The second volume of a three volume work is often a quiet place. The introduction have been made, and the themes have emerged in the first volume, while the final drama, the resolution, of the final volume is still some way off. The second volume has little to do but continue along the course already set out and move the story along. And so it is with Oliver Twist.
As the story continues the hero is absent from the stage, but there was much to fill the void.
Mr Bumble, the beadle who bore responsiblity for the workhouse where Oliver suffered so, is suffering himself, having married Mrs Corney, the formable matron of said workhouse. Fleeing the marital home to escape the wrath of his wife he makes a chance discovery that makes him realise that he could have much to gain from finding the boy he had lost. Husband and wife are reunited on a quest.
And then there’s Fagin. A stranger, giving the name of Monks, approaches him and convinces him that it would be very much in his interests to find the missing Oliver.
But he learns that Bill and his criminal cohorts abandoned an injured Oliver as they fled the scene of a failed robbery. Not good, but you don’t argue with Bill Sykes, a dark and chillingly believable villain of the first order.
And so there are two search parties looking for Oliver. But where is he.
Well, Oliver seems to have fallen on his feet again. When he woke, outdoors, hurt and alone, he struggled to the nearest house hoping for help. He was luck to find the Maylie family, as warm and nice a family as you could meet, who took him in and cared for him.
Three storylines, each with its own distinctive character, twisted together to great effect. I would have liked a little more story, but I was still enjoying the journey. The wealth of detail, a fine supporting cast used to fine effect, and a wonderful balance of light and shade.
The social commentary was less noticeable in this volume, but it struck me that, in a city rife with deprivation and hardship, Oliver had twice found good people who were prepared to take him in and care for him. If only that positive spirit could have done more, for more children like Oliver.
At this stage though I’m not analysing too much. That will come later, for now I’m enjoying being caught up in the lives, the times, the places, the characters…
Eventually, inevitably, Fagin and Monks tracked Oliver down. He fled, but he feared that they would come for him again.
And so the stage was set for the final act.
I’m really looking forward to it.
Allie at A Literary Odyssey is hosting a readalong of Oliver Twist