Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I didn't expect to like this book very much. It is almost unknown, it is an earlier book, and it has a section savagely satirizing Americans. I was, therefore, quite surprised to find myself really enjoying it and picking it up whenever possible, especially toward the end which had a lot of surprising twists. It really struck me as a bridging work between the "road trip" early novels where the protagonist doesn't change much and the later, greater works which are greatly satisfying as complete stories.
Reading G.K. Chesterton's commentary on it afterward, I thought it was funny that he thought the novel didn't come alive until Martin got to America, while that was the part I most disliked. I could take the attacks on the American character. After all, what are many of Dickens' most well known characters, if not attacks on aspects of the British character? It was that Dickens hit one note and one note only in America, with none of the more complete humor and development that he gives to those like Mrs. Gamp or Mr. Pecksniff. So it became boring. The saving grace for that section was Martin's growth and Mark Tapley, who, as the Sam Weller of the novel, I could read about all day.
There are two Martin Chuzzlewits in this book, the grandfather and the grandson. The question I carried throughout the book was which one the book is named after? By the end, I feel as if I had my answer, though it is left open for the reader to decide.
Definitely recommended. I'd have given it 3-1/2 stars if GoodReads allowed it, but the surprise of having so much more to the book than I expected prompted me to go higher since I was forced to choose.