Dodger is a book filled with kindness and wisdom. The reason I feel the need to point this out is that it is so rare. The story practically oozes kindness. Rather like Terry Pratchett himself, because it is him. It oozes other things, too, but never mind.
Dodger the character is a scallywag, and he is a good scallywag, but above all he is our scallywag. He saves a damsel in distress and from then on his life is not the same, partly because of the damsel, and partly because it causes a lot of very important people to take an interest in him. Some of that interest is of the less healthy kind.
Set in London – another great character – during the first part of Queen Victoria’s reign, we spend a lot of time down in the sewers with Dodger. It’s where he searches for fortune, or at least his ‘daily bread.’
Terry must have had a great deal of fun putting many of the big names from that era into his story. Mr Dickens is there, always taking notes. So is his pal Mr Henry Mayhew. Sir Robert Peel features, and the smarmy politician Disraeli. And many more. I don’t want to give too much away.
Who would have thought that in saving his damsel, so much politics at the highest levels would emerge? Or several of the mightiest ladies in the country? But Dodger is all right. He knows what he knows, and if he doesn’t know it, then the man he boards with, Solomon, usually does know. As I said, there is plenty of wisdom, and both Dodger and Solomon have thought a great deal about a great many aspects of life.
Only one of them knows what to do with a fish slice. The other is more on the level of squishy richards. (I loved that; the ancient – and constipated – Romans praying for change in their bowels…) Knowing how to urch well is important, and none does it better than Mister Dodger.
The damsel, aka Simplicity, is the loveliest of damsels. Hardly surprising Dodger dodges so happily and willingly for her sake.
I have to mention here that whereas the story is precisely as Terry told me two years ago, it’s not at all as I understood it. It is far, far more interesting and funny and heartwarming.
But what are you all doing here? Go read about Dodger and his damsel! You’ll feel better for it, the richards and the dead and halved rats notwithstanding. Yes, and Onan the dog. Yes, really. It smells.