One of several classic Dickens books which I had not previously read, and which eventually worked to the top of my list. I am sure that it was spell-binding social commentary in 1838, but the character of Oliver seemed to me much too good to be true. Any child coming from that sort of brutal institutionalised background would have pretty serious psychological issues; in fact all Oliver need is a comfortable bed and a cuddle and he turns into an angel. The implication is that Oliver, as a Good Boy, is therefore part of the deserving poor, and the Artful Dodger and so on, as Bad Boys, are part of the undeserving poor, a distinction I find rather invidious - copper-fastened at the end by the fact that Oliver does inherit wealth, but on condition of his goodness rather than his absolute rights as his parents' son. There seems little room for redemption, and Nancy, the fallen woman who tries to redeem herself, gets killed off. The portrayal of Fagin must surely have appeared gratuitously anti-Semitic even by 1838 standards. I'm glad that I have read and enjoyed later Dickens, because I think if I had started here I would have written him off.