Dickens! Even when he is infuriatingly verbose, he is still eminently readable. There were so many wonderful characters -- Mr. Crisparkle, Miss Twinkleton, Durdles, Helena Landless, Mr. Grewgious, the Billiken. I was even fond of Rosa and poor Edwin, who were probably the most boring of the lot.
Is it strange that I was oddly attracted / sympathetic to John Jasper? He is only 26 years old and he's been given guardianship over his 21 year old nephew -- who wants that kind of responsibility? Edwin has his whole life ahead of him -- an exciting career, travel abroad, and marriage to Rosa -- while poor Jasper is the music master stuck in ancient Cloisterham, hanging out with idiots like Mr. Sapsea. To add insult to injury, Edwin doesn't even appreciate Rosa. I know he's a jerk and maybe a murderer, but I couldn't help being moved: he describes his life as wasted and desolate, he knows he repulses Rosa, and he recognizes the sheer madness of what he is willing to do for her. He just made me terribly sad. Or maybe I just have sympathy for poor, misunderstood Victorian villains.
It is a bit frustrating not to know the ending. What sort of mischief were Dick Datchery and Princess Puffer up to? Will Rosa be able to tolerate a month living with Miss Twinkleton and the Billiken? Will poor Neville's name be cleared, or did he really murder Edwin? Or did Jasper? OR IS EDWIN STILL ALIVE?
But in a way I don't mind the incomplete ending because it allows me to arrange matters as I please: Edwin is alive and triumphantly returns and marries Helena. Clearly having the hots for Mr. Tartar, Rosa eventually marries him and the couple sails around the world on his yacht. Putting aside their differences (and the framing him for Edwin's murder / swearing vengeance thing), Jasper and Neville channel their negative energy and misplaced passion into starring roles in Mr. Bazzard's critically acclaimed play. Mr. Crisparkle and Mr. Grewgious continue being delightful and decide to solve mysteries together. Miss Twinkleton pens a series of responsible and sensible romance novels.