Yuck! Soot, coal, suffering. Rinse, lather, repeat. Even by the standards of Dickens’ classic sentimentality for the underdog, this novel is a dud. Probably not the best introduction to Charles Dickens unless you want your child to enjoy the pleasures of never reading again. This novel makes Zola’s Germinal, also about downtrodden coal miners, seem like a work of candy-colored upbeat positivity.