Oliver & Jack #1
Sub-genre: Historical, Literary
Five years after Fagin was hanged in Newgate, Oliver Twist, at the age of seventeen, is a young man of good breeding, and fine manners, living a quiet life in a corner of London. When Oliver loses his protector and guardian, he is able, with the help of Mr. Brownlow’s friends, to find employment in a well-respected haberdashery in Soho.
However, in the midst of these changes, Jack Dawkins, also known as the Artful Dodger, arrives in London, freshly returned from being deported. Olovers’ own inability to let go of his past, as well as his renewed and intimate acquaintance with Jack, take him back to the life he thought he’d left behind.
The writing style and language of this story captures the feel of the time period wonderfully. The language is very lyrical, and had a real feel of Dickens, and yet not, about it. It feels like a continuation of Oliver Twist, and not just because it uses the same characters and setting. I felt as though I’d been transported to London in the Victorian era immediately I began reading. I loved the descriptions of the settings—they were very vivid and emotive. I could almost feel the snow and coldness. The day to day life of the time is very detailed. I particularly liked how the author described Oliver’s life in the haberdashery shop and how the boys all lived and worked together.
Oliver and Jack are interesting characters, both alone and together. I liked the way Oliver—who is really an innocent and quite naive despite his time with Fagin’s gang—slowly realises that he has feelings for Jack. It was subtly and nicely done, and very effective in showing their relationship growing slowly over time. Jack, too, was subtle, or rather as subtle as Jack can be. I loved the scenes where he tries to protect Oliver, Oliver protects him in turn, and then the way the pace picks up as their relationship builds to the point where neither man can deny his feelings.
The class system is alive and well in this story, with characters’ attitudes very much a sign and product of the time in which they live. I liked Oliver’s inner struggle as he tries to marry the future he’d set his sights with against trying to put his past behind him to the point that he’s terrified of being dragged back into that world. I thought it was very realistically portrayed, especially as he knows why he’s reacting that why but can’t stop himself, and the way the situation builds up to the point he has to confront it or lose everything that is good about himself.
I also thought the author did a great job in portraying others using the preconception of class to justify their actions. At one point a character dies, but another doesn’t see why that’s a problem, as there’s more where he came from.
Fagin’s Boy is an interesting, absorbing read, and by the time I’d finished the story I was very invested in the characters and their future together. I’m looking forward to reading more.
I’d recommend Fagin’s Boy to readers who enjoy a realistic historical story that continues the adventures of existing literary characters, and leaves you wanting more. 5 out of 5 stars.