I’m well into Our Mutual Friend and I gotta say, my friend, I’m conflicted.
On the one hand, knowing I have so little time left to finish this year-long challenge makes me want to race through the two volumes so that I can reach my self-imposed goal. That, and as much as I love you, I’m just itching to read pretty much anything from the 20th or 21st centuries. I’ve got some seriously tempting stuff waiting in the wings, and it’s a testament to your skill I haven’t swanned off into other centuries more often. But at the same time, knowing that this is the last of your major, finished works makes me want to slow down and truly savour every nuance of character, plot and style.
And since we’re on the subject, let’s talk about plot, shall we? 300 pages in, and I’m still not entirely sure who the novel’s protagonist is. Lizzie? Eugene? Charlie? Mortimer? The frickin’ Veneerings? Six months ago, this would have irked me, but now I just want to snuggle back into the easy chair that is your storytelling and let things unfold as they will, content that, with so many pages before us, you’ll eventually take me where I need to go.
There’s one scene that I keep thinking back to: poor Georgiana Podsnap’s “birthday party” and the sinister attentions paid her by the mercenary Lammles. I really like Georgiana, and identify with her. I like that you made her awkward and retiring, but also gave her a keen intellect and some wonderfully biting observations. Made me remember some painful Junior High dances. <shudder> I hope we see more of her, and I hope nothing too terrible happens to her. Oh, and I’ve just met fiery little Jenny Wren, and I like her too. And you can’t talk about fiery without mentioning Miss Potterson, the pub owner. Charlie, you’ve got some seriously interesting women lurking in these pages. It almost makes up for the overly angelic Lizzie and the spoiled Bella Wilfer.
The other great scene is that rainy night with the Inspector, the two lawyers and Riderhood waiting by the river for Gaffer to appear. It’s positively cinematic the way you set that up – I could feel the warmth of the pub fire and the cold stinging of the hail. Fantastic! I like to think that you pulled that whole scene from your own experiences tagging along with the London police. And such a grisly end to those chapters! I mean, it’s no spontaneous combustion, but it’s still gratifyingly macabre.
I do wonder, though, Charlie, whether anyone was ever seriously fooled by Mr. Rokesmith. I mean, I could be totally off base here, but if he doesn’t turn out to be Mr. Harmon in the flesh, I’ll be mightily surprised. I can buy, though, that no one else would guess his identity – he has been abroad for years, after all.
So, lots of great stuff, Charlie, and I’m sure that there’s a ton of great stuff to come.
I just have to figure out how quickly I want to get to it.