After falling in love with the writing of Dickens during my college years, I made a goal to read all of his novels before I turned 30. Sadly, I turned 30 last month and I still have not made it through Martin Chuzzlewit and Dombey and Son. I blame this mainly on the fact that Dickens requires a fair amount of time and attention to read, and I don't have much of either one while living with two little kids. Now that I can listen to audiobooks while I work, I decided to get back into Dickens.
I have tried to read The Old Curiosity Shop several times. I've started. I've stopped. And I've started again... and stopped again. If you've never read Dickens, I must warn you that he does require his reader's attention. The chapters are lengthy, as are his paragraphs and sentences, so you really need some time to devote to reading. His plots are complex, and his characters are often a bit ridiculous.
That being said, I absolutely love the writing of Charles Dickens. He created some of the greatest characters ever, in my opinion. His heroes are unlikely, his villains are devious, and everyone else is hilarious. His prose is clever, witty, and quite funny at times. So I think that his books are worth the time and effort required. I have read a fair number of Dickens' novels -- David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Barnaby Rudge, Nicholas Nickleby, Great Expectations, Bleak House, and A Tale of Two Cities. I took a class studying nothing by Dickens during college. It's safe to say that I enjoy Dickens, but even I have a hard time slogging through sometimes.
Now that I have experienced a Dickens audiobook, I think this is a very good way to "read" Dickens -- especially if you've never tried before... or if you've tried and failed. I loved listening to The Old Curiosity Shop. Anton Lesser's characterization is incredible and he does a great job of distinguishing between characters. I don't think I'll ever be able to read any dialogue of Daniel Quilp without imagining it in the voice from this recording. And I really want to go back to the book and read some of Dick Swiveller's scenes to see if I like him just as much in print as in audio.
I think that one of the greatest things about Dickens is the description and development of his characters (not to mention their incredible names). Even minor characters are described thoroughly enough that you are never sure how big of a role they will be playing. Characters will disappear from the story for a time, only to come back later on. Leave it to Dickens to always tie up his loose ends. The same goes for plots and sub-plots. I am convinced that everything Dickens put in print was put in with a purpose.
So if you're new to Dickens, I suggest you try an audiobook! If you haven't read any of his novels before, I would recommend starting with Oliver Twist or David Copperfield. But really, I think they're all wonderful.