This week, after the girls went to bed, I picked up my cross-stitch, settled into my LazyBoy, and disappeared into the world of Oliver Twist. Focus on the Family Radio Theatre has brought Charles Dickens’ classic novel alive with their new, full-cast dramatization Oliver Twist (Radio Theatre). Each voice was perfect for each character—right down to the English accents—and the background music and sound effects made the story even more poignant and touching.
Oliver Twist is born in a workhouse to an unknown woman who dies after his birth. Raised in the parish orphanage, and then sent to the workhouse, Oliver knows only hunger and poverty. When he dares to ask for more gruel one evening, he earns the wrath of the orphanage overseers and is apprenticed out to the local undertaker. Life there is no better for young Oliver, who eventually runs away and falls in with a gang of thieves in London. From there, Oliver’s fortunes go up and down as he falls in with good people who try to help him, only to be kidnapped again by the thieves, who are determined to corrupt Oliver. Then a figure from Oliver’s past appears, and slowly the truth about Oliver’s birth is uncovered.
I first read Oliver Twist when I was in my early teens. Along with Great Expectations, it made me give up Dickens for years. Both stories are dark and dreary, yet they show the truth of the London in which Dickens lived. My heart broke many times over as I listened to how poor Oliver was treated. Thankfully, Dickens’ novels brought light to many of the evils of his day and made a difference in English society. His novels are now among my favourites, for along with the darkness, Dickens always shows the hope and good that is possible in every story.
The audiobook set includes a DVD with a behind-the-scenes documentary of the making of Oliver Twist as well as a documentary on modern day Olivers. In Dickens’ novel, it is the kindness shown to Oliver by two people—first Mr. Brownlow and later the Maylies—that make a difference in his life. In this documentary, Focus on the Family draws attention to today’s children who need foster and adoptive families. Using interviews with government workers and children who have been in the system, this documentary shows how the message of Oliver Twist is just as relevant today as it was in Dickens’ time.
Oliver Twist comes in a beautiful case with five CDs (ten tracks on each)—over five and a half hours of listening pleasure! I enjoyed listening while doing some cross-stitch (I’m working on a Christmas runner that I started a few years ago). We’ve also listened to audio books while driving, so if you have a long trip planned this Christmas, may I recommend a good old Dickens novel to you.