. And just to go off on a tangent for a moment, I have to wonder if E.M. Forester was inspired by the Dorrits and their new companion Mrs. General when he wrote A Room With a View. Or perhaps the ‘varnishing’ of young ladies was a ubiquitous activity that both of you sought to ridicule.

And while Amy is foremost in my affections, as she’s supposed to be, I’m also kind of rooting for Fanny. It may not be the morally upstanding thing to do, but watching her single-mindedly exacting her revenge on the Merdles by stringing along the besotted Mr. Sparkler appeals to my dark side. I suspect that her scheming will not end well, but for now I’m thoroughly enjoying watching her use her newfound wealth to bring Mrs. Merdle down a peg or two. Money may not buy happiness, but in Fanny’s case it can certainly buy one big-ass dose of revenge.

OK, so maybe Rigaud isn't this bad, but you get the idea.

OK, so maybe Rigaud isn’t this bad, but you get the idea.

But when it comes to scheming, the ever-present Rigaud takes the cake. And while I love his pervading sense of barely restrained evil, it does feel as if he accidentally wandered onto the page from the penny dreadfuls next door. I’d say you were channeling Mr. Stoker, but your story predates him. You’ve created a cast of characters in this novel that, for the most part, are much less caricatured and more realistically drawn than in some of your earlier works (the Meagles, for instance, could easily have been overdone, but Mr. Meagles’ sorrow at his daughter’s marriage is subtle and genuine). The story, too, feels less episodic, more sophisticated and finely wrought. And yet, lurking around every corner is this black-eyed, cape wearing, dog-poisoning, moustachioed villain that makes me want to hiss and boo every time he makes an entrance. I know you love the stage, Charlie, but I think you got a little carried away, unless this novel will suddenly turn into an action/horror, which knowing you I kind of doubt.

Which is not to say that I’m not anxiously awaiting the outcome of whatever Rigaud’s agenda is. I love that certain characters, like Amy and Minnie, have an instinctive distrust of the man, and can see beneath his cultivated exterior. I hope that Clennam can extricate himself from the Circumlocution Office in time to do something exciting (red tape may be a great topic for satire, but it doesn’t lend itself to action). I hope Flora, bless her verbose heart, learns to grow up a little. And I really want to find out what Miss Wade and Tattycoram are skulking around for.

I guess that means I should get back to the book, doesn’t it?

Affectionately yours,