Which Dickens' are you reading now? What do you think of it?
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Just started on my English Penguin Classic, but consulting my old Norwegian version (2 volumes) now and then.
The scandal behind it with Robert Seymour is also interesting. It reminds me of some of the writer/artist conflicts in comic books.
Then I read Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield.
As of now, I'm batting two-for-five, my first two at bats being a home run with runners on base and a solid, solid double. My last three, I struck out swinging. High school students across America may hate Dickens no matter WHAT they're given, but I certainly can't necessarily fault them, given that they're indoctrination is usually Great Expectations. It's not awful, but it's waaaay overrated.
Then Trollope started pitching. Dickens has been benched for now.
That's odd because many people think Great Expectations is his most perfect book. Possibly it's because the tone is so unlike his other books - Pip is so obviously ashamed of his early life and opinions that it casts a melancholy shadow over the a lot of the book. Though, surely you must agree that "Mr Wopsle plays Hamlet" is one of the funniest things in literature?
I quite agree it's not really the right book to start people on Dickens - I suspect it's the length that's the prime consideration for young readers.
Can you say why you liked Martin Chuzzlewit which I agree is a greatly underestimated book, and disliked David Copperfield?
I don't mean to criticise your taste - I'm just interested.
Been a long time since I read it. I am reading all the Dickens novels in chronological order.
Nickelby is such a great indictment of the "boys schools" that, according to Dickens second foreward, no longer existed within a few years of this book's publication.
Chronologically, where does David Copperfield fit with regard to Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend? I could probably look it up but if someone has not only the chronology, but some speculation on the change from single threaded storytelling to multiple threads, to boot, it would make the answer more fun.
i believe it is before them both. David Copperfield was really the high water mark for CD; the books that follow it are all pretty Bleak to a greater or lesser extent, IMHO
Of course, it could be due to what was referred to in #5 as Dickens having been benched, recently, for Trollope. Maybe I just have to get back into the Dickens rhythm.
#10: David Copperfield came out before both Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend at the midpoint of his career.
The adaptation with Paul Scofield is not bad either, even though it looks a bit dated visually (it's from 1994). Maybe it could get you going again...
Geneg: here is a chronology of the major works:
Sketches by Boz 1836
Oliver Twist 1838
Nicholas Nickleby 1839
The Old Curiosity Shop 1841
Barnaby Rudge 1841
Martin Chuzzlewit 1844
Dombey and Son 1848
David Copperfield 1850
Bleak House 1853
Little Dorrit 1857
A Tale of Two Cities 1859
Great Expectations 1861
Our Mutual Friend 1865
The Msytery of Edwin Drood 1870
#15 Agree with you. Andrew Davis takes HUGE liberties with the texts. I don't like his adaptations at all: he dumbs them down.
The next time I read Dickens I hope to do so at a more leisurely pace. With his longer novels I tend to get impatient and want to blast through to the end.
I'm done with Pickwick, which was a lot of fun if occasionally unbelievable. I'm now not exactly reading a Dickens book, but I am reading Dickens by Peter Ackroyd. It's good, but it's definitely a book for nerds who want to know EVERYTHING about Dickens, including the time he went to Paris and met Victor Hugo and the time he had an operation on his butt. I ... usually am that type of nerd, but so far I would have preferred more about his family and less about his endless business negotiations. I plan to read the (much slimmer) Parallel Lives when I'm done, so hopefully that will even things out.
(Pun not intended at first, but now very much so)
OK, being discrete ... near the end of writing Barnaby Rudge, Dickens had a growth of extra tissue (not harmful, but very unpleasant) inside his rectum and it had to be removed. And anesthesia hadn't been invented yet.
Ackroyd says this is why, in his opinion, the last chapters of the book suck.
Dickens had a fistula.
hey quietprofanity I must thank you for the Parallel Lives recommendation.I was not aware of this book, and it looks like just my cup of tea!
Currently I'm rereading random sections of Bleak House to write a paper. Something about ethics, suffering, and decay. I was inspired by John Ruskin's essay "Fiction Fair or Foul" in which he argues the Bleak House "illustrates the modern theology that the appointed destiny of a large average of our population is to die like rats in a drain, either by trap or poison."
