Dodging the past

I just finished reading Terry Pratchett’s Dodger, and over all I have to say that I really enjoyed it. No, it was not the most original story I’ve ever read, but it was amusing and engaging, and in that regard it certainly deserves a five stars rating. I also like seeing Terry Pratchett stretch beyond the familiar confines of the Discworld.

In this particular instance he tackles the Victorian period with an interesting cast of characters and an entertaining adventure. As several of his other works this one can also be seen as a coming of age story, one that is full of literary references… and if anything it is when we come to those references that we run into a bit of an issue.

Now, I freely admit that that issue has more to do with one of my pet-peeves than with anything else: namely it has to do with the way in which the book has a tendency to sanitize the Victorian period and paste the author’s values onto the past. Gone is the racism and antisemitism that was so prevalent at the time, a fact that might not make that much of a difference if it weren’t because of the book’s cast of characters, and the obvious Oliver Twist references, does connect it with a number of historical figures, and those are grossly misrepresented. Yes, this is a young adult book, and in that regard I realize that historical accuracy was unlikely to have been a top priority, but sometimes I can’t help but to feel that authors try a little too hard to keep us from our own past, and that is not something I’m too keen on.

Still, as I said, this is a minor issue that doesn’t really detract from the entertainment value of the book as a whole and is unlikely to bother anyone except maybe a handful of history nuts (for those I would suggest an alternative four star rating), so while Dodger doesn’t exactly rise to the level of Nation I would definitely recommend it.

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