Dodger

Publisher: Doubleday

Review

Terry Pratchett once again proves himself a master storyteller in this tribute to one of Charles Dickens' best-known characters, the Artful Doger.

Although he is not averse to helping himself to others' belongings, Pratchett's Dodger is not a pick-pocket as such, but a 'tosher', a scavenger who combs the foul sewers of Victorian London to find lost coins and trinkets. Making his home in the rookeries of Seven Dials with a wily but kind Jewish watchmaker, Solomon, he knows everyone and everyone knows him.

But Dodger's story veers in an unexpected direction when he encounters a beautiful young girl and helps save her from a terrible beating. Filled with a gallant desire to help her in her plight, Dodger embarks on an adventure which leads him to become the hero of Fleet Street, to face down the demon barber Sweeny Todd, and even to meet the prime minster - as well as to make a 'nobby' new friend, a journalist by the name of Charlie Dickens.

Told with wit and vigour, this is an enormously entertaining story full of dry humour and with plenty of jokes to tickle fans of Dickens. Pratchett takes obvious delight in bringing all the sights and smells of Dodger's London vividly to life, peppering his tale with expressive Victorian street-slang, and weaving in a host of real historical characters from Joseph Bazalgate and Benjamin Disraeli, to Charles Dickens himself. But for all his colourful adventures and street smarts, Pratchett's Dodger is a good-hearted fellow, and this version of his story is also a deeply humane tale that casts a clear light on the reality of existence for poor Londoners in the early Victorian era. Pratchett intends for this book to 'get people interested in that era so wonderfully catalogued by Henry Mayhew and his fellows' and his take on Dodger certainly stays true to the respect for the common man that both Mayhew and Dickens shared, as well as their passionate belief in the importance of social justice.

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