My first Dickens

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My first Dickens

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1Nickbrat
jan 9, 2009, 11:16pm

I fancy reading one of Dickens novels however i have not attempted one in the past and i'm concerned that they may be a little heavy going.

Could someone please suggest a good place to start please?

Nick

2Porius
jan 10, 2009, 1:03am

david copperfield is your book. don't get impatient. the more attention you give to CD, the more he gives in return. just don't be in a hurry.
pgt

3mountebank
jan 10, 2009, 10:49am

2> Where better to start than: "I am born". :) And you offer good advice for all of Dickens, methinks.

If you'd like to immerse yourself really gently, I might suggest starting with a novella like A Christmas Carol. Assuming you know the basic outline of the plot, you'll be able to really focus on (and savour) Dickens' language and style.

I also throw my cap in the ring here for Great Expectations. I see you have a few Sherlock Holmes titles in your library; GE has a dark, ominous air of mystery overhanging the entire plot. That said, it also has some of the funniest passages in English literature. Just thinking about the character who calls his elderly father "the Aged P(arent)" has me in stitches.

No matter which book you choose: enjoy!

4atimco
jan 10, 2009, 11:09am

I vote Pickwick! It's so funny and warmhearted :)

5kabrahamson
jan 10, 2009, 12:09pm

David Copperfield is definitely a favorite of mine and probably one of Dickens' best, but do know that it's long. My edition runs about 800 pages in tiny, tiny print. If length isn't a concern of yours, then go for it. It's impossible not to like Dickens after such an introduction.

If you're not up for something quite so lengthy, I second Great Expectations. Somewhat mysterious, definitely engaging, and has some of the best characters I've ever come across. Miss Havisham still gives me the creeps.

6geneg
Redigerat: jan 10, 2009, 1:05pm

The most mature, as a writer, I've read is Our Mutual Friend and it has all the Dickens signatures, great characters, humor, pathos, and more than a touch of mystery.

To start with Dickens I don't think you can go wrong with his first novel, The Pickwick Papers.

David Copperfield is an excellent choice, as well.

Jeez, I think it would be easier telling someone new to Dickens where not to start. Or not. He sucks me in so deeply with his language that even if he gets a tad preachy Hard Times I don't mind.

7Porius
jan 10, 2009, 4:54pm

another start, tho not a book by CD, is Chesterton's CHARLES DICKENS, you can't go wrong in going to one great writer for information, knowlege, and wisdom about another great one. and it's not a lengthy book so you can dive into Dickens without too much delay.
pgt

8Sandydog1
jan 10, 2009, 7:32pm

I third Great Expectations, I really enjoyed it.

9aluvalibri
jan 11, 2009, 4:36pm

I am a great fan of David Copperfield myself, so I would suggest that. I also liked Nicholas Nickleby a lot.

10kjellika
jan 14, 2009, 5:47pm

I read Oliver Twist two months ago, and really loved it.
Not at all "heavy going".
Recommended !!

11Nickelini
feb 5, 2009, 12:06pm

I agree with the strategy in #3, above, of reading Christmas Carol first. That's what I did, and then I followed it (many years later, I'm afraid) with Bleak House, which I absolutely loved.

12slickdpdx
Redigerat: feb 5, 2009, 12:44pm

I'm a Nickleby man myself. I wouldn't start with Xmas Carol. Pickwick may be a little too precious if you don't already know you like Dickens. Don't get me wrong, I loved Pickwick, but.

13geneg
feb 6, 2009, 1:56pm

Oh, who wouldn't enjoy jaunting around the British countryside with the Pickwickians? I think possibly the funniest thing I ever read was the duel. Sam Weller is the best observer, and facilitator, of general lunacy I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.

If you enjoyed Sterