I completed reading the book in December but have been contemplating how to review it ever since. Pratchett describes it as a work of historical fantasy in his end notes, and I guess that’s about as fitting a depiction as you’re ever likely to hear.
Dodger is a 17-year-old scallywag in Victorian era London who mucks about in the sewers looking for coins, jewellery or anything else that manages to find its way there. We learn that those who earn a living in this fashion are known affectionately as toshers.
Dodger rises up from the sewers one stormy night and rescues a young girl known as Simplicity, who was being brutalized by a few thugs, while running away to escape from a loveless marriage to a foreign nobleman. And so follows a sequence of improbable events that sees the rise of Dodger from humble toshing to well-off gentleman, even being honoured by the Queen.
While spending all his time using his various street-wise skills to protect Simplicity from the thugs hired by husband to retrieve her, Dodger meets and befriends an assortment of historical characters such as the Charles Dickens, Henry Mayhew, Benjamin Disraeli, Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts and Sir Robert Peel. For good measure, Pratchett also throws in an encounter with the famous fictional barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd.
This is not your usual Terry Pratchett novel, but is thoroughly enjoyable and humorous to boot. Pratchett continues to impress me.
“The pawnshop was where you took your tools if you were out of work, and where you bought them back again when you were back in the job, because it’s easier to eat bread than to eat hammers.”
“…there are two ways of looking at the world, but only one when you are starving.”
“He really wanted a sign. There ought to be signs, and if there was a sign, there should be a sign on it to show that is was a sign so that you definitely knew it was a sign.”
“True, it was a lot of money for something that he really didn’t need, but it was the principle of the thing. He didn’t know exactly what the principle was, but it was a principle and it had a thing, and that was that.”