I liked this book the most out of the Dickens I’ve read recently (notably, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations). Within it, adults do things, and there’s something at stake. This book tells a number of stories: A daughter of a Utilitarian, raised on Facts, marries a wealthy capitalist; the brother of said woman escapes his Utilitarian upbringing by becoming a ne’er-do-well; a worker refuses to join the union and is accused of a bank robbery; and a circusman abandons his daughter, who will be raised by the Utilitarian.
In short, it’s not about waifs, which is a boon.
The book is short and has some messaging going on, but it’s not a straight ahead book bespeaking the glory of the masses. Instead, it’s more of an individualist/Romantic bit, so I didn’t find the themes odious. However, the shortness makes some of the storylines truncated, and it seems like Dickens was making it up as he went without an idea of how he was going to resolve things. So when the book came time to end, so did some of the storylines in offhand ways. Also, one of the more speechifying characters, who reveals a lot of the message and philosophy book, speaks with a lisp which was very distracting.
But Dickens was Hemingway to Austen’s Faulkner, relatively speaking, and I’d rather pick up another Dickens than an Austen at this point.