by Charles Dickens
We've got your back. With the Tough-O-Meter, you'll know whether to bring extra layers or Swiss army knives as you summit the literary mountain. (10 = Toughest)
(7) Snow Line
OK, we won't kid you. Dickens's novels are no skip around the park. They're well worth the effort, but the effort certainly has to be made. This one has a couple of things you have to learn to work with.
Thing 1: the language. Dude's using some big SAT words! And you know what? They are awesome and you should know them. So bust out your favorite dictionary and get ready for long, winding sentences with cool hidden meanings.
Thing 2: it's a long book, with a twisty plot and many, many, many, many characters. But no worries! This thing was a bestseller in its day, which means Dickens was writing for a variety of audiences and had a lot of cool tricks for keeping everybody up to speed.
Thing 3: getting used to the morals and values of the good old days. Victorians, at least in books, were exactly as prudish and hung up on sex and the body as we imagine. So to get into the spirit of the book, you have to adjust your thinking. Sex outside of marriage? Super-duper bad. Kids outside of marriage? Totally socially unacceptable. At the same time, having or not having money was considered to be a reflection of your worth and morality. So the poor were probably poor because they were lazy, or dumb, or spendthrifts, or whatever. And the rich totally earned it and deserved it! All of which means no social support system of any kind: no Social Security, no Medicaid, no food stamps. Everyone just fend for himself!