This is one gem of a novel, that continues the story of Oliver and Jack (Artful Dodger), as they are brought back together through life circumstances.
By the title you might be forgiven in thinking that this book is just a gay version of Oliver Twist. You would be so wrong.
This is one gritty story, and certainly not a fluffy romance, though the two characters grow intimately close.
It is a story about life’s struggles, Often dark, but always has a glimmer of hope, of a better life in the future.
Fagin’s boys, takes place five(ish) years after Oliver Twist ended. Oliver is now 17, seems to have landed on his feet after his terrible childhood. He is under the care of Mr Brownlow, who has taken him in and become his guardian.
This is a portrayal of Oliver and Jacks next chapter in their lives. The author has very cleverly woven elements of the original Dickens classic book into the story but has developed both characters into young adults. They are different people now, Oliver has had a taste of a proper life, living in a nice house, and wearing fine clothes. Whereas Jack Dawkings is still as sharp and cunning as ever, though with more life experiences. Jack hungers for his old gang back upon his return to London.
We watch how they start out heading in opposite directions. Both have opposite views of their past, Jack believing it was a good life, whilst Oliver does not want to even think about those dark years.
When they first meet in the street, Oliver does his best to push Jack away, believing Jack will bring him down and hook him back to their past life.
We get a vivid view of Victorian London, the awful cold and unforgiven class system, how workhouse boys are classed as dispensable. How it was virtually impossible to rise from your born class. It is this that starts Oliver’s downfall and starts a chain of events that leads him to Jack.
Jack the one that always looks out for Oliver and protects him the best he can. Their relationship is very much a slow burn, but I think this is a good thing, The author shows how although they are like chalk and cheese, they are also the only one that they can rely on.
I must admit the book really hits you in the heart, Watching Oliver’s dreams fade, and How poor Jack returns to find no-one from his old life around except Oliver, who is frosty towards him.
The world is painted vividly in our minds from the green haberdashery shop front to the foul smells of the streets of London. The details the author describes of mouldy bread, meat that is way past its best. The dirty Three Cripples Inn. Oh, you certainly feel like you’re with Oliver and Jack.
Oliver’s character is interesting he is waring with himself, he tries to hide his feelings when a workhouse boy comes to work at the shop and is treated badly and pushing Jack away. Because he does not want to go back to his old life.
But he hits his breaking point and realises he does not want to be part of the cruel world and his temper lashes out.
Jack is an optimistic independent young man, mostly full of mischief but there is underlying heartache, he has lost everyone he knew and even Oliver is pushing him away at first. It is obvious that he needs Oliver’s love and care, and Oliver needs Jacks protection and guidance.
I think the author has kept the authenticity of the original book, but also brought new life to the characters and new challenges too.
Victorian period stories are one of my favourites, especially about on the poor and their struggles. This story delivers on that front with a cold, grimy world of unfairness. The gritty reality of the poor and how they are exploited.
If you enjoy historic fiction, enjoy a gritty read, or just loved Oliver Twist. Or just wondered what happened to Oliver Twist? Then I highly recommend Fagin’s Boys. You will soon be hooked into their world and will want to keep turning page after page.