Great Ruskin quote!
I've only read these and A Tale of Two Cities. I'm a newby to Dickens. But I do plan on reading the others someday.
Still reading Oliver Twist (cf. #29). If you want a rather light read, I'll recommend this Dickens' novel. Very humorous and very sad.
If you haven't read it, I would suggest Our Mutual Friend. I think this is Dickens at his most mature and at the height of his powers. Of course the downside to going for the big bang early in reading his works is that nothing else may satisfy later.
Also, as an epileptic myself, I kind of chuckled at Monks being arguably the most sinister of the lot. A bit too predictable, that.
I'm confused about Mrs. Gamp's "patient" who cries out the name of Chuzzlewit - this comes into play later on, right?
And Oliver Twist contains some of English Literatures staple tropes, and only the Monks sub-plot is a real grind, the rest of it is really powerful. The bit when er...... let us call him the murderer flees London and then is drawn back, is real, dark poetry.
Isn't the Pickwick Papers a collection of newspaper or magazine articles that Dickens wrote? And what's the deal with that whole Boz thing? That might just be right up my alley if there is some variety. I got really tired of Pip mooning away over some broad and being a dink towards Joe, who was the only character I actually liked.
He published all of his novels as serials, but beginning with Pickwick, which starts out to be very episodic, they were novels. Sketches by Boz is his earliest published work and is pretty much what you'd expect - random slices of life around London by a master of observation.
Our Mutual Friend are probably your best bet, in that case then, Dirtpriest. Everything that Dickens wrote was fiercely critical of certain aspects of his society: Bleak House: the law; OMF: rampant commercialism and the financial world (hugely topical today); and Hard Times: industrial relations in the manufacturing north of England. Even his earliest books are highly satirical and critical, but Dickens got angrier and darker as he got older.
Boz was Dickens's pen name from the earliest days of his career as a parliamentary journalist for a London paper. The name stuck to him, and even his friends called him boz. Incidentally, his illustrator was called phiz, and together boz and phiz ruled the London literary world from the late 1830s to the 1850s.
Here is a link to phiz.
for more on Dickens and his attitude to the social problems of his day, you might enjoy his Selected Journalism.
I'm looking forward to reading the Dan Simminds book.
I took a brief look at it yesterday, as I was 'strolling' through Barnes& Noble, and it looks interesting.
I'm intrigued as to what Slater has to say about D that is new. I mean, his life has been so exhaustively worked over and there are so many excellent bios of boz, that I wonder what new things could be said.
As for Great Expectations, don't make the mistake I made for years, thinking that Dickens wrote about a twit because he couldn't get the hang of more interesting characters. Pip is a twit and a snob, even Pip knows this, at the time and especially as an older man when he is writing his own story. The "I" in Great Expectations isn't Dickens, it's Older Pip, looking back on his younger life and shaking his head.
Pickwick Papers is a much better introduction to Dickens, but you have to stick with it for four or five chapters, until Dickens hits his stride. After that, you just have to hang on for the ride.
I plan on reading Sketches fairly soon and then Pickwick, after that, I'll just hang around here like a stray dog and read what you folks have to say. You know a lot more about this stuff than me. Back to Harry Potter for me, as I have been waiting years for a conclusion so I can read them in one gulp, as it were. Actually, I have to watch this Monday Night Football matchup for fantasy football reasons. My big lead is down to one and a half points and I cannot afford a loss.
Oliver Twist (read at h.s. age, and Pickwick Papers (in my 50s) also deserve at least "Honorable Mention" on this kind of list.
Now, if I go ahead and order it, I will feel motivated to do so!
(Murr resisting temptation to add it to his Amazon wish list.)
Maybe I have OD'd (over-Dickensed) by listening to 'Bleak House' and 'Little Dorrit' back to back...
Another advantage is that you don't get the pages of your book wet. I've just listened to the scene near the end of 'Little Dorrit' between Arthur Clennam and John Chivery,that most noble and ridiculous of characters, and it had me in tears.
