O's 2010 Summer Reading List
Lush historical novels, wise contemporary tales, thrillers that will scare the dickens out of you. (And speaking of Dickens, we've got him, too.)
10 of 20
Dombey and Son
1040 pages; Wordsworth Classics
Available at:Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound
Dombey and Son, the hidden gem even Dickens fans may have missed, combines a rollicking, biting sense of humor with nuanced psychological insights that feel surprisingly modern in their attitudes toward women. The title itself is an ironic joke: Successful businessman Paul Dombey neglects and mistreats his daughter, Florence, the true "son" of the title, until both his business and their relationship are nearly ruined. If Florence is a typical 19th-century heroine, a little too sweetly perfect to be believed, strong women abound in these pages. The linchpin is Mr. Dombey's second wife, Edith, trapped in marriage to a man she despises; she is a riveting, tragic figure in whom generosity combines with pride, avarice with integrity, self-awareness with intransigence. She may have to depend on men financially, but she's their equal for good or ill, and she knows it. As she says about her husband, "I will try, then, to forgive him his share of blame. Let him try to forgive me mine!" As usual in Dickens's work, much of the reading pleasure resides in the supporting cast and subplots, and the men here are endearing—from Florence's little brother, who dies too young to be his father's heir, to her hapless suitor, Mr. Toots, whose self-deprecating refrain, "It's of no consequence," hides a world of hurt. But it is the wives, sisters, mothers, and discarded mistresses who control the plot and break your heart.
— Liza Nelson