Status: Wait List

Our Mutual Friend

Dickens' last full novel and the waning of the Victorian Age

Fall 2023
Tuesday Afternoon
Moderators: Nancy Coiner, Antonia Woods



We will explore the brilliance and darkness of Victorian London as we read our way through Our Mutual Friend. Together we will share our favorite passages, worry about our favorite characters, and discuss scenes of gripping suspense and delightful warmth.


The novels of Charles Dickens are justly famous for their dramatic plots, memorable characters, and sharp insights into how individuals and social classes interact. The novelist writes with sympathy for the poor, biting satire for the rich, and—always—an eye for the perfect detail. In his last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend (1865), Dickens tells the story of dark obsessions, from the desire of a beautiful woman to greed for money and grasping for social status. It starts with a dead body in the Thames and a large inheritance whose heir is missing. By the novel’s end, it has drawn in characters from working-class boatmen to London’s nouveaux riches, from an articulator of bones to a young barrister who is idle, cynical, and lost. Along the way, a willful young woman learns to love, and a respectable schoolmaster learns to hate. It’s a large and complex novel that requires no special knowledge and repays our attention with rich emotional rewards.

ROLE OF PARTICIPANTS: Members of the class will be expected to read the novel, discuss it with the class, and either give a presentation or lead a discussion. Topics for presentations might include Victorian daily life, Victorian London (slums to mansions), the Thames River, working-class life, and Dickens’s life (including other novels).

We strongly recommend that everyone use the Penguin Classics paperback version of the novel.

ABOUT THE MODERATOR: Nancy loves novels—reading them, discussing them, teaching them, even writing them. She has moderated several LIR seminars. Antonia has two MAs, in history from Yale and in English from Mount Holyoke. She has taught U.S. history and American Studies for 38 years. She loves close reading of classic novels.