#83 I think you're right about the different parts of the brain. I seem to have overloaded the visual cortex for the moment, but maybe the temporary switch to spoken language will press the 'reset'.
Ruth Pinch and her brother should have been squashed
It isn't hard to find the Dickens contributions in various anthologies of his works, but until recently it was hard to find an entire Christmas edition, complete with the other people's work.
However, The Hesperus Press are producing paperback editions I can heartily recommend. The writing varies widely in quality, but I can recommend Somebody's Luggage and Mrs Lirriper
'Mr Feeder, after imbibing several custard-cups of negus, began to enjoy himself. The dancing in general was ceremonious, and the music rather solemn - a little like church music in fact - but after the custard-cups, Mr Feeder told Mr Toots that he was going to throw a little spirit into the thing. After that Mr Feeder not only began to dance as if he meant dancing and nothing else, but secretly to stimulate the music to perform wild tunes. Further, he became particular in his attentions to the ladies...'
The contrasts in the chapter - the stuffy, formal Blimbers, the poignancy of Paul's illness and the quiet kindness shown to him by everyone, and the unexpected sight of Mr Feeder letting his hair down - all these different emotions ricocheting around the scene and interacting. It is an amazing piece of writing. And very, very funny.
BTW Does anyone know whether Dombey and Son has ever been adapted for the screen?
I actually don't think it would make a very bad screen adaptation. I could see actors imbuing life into the larger roles, playing them a little hot if you will, and coming across a bit more powerfully because of it.
I tell you though (SPOILER ALERT), I was kinda disappointed that little Paul died. Then Florence doesn't have the gumption to do much. Sure, she suffers well, but...and Edith and Carker should have had a little time in the sun together. I mean you kinda want Carker to destroy Paul senior...Carker is a more appropriate match for Edith anyway.
Anyway, I read Mutual Friend before that and found it superlative.
Nicholas Nickelby is best read as a romp, very little mature characterisation, a lot of theatricality but a gallery of characters one can't forget.
I agree with you. The Bradley Headstone stuff at the end was pretty powerful.
To me, from a combination of personal and societal constraints, Dickens' portrayal of realistic love (realistic, not idealized) is his great weakness. I think he sometimes comes close to genuine sentiment in the feelings (unrequited mind you) Pip has for Estella, or in the dark, twisted characters like Bradley Headstone or Carker who seem to have actual human urges. It's what kills me in some of the longer works now that I've read a few, the sort of David/Agnes rehash for whoever is pairing up.
I don't agree that dark and twisted is synonymous with realistic and human. One of the things I like so much about Dickens is how his fictional portrayal of human affection tracks so closely with the good that I see around me in the real world.
Doing a little straw man on me, eh? :)
Yes, dark and twisted is not synonymous with realistic and human, but the idealized couple as portrayed relentlessly by Dickens (though quaint and charming and I'm sure exist somewhere in the real world--though unfortunately, I have to strain pretty hard to think of ones I know) in it's own way is pure fluff. Done well enough mind you. It's a nice contrast to the grit and obsessions of the urban scenes, but...
Dickens himself had a troubled marriage and kept an affair with the actress Ellen Ternan hidden for as long as he could, so it doesn't necessarily come from his own experience, like the descriptions of urban life. Besides, I'm convinced He was too astute an observer to actually believe in the idealistic marriage.
Dickens had written more for Edith and Carker, but for various reasons rejected it. Here a website that shows the ways Dickens struggled, relented and maybe even promoted Victorian Puritanism:
(skip to: "Three times at least, Dickens, swayed by the representations of friends whose opinions...")
There is also a great article by Anne Humphreys on Carker. It's in JStor though.
Well anyway, I don't wholly dislike the things you like about Dickens, I was just making an observation on Dickens' work, the weakness I'm referring to coming more from the experience of reading it--particularly a modern reader who is accustomed to a more frank portrayal--than what Dickens may or may not have actually felt about these issues or his even ability to write about them. In fact I think that's my point, that such a great writer avoids so much of the male/female interaction. Dickens is an admitted realist (whether or not this is the case is another matter entirely) and if you read the preface to Oliver Twist he explains his intentions (particularly how to accurately portray the conditions of the poor) with an impassioned rebuttal to the Victorian guard:
I think there were limits though to how he would use his talent, and Dickens is first and foremost a great entertainer. I admire Dickens the artist a bit more though.
