Dodger is a tosher, making a living below the streets of London, searching the sewers for lost coins and treasures. He dreams of one day finding that elusive tosheroon which will set him up for the rest of his life. Everyone who is nobody knows Dodger. Anyone who is anybody doesn’t. But that’s soon about to change when he rescues a young lady from a hideous beating.
It’s easy to see a lot of Ankh-Morpork in the streets of Victorian London, but this story is far from the tales of Discworld. I found it very slow and didn’t find Pratchett’s rendition of Charles Dickens or Dodger that engaging. However, as always, there are some wonderful observations hidden away in what is otherwise a fragrant adventure in the sewers of London. I think overall, it would suit a younger audience.
Pratchett makes many connections between Dodger and those whose professions are considered above the board. Politicians and journalists as just as much “on the dodge” at times. The idea of making a living searching poo for a few coins being better than life as a chimney sweep or even the workhouses, really hits home the awful poverty of city life in Victorian times.
Life was so much simpler in the sewers, but he had learned something lately, which was that the truth was indeed a fog, just like Charlie said, and people shaped it the way they wanted it to go.
I found the most interesting aspects were the real people, however dramatized they might be. Such as Angela, heir to the Coutts fortune yet unmarried and doing her bit to help the poor help themselves. Such a very modern woman for the times. There was also Henry Mayhew who went on to write an eye-opening study of the poor in London, Benjamin Disraeli, who would become Britain’s only Jewish prime minister and Sir Robert Peel, head of the new brand of policemen. Joseph Bazalgette, the engineer who would one day improve the sewers of London, gets his first taste of the bowels of the city when Dodger takes him toshing.
There were also some characters borrowed from literature or, if you like, urban legend such as Sweeney Todd. Dodger himself isn’t exactly the Artful Dodger, but I get the idea he is perhaps meant to be the inspiration for Dickens’s character. And, of course, Charlie Dickens has quite a large role in the story too.
Book Source: Purchased
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