Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Blog Tour: Fagin's Boy by Christina E. Pilz

Fagin's Boy
Christina E. Pilz
Blue Rain Press

'Your past is an angry, monstrous thing; you must do your best to escape it.'

Fagin's Boy is a sequel of sorts to Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. I'm almost certain that if someone came to me and said that they weren't familiar with at least the rough outline of Olivier Twist, I'd eat my hat (or something). The story of Oliver Twist, the workhouse orphan, has been adapted so many times and in so many startlingly different ways (anyone seen the film 'Oliver and Company' where Twist is a cat and Fagin a dog?), that I think it's pretty widely known. For that reason, I commend Pilz for having the stones to take it on. It's kind of a biggie. 

"Five years after Fagin was hanged in Newgate, Oliver Twist, at the age of seventeen, is a young man of good breeding and fine manners, living a quiet life in a corner of London. When Oliver loses his protector and guardian, he is able, with the help of Mr. Brownlow’s friends, to find employment in a well-respected haberdashery in Soho.

However, in the midst of these changes, Jack Dawkins, also known as the Artful Dodger arrives in London, freshly returned from being deported. Oliver’s own inability to let go of his past, as well as his renewed and intimate acquaintance with Jack, take him back to the life he thought he’d left behind."

My opinion of this book is varied. There were elements that I loved and some that I wasn't so keen on. The main element that I didn't love is Oliver himself. He is trying so hard to avoid his past because he feels it is the 'right' thing to do, but actually it isn't what he wants to do. This inner turmoil is expressed really well and you do get sucked into his whole 'I shouldn't but I want to' attitude. We do all know that forbidden fruit feeling. But as Oliver's character is further embellished, I grew to really dislike him and this dislike affected my enjoyment of the novel as a whole. I do see this as a strength of the writing. It's rare that I have a really strong reaction to a character that gets in the way of the story and I think it is down to clear and detailed characterisation. 

'Maybe he'd truly been meant to be one of Fagin's boys from the very moment of his birth.'

There is a subtle exploration of fate and destiny underlying Fagin's Boy. As Oliver is trying to escape his past, he is also drawn to the idea that he cannot escape it and that he is fated to be one of Fagin's boys forever. I found some of these ideas really interesting and they got the old cogs whirring. These ruminations, alongside the descriptive writing - it made me long to be in the street of London eating lots of food - made this a rich and sensory read. 

Although this book wasn't quite my cup of tea (let's call it an over  sweet vanilla latte), it does have some interesting ruminations on fate and destiny and some lovely nods to Dickens. For that alone, and for the fact that 'lollygagging'* is used on more than one occasion, I'd say that Fagin's Boy is a uniquely interesting read. If you're a fan of Oliver Twist then I'm not sure I could predict how you'd react to some of the plot points, but Pilz is certainly well acquainted with the text and it shows in subtly delightful ways.  

Visit Christina Pilz’s website for more information. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Author:

"Being a writer is not just what I do, it’s who I am. Even if everything else in the day turns sour, if I have written, then it’s still a pretty good day.

I decided I wanted to be a writer when my fourth grade teacher (Mrs. Harr) gave me a good grade on a creative writing story I’d written. And not only that, she added “I like your ending,” along with a smiley face. At that point, I was off and running. I’ve been writing and making up stories ever since.

I live in Colorado. I’ve tried to live elsewhere, but it’s always too far from my family, so I returned for good some time ago. Colorado is a brilliant location to live in as it’s not very far from either coast, and the local international airport is only an hour away.

Right beside my writing desk, I have a green arm chair and ottoman that I call The Vortex. There are two reasons I call it that. The first is that it’s always trying to suck me in and sit down and do nothing but think and read and stare at the sunlight and shadows as they dapple the walls and ceiling. The second is that once I sit down in the thing, it’s almost impossible to get up, as The Vortex keeps sucking me in."

(I love this idea of The Vortex! I need to get a chair like that...)

* fast becoming a new favourite word. I am lollygagging myself, at work today.



  1. It's funny that you didn't like Oliver in a pseudo-sequel, because I reread Oliver Twist a few months ago and Oliver drove me absolutely nuts. Which means now I'm wondering if his being unlikeable in this book was intentional.......

    1. That's what I wondered. It's so well drawn that it does make me think it is intentional, otherwise it's a bit unlucky! Which pseudo-sequel did you read?


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