Here's another article that explains it better:
I disagree that (a) Dickens' portrayal of happy, kind people is insubstantial or trifling, that (b) the happy couples Dickens portrayed were idealized rather than true-to-life, and that (c) Dickens was relentless in portraying happy relationships. Other than that, I agree with your statement entirely.
"Dickens himself had a troubled marriage"
My view of Dickens' work is not based on an ignorance of his life. I've read Ackroyd, Hawes, and Jordan, and I have high hopes of tackling my copy of Slater soon. I just don't think that having an unhappy relationship means that one is ignorant of or unqualified to portray happy ones.
OTOH you have to put up with the ins and outs of Noddy Boffin who is a much better baddie than a goodie (trying to avoid spoilers) here and who makes no sense.
People complain about Esther Summerson in Bleak House as too goody-goody but I've met someone just like her. An unwanted illegitimate child (it was a boy in this case) who tries desperately to be useful and needed all the time.
Yes, there's lots of young people falling in love and getting married right at the end the book, but that's just romance. For the already-married couples, I can think of far more dysfunctional marriages than I can ideal marriages.
Edited for spelling.
There is some sweetness to the adoration David has for Dora (and eventually Agnes) but Dickens seems to fall back on it time and again. The irony to me is that the characters like Headstone or Carker, or the longing Pip has for Estella, have a resonance and seem to come from someplace genuine. Why this is, I still have to think about. My hunch is that Dickens was such an overall genius that inevitabily some of these things (genuine human elements between characters) seeped into the work but not necessairly where they should, i.e. the couples who are actually getting together, because, there was an acceptable paradigm for that to happen.
But yes, those secondary couples aren't experencing a blessed conubial existence either. I do believe it contrasts nicely (the romance element) with everything else Dickens writes about so I can't imagine what a more "realistic" love story where the characters passions are more understood by the reader would be like. But perhaps that's something that would have come in later books if he continued writing.
Anyway, Dickens' prose is so amazing and his abilities as a narrator are unsurpassed. He also wrote some of the greatest opening paragraphs. Of the books I've read so far, I'm not sure which is my favorite. Pip's beautifully condensed biography is perfect, but BH and TOTC are also incerdible. Who would ever imagine someone could fit a Megalosaurus into the first few lines of a book so well!
I guess there was:
(read the review, after you finish the book of course, it's informative)
And whatever he wants, he's damn sure he doesn't want Headstone to have her, even though - in social terms - he'd be an excellent match for her.
And Lizzie, whose flattered and attracted, but flees before she can be seduced and is found. Had Wrayburn not ended up in the river, want to bet he couldn't have seduced her if he'd put his mind to it. He's articulate, charming, good looking and streets above her socially.
More happy couples, The Plornishes, The Garlands, The Crummles, the Squeers but you're right, there are a lot more dysfunctional marriages, but a lot of those are powerfully described. I thoroughly believe the marriage between Pet Meagles and Henry Gowan, and I thoroughly believe how unhappy she in particular will be in it.
Dicken's last completed story is called 'George Silverman's Explanation'. It gives the best indication of what we could have expected: A quantum leap in psychological subtlety and acuity, a prose style that anticipates Henry James, and a modernist sense of form. I thoroughly recommend it.
Interesting discsussion. It's important to remember that the pairing off of couples in Dickens is usually a function of the comic element in the story: Comedies have to end in weddings. My favorite marriage in Dickens is that of the Varden's in Barnaby Rudge. It's not exactly happy, but it makes me happy reading about it.
Or maybe I should assume that an author of genius would get it right and me, a reader of non-genius, just hasn't understood it.
