I think Oliver! was probably my first taste of musicals, and I was about four when I first watched the movie. I loved it; even though everything looked dated, the songs and the characters were so memorable that I instantly fell in love.
10 years on, in my first brave attempt to read the original Dickens novel, I was put off immediately by the unrecognisable characters, and the words that were too complex for me at the time. At that point I gave up, but always knew I would come back to it some day.
2 years later, I decided that I had to read a book by Dickens before I finished my GCSEs and so I picked the one that I was most familiar with storyline-wise. From the first page I was gripped. I wanted to know what happened to these people, especially the young boy named Oliver, who appeared to have done nothing wrong yet were stuck in poverty and without anyone to care for them. I think by that point I was ready to accept Oliver Twist for what is was; a social commentary, what Dickens does best, not a fun musical that portrays criminals as being more friendly than the rest of the world.
But if you are looking for a fun and happy book, this is definitely not for you. The book is a thousand times darker than the musical and provides unsettling pictures of working class life. When I watched the musical, I didn’t understand that Nancy was a prostitute or Bill Sykes was capable of murder, or even the darker undertones revealed in Fagin’s charter ( as well as the anti-Semitism so embedded in the writing). The musical for me is special because of the colour, the music, and was different to all the Disney movies I was at that point watching. For me, the musical will always remind me of childhood and happiness, whereas the novel reminds me of the gritty real world that we all have to enter.