My love or lack thereof for a book is about so much more than whether it's good art. The individual physical book's characteristics and the place in my own story during which I'm reading it add to the overall flavor. Those are the factors I want to express here.
This is not actually the edition I have - mine is from the Penguin English library series designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith (link at the bottom).
I bought this book at Lutyens & Rubinstein Bookshop in London over the Christmas 2012 holiday. Erin, Kristin, and I went in to get away from the rain after a day of shopping in Notting Hill. (Mom was at the flat resting and actually ended up being rushed to the hospital just a few hours later.) A day or two before had been Boxing Day, and we'd gone on a walking tour of "Shakespeare & Dickens' London," so I was excited to read about Little Nell, imagining what it had been like to get one chapter at a time in America.
Right before leaving for London, I happened to listen to an episode of the Infinite Monkey Cage (podcast) on statistics & probability (it's more interesting than it sounds). One of the discussion points was the six degress of separation theory, and the fact that the odds of knowing the same people as a stranger you just met are much higher than we expect. A panelist -- I think it was Mark Gatiss, but not sure -- pointed out that Dickens uses this in a lot of his stories. Without that running through my head, I might have found this particular story of his too much to buy - all the coincidence and connection that the story depends on.
Some of Dickens' comments on human nature in this book made me get out my pen to underline - which I never do. I also laughed out loud, cried a little once, and sighed in wonder at his brilliance constantly. Yes, the sentimentality for which it was always criticized is there, but if you have ever been poor and alone, you will recognize the portrayal of every tiny act of kindness or apathy as monumental.
Shortly after I returned from London, I had the flu for a week, so I associate the book with comfort and warmth in the midst of misery and muddle-headedness. After that, it took me a while to finish because I had very little reading time. The last 300 pages or so were finished at the San Francisco Symphony over two weeks, in the space between work and chorus rehearsals/concerts.