Has anyone ever read Mill on the Floss? Whether or nor Eliot planned to flood out St. Ogg's--that it wasn't a sort of deus ex machina--it's still a stunningly botched ending. The most you could credit Eliot for was she hadn't the heart to write it with any conviction. It's quite the jam Maggie finds herself in and it's a crying shame it wasn't worked out better. And, just a side note, the provincials in the story are really unlikeable in a dull, prosaic way. Even Flaubert beefed up his Bourgeoisie. I think people would understand Emma Bovary a lot better if she were surrounded by Gleggs and Dodsons (Flaubert, in his own way, was every inch the petty bourgeois whose opinions he decried throughout his works). Anyway, these devices and clunky constructs in Victorian novels get in the way. To have such great talent creating charatcters and then to disavow it all by tidying things up for the public makes, at the very least, a sometimes confusing and dissatisfying read.
I guess I can turn to Thackeray if I want more chemistry and tensions (but it's handled in a jocular manner, and though at times refreshing or trenchant even, tends to dull the edge of any poignant love story just as much as anything else). Or read the Russians (Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chekhov) who are moralists but not at the sake of character.
I agree that it was a uniquely subversive (and somewhat thrilling) thing for Dickens to do. And if you credit Wrayburn's tranformation to Lizzie, it's a significant gesture he bestows on her. I'd wish we'd seen a bit more courtship or psychology though. But it's kind of a neat surprize and actually makes Headstone's jealousy more burning and criminal (that Wrayburn is a guy with a privileged life who has money and influence who can have the girl I love without being in love, etc...).
I'll have to check out George Silverman's Explanation. The Mystery of ED looks like it would have been great (I've read the opening chapter a few times). I almost don't want to read it because great and unfinished are such a terrible combination.
Part of the problem with the love stories is that Dickens was, above all else, a man who knew his market. He knew exactly how far he could lead his audience because they got an attack of the Podsnaps. There's a letter in which he talks about an art exhibition he went to in which all the English painters were very decorous and being decried for it, and he pointed out that if you demand that your art is decorous, you miss out on an awful lot of life. I suspect he'd have loved to have said more but knew his readers wouldn't stand for it.
That's a pretty weak analogy...can't you do better? Usain Bolt is a remarkable sprinter. That said, he'll never win a major marathon. Rhythmic gymnastics though?--and, supposing he did have a pent-up desire for rhythmic gymnastics, I doubt society or anything else could stop him from acting on it. So, I guess you're intentionally misinterpreting my point?
Dickens' characters are separate from himself. If their story leads them to love I'm simply commenting on the effectiveness of that story. Yes, an author uses their life experiences but it doesn't necessarily mean they're expressing (or repressing) pent up desires. Great fiction is a step removed.
He could measure the audience pretty well, and without a doubt Thackeray never had the same ability as Dickens. Some of the other things he wrote aren't bad, but I could see how they are much less entertaining. Major Gahagan, Catherine, Barry Lyndon are good. Vanity Fair is definitely coarser than anything Dickens wrote but it is, as the full title states, a novel without a hero.
I'm not intentionally misinterpreting you, but I'm definitely having trouble appreciating your position. Your reference to "dark, twisted characters like Bradley Headstone or Carker who seem to have actual human urges" is either a rejection of the humanity of admirable people or a rejection of Dickens' ability to portray them authentically. Yet C.S. Lewis characterized Dickens as "the great author on mere affection" and said that Tolstoy was the only other author who even really dealt with it. As I see it, lamenting the fact that Dickens had a lot of good, happy, affectionate characters is akin to lamenting the fact that Mozart had a lot of notes.
There is plenty of lust in Dickens' works, plenty of people behaving promiscuously, but that behavior is not portrayed explicitly, and there are also plenty of characters who appear to take Christian sexual morality seriously. Even on this subject, Dickens writes with grace and restraint. Is there something really wrong with that? A sexed-up Dickens novel would be a bigger travesty than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I'd rather watch Usain Bolt prancing about in a leotard, waving a ribbon on a stick.
