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‘Dodger’ is the story of a London ‘tosher’ and a mysterious girl he rescues from a beating in the underbelly of the Victorian city. I must confess that it’s the first Pratchett I’ve read, however it definitely won’t be the last! I found the novel to be engaging, funny and well-written. Rarely, for a modern book that actually reads well, it also manages to be a definite page-turner. I’d recommend this book to someone wishing for an easy read that still requires a degree of thought. For all I (regrettably) know little of Pratchett’s previous work, I doubt fans will be disappointed.
Dodger, the titular character, proves to be somewhat layered. For all he is a loveable rogue whose cheek we admire, one gets the sense that deep down he retains a large heart throughout the story. It is amusing to observe how Dodger is able to emerge from various situations as an accidental hero. He keeps us entertained and as a result readers will hope he survives. As for Simplicity, the backstory Pratchett has created means that she is fascinating without the need to possess an abundance of character. In general, Pratchett uses well-designed characters to show us the other, dodgier side of London. He plays on stereotypes of ‘street people’ as a way of making the audience relate the novel to famous stories, most notably ‘Oliver’. There are several pop culture references regarding the book’s characters, most notably ‘Charlie Dickens’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’ the homicidal local barber. The diverse characters present really do show off all aspects of Victorian society, from the class system to religion. I was particularly amused by the way toshers worship ‘The Lady’, who continually represents hope.
One of the best things about ‘Dodger’ is its witty and quirky prose, which is narrated brilliantly. The book is often frank and straight-talking, yet still manages to be vividly descriptive. The passages of description are often able to create mood and build suspense, meaning Pratchett can manipulate his audience to feel exactly as he intends. The plot and setting of the book compliment this well, as Dodger often takes risks that can leave him much better or worse off depending on their results. Throughout the book’s engaging plot, one gets the sense it knows it is entertaining without taking itself too seriously. I enjoyed seeing the plot unfold and felt that guessing the ending didn’t really spoil the novel at all. In genaral, I simply loved the book, particularly its prose. It is even more of an achievement when one considers Practchett’s ill health during the writing of the novel. If you’re looking for some summer entertainment this holiday season, then this may just be for you!
Rating: ****.5 (4.5/5)
‘Money makes people rich; it is a fallacy to think it makes them better, or even that it makes them worse. People are what they do, and what they leave behind’.