As far as I can recall there aren't sex scenes in Tolstoy, but attraction, romance and physical passions are all present and implied competently enough. I believe, or rather have no difficulty believing, when characters in Tolstoy (for better or worse) are attracted to each other. Now you can say that yes the reverse happens, that life does imitate art, as there are many idyllic unions in the world, but the way it's handled by Dickens has a tendency to be slightly facile. Now, it's my belief (or hope) that Dickens held back for a mix of personal and public reasons. You don't have to appreciate my position, yet at the same time I'm a little hurt you have taken such strong offense. As if I don't have as great an appreciation for Dickens as you simply because I find an aspect of his work is a little weak or overused.
My difficulty comes from an 800 page novel where the female is portrayed as nothing more than a doting cherub, call it what you will. I'm not opposed to a cheerful (especially a sweetly Dickensian courtship which expertly treads treacly) but for the size and range of his oeuvre there should be more variety of depth.
I do object about what you think Dickens implies, because I feel that it's not implied so much as omitted. Who were you thinking about behaving promiscuously?
Anyway, you must be a big Usain Bolt fan.
As a peace offering (a kind of leotard, with a wide stickless ribbon, and prancing) it's the best I can do, barring photoshop:
(at first I thought you were being completely ridiculous about the "obvious pent-up desire to do rhythmic gymnastics" but now I can see you were on to something!)
(BTW I never intimated any pent-up desires on Dickens' personal behalf, and I'd argue sex should be considered exclusively a moral issue)
Carlyle was also a proponent of an early version of the "all history is made by one strong man" school of thought he got from Germany and which turned up later there as part of Fascism. I don't reckon Dickens thought like that at all and I think it threw him. It's a great plot, but I agree, there's something wrong with the prose. If you want shorter Dickens, I always recommend Great Expectations
For starters: Mr. Mantalini, Sir Mulberry Hawk, Daniel Quilp, Hugh, Sir John Chester, Molly, Bill Sykes, Nancy, Bet, Steerforth, Martha Eadell, Little Em'ly, and Alice Marwood.
(By the way, thanks for you cordial response to my less-than-cordial criticism.)
*spoiler alert - go no further if you have not read the book*
as a product of the twentieth century, I cannot come to terms with the redemption of Mr D. His descent into near madness? Yes. His complete change of character? Nope. Sorry. And that scene where Florence asks his forgiveness. No, no, no. Sorry.
Seriously. I bought it around 1990, but could have been as early as 1988. Read the first bit coming home on the bus. Put it down to disembark. Picked it up again around the year 2000. Read the first chapter, put it down. Picked it up again this February for the group Dickens read. Finished it last night. Lets just say that it took me just a while to get into it. It was pretty good, in the end. But,yes, I did the ceremonious throwing it across the bed (not the room) when I finished, and turned to my husband and said, "well, that only took me twenty years."
Dickens manages those group chapters so well. No other author is quite able to portray so many characters interacting together in a single setting without gunking the works up somewhat. So concise, yet light and ebullient, advancing the plot in its own way. It's a supreme pleasure to read.
Dombey's denouement is, to say the least, off. I would have felt satisfied if he'd been shuffled off unceremoniously and forgotten by all the other characters (a little Rob the Grinder pelting would have helped appease the schadenfreude as well). It seems the most logical and fitting punishment for the miserable is the exclusivity of their own company. But Dombey is a grey eminence over the whole so he's probably impossible to wrest from the narrative, and since (oddly enough) he's more human than caricature, couldn't be done in a la Uriah Heep or similar Dickensian villain. On the flip, Florence fleeing the house of this misogynist tyrant of a father is a benign, defenseless, passive gesture which serves to enhance the already serene, ethereal quailties of the work.
Beautiful language, strangely spare, almost, for Dickens... Perhaps that's why it is so often given out as a set text in schools?
And the relationship between Pip and Estella, that balance of misery and compulsion, is just heart-breaking.
I still have to read (in my TBR pile): Our Mutual Friend (next month) and Hard Times.
I'm eyeing Barnaby Rudge warily. It has reached the top of the To Be Read pile., but I'm a bit worried that no-one ever seems to mention it...
Look out for Martha Varden, classic portrait of a passive- aggressive, and the meeting of the apprentices, oh it's full of lovely stuff.
Ha ha ha. Cheerybles--love it. I got off to a slow start with Nicholas Nickleby, but I'm a third into it now and having a lot of fun. Haven't made it to the scene you describe yet. My favourite part so far was when the Kenwigs are having their anniversary party and the poor babysitter has "the audacity to burn her hair off." She was such a "malicious little wretch"! Poor thing.
There is some incredibly powerful writing in the riot scenes, and some quite hellish and haunting imagery. Those scenes have to be as strong as anything Dickens ever wrote.
I don't know why my response is lukewarm... Something about the characters, I think, didn't quite engage me as much as usual.
Also Dolly Varden was adored by the Victorians - I just want to slap her.
Did anybody here already try that?
I've just finished Bleak House. I didn't remember until about 3/4 of the way through that I'd wanted to keep a list, since the edition I was reading didn't have a "cast of characters" at the front. Fortunately the editions I read of Our Mutual Friend and Nicholas Nickleby both had a cast list at the beginning of the book, which were invaluable. (Coincidentally, those two books are tied for my favorite Dickens books.)
The next time I start a Dickens book without a list of characters, I'll either keep one of my own, or keep a pad of sticky notes handy to insert (with names written on them) on pages where a new character is introduced, so I can easily thumb back to the spot when needed.
I'm currently on a brief Dickens hiatus, having read (consumed?) 10 of his novels, three of them twice, in the past 3 years. Am now reading Steinbeck's Cannery Row, a very quick read, and will follow that with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel by David Mitchell. A friend tipped me off about this one -- she read it in an adult ed course and said that its similarity to a Dickens read was raised in class. So I'm curious to read it.
After that, I'm torn between re-reading Barnaby Rudge, which I read early on in my Dickens binge, and Dombey and Son, one of the few I haven't read yet.
I remember struggling through the first half of Rudge, then suddenly it took off and I was hooked. But I've talked to enough people who say, "Barnaby Rudge, ewww," that I feel the need to re-read and re-evaluate it. Plus my local chapter of the Dickens Fellowship is about to start the book (they picked it out of a hat--imagine!) and I may want to pop in and join the discussion from time to time.
What got me on the Dickens binge was watching Little Dorrit on PBS. I went to the library, picked out Our Mutual Friend, and was hooked.
The Boffins in Our Mutual Friend.
Caddy Jellyby and Prince Turveydrop in Bleak House.
And, despite what I thought of the marriage (and Dora), David Copperfield and Dora Spenlow were very happy.
Also, my bets are on Tim Linkinwater and Miss La Creevy in Nicholas Nickleby.
My candidates for the most dysfunctional "marriages":
The Lammles in Our Mutual Friend, a marriage right out of Sartre's No Exit
The Wilfers in Our Mutual Friend
Jenny Wren and 'Mr. Dolls' in Our Mutual Friend, a "marriage" in that the father's behavior turns his daughter into a shrill mothering "wife"
The Jellybys in Bleak House
Thanks for the list of characters idea and the recommendation for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Sounds like one I'm going to need to read.
I haven't read either Dombey and Son or Barnaby Rudge yet so I can't help you there.
I've heard of the Dickens Fellowship and looked it up online, but haven't had any personal experience with it. It sounds like it would be fun.
Welcome to the group. Happy reading whatever you pick.
Dickens sometimes hints that he could have written a great adventure story, if he'd tried. The beginning of Little Dorrit, in Marseilles, reminds me of Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, which incidentally also began in that city. And A Tale of Two Cities, in parts, sounds like The Scarlet Pimpernel. Then, of course, there is The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which he unfortunately died before finishing.
I mean, I like Little Dorrit, but after the excitement of the Marseilles chapters, which seem to suggest a very different kind of novel, returning to London almost seems like a let-down, and a return to (what was for Dickens) the familiar and safe.
I also found that the atmosphere of the French Revolution was not properly rendered, and the story finally sounds false and unreal. (But this is a common feature to many works of Dickens's; afraid to write this here: I might be excluded from this group :-)
You noticed however, tomcatMurr, that Dickens is included in my "Favorite authors" list... (I must be a kind of masochist.)
Surprisingly, my favourite so far is Barnaby Rudge. My least favourite is The Old Curiosity Shop, that is the only one I didn't like at all. I love the atmosphere in Barnaby and I love that it's not quite as sentimental as some of his other books. The characters seem more dynamic in this book than in the other books I've read. The main characters in The Old Curiosity Shop were either good or bad, there seemed to be little or no depth to them, with a few exceptions (most notably the grandfather).
I just started Little Dorrit and will probably continue with David Copperfield, Bleak House or Our Mutual Friend. I'm looking forward to seeing which book or books that will take Barnaby Rudge's place as my favourite(s). I assume that one or more will, since I've yet to read the great ones, like Bleak House, David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities. But we'll see.
A bit OT—I have a funny question: I've just refurbished my bookshelves, and find myself with my Dickens shelf (8 vols) ready to accommodate one more volume (but only one). I'm eying two books on the 2nd-hand market: Dombey and Son and Nicholas Nickleby. It seems, from what I read above, that Dombey and Son would be a good choice. But, just to be sure, could those of you who've read both books give their advices?
To let you know my tastes: I best liked David Copperfield and Pickwick Papers; I disliked Hard Times and A Tale of Two Cities.
Favourites I have already re-read and/or would re-read again:
Tale of Two Cities
Not particular favourites, but ones I will definitely read again:
Old Curiosity Shop
Mystery of Edwin Drood
Ones I struggled with and am unlikely to read again:
Dombey and Son
Our Mutual Friend
So far I don't have that third category at all ... well, maybe Curiosity Shop is down there. I'm kind of siding with Oscar Wilde over that one.
I have 3 that I have yet to read:
Dombey & Son
Mystery of Edwin Drood
Of the 12 I have read, I would group them as follows:
My favorites--all read multiple times:
Our Mutual Friend
Ones I have read twice and would consider reading again:
Ones I struggled with, read only once, and probably will not re-read:
Tale of Two Cities
Old Curiosity Shop
Thanks! That was an interesting exercise!
Nice to hear your thoughts. As mentioned above I read a Christmas Carol every year, and it hardly counts as a novel despite its beauty; however, I've read Great Expectations a coupe of times and would read it again.
I've heard mention by many that the Pickwick Papers is a popular favourite, and that Little Dorrit is a fabulous novel.
Dickens is one author who I know I have neglected despite his wonderful writing, which I can't account for: others include Trollope, Twain and James.
What are Dickens’s great lessons about Christmas? It seems from A Christmas Carol, one is generosity and a heightened attention to poverty.
A heightened attention to a bit of the world our eyes normally gloss over. That includes poverty, but it also includes the people around us we take for granted. That might begin with family, but it shouldn’t end with family. I suspect Dickens knew that Christmas then was a way of concentrating our attention on not so much trying to draw morals, as trying to encourage us to look at the world as a novelist might look at it. In other words, with attention to detail.
For me it's all about God's mercy and our redemption. It's St Paul, St Dismas and St Augustine.
“There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” - St. Augustine
I think Bleak House is my absolute favorite, with Little Dorrit right behind. One that I struggled with, but might reconsider reading again is Pickwick Papers. It's so different from the others; more a collection of tales or stories, it didn't appeal to me at the time because I was expecting a full novel. It did have some hilarious parts.
>228 LesMiserables: Thinking back on all his novels that I have read, I think they all have some aspect of looking at the world around us with different eyes. All of the books have some meaning or moral for us. He makes clear distinctions between goodness and evil.
>229 Maura49: Barnaby Rudge is next on my list to read. I understand it's based on a real event. Many years back I tried to read Dombey and Son, but I didn't get very far. I am hoping another try will be successful.
www.librarything.com/work/19781255/reviews/149386978 - a fictional recreation of Dickens's writing of A Christmas Carol.
waiting for it from our local library. In the meantime\caught
a couple of negative reviews on LT; but I'll still give it
that your 12-13 year old memories will be
activated -- probably along with some insights
missed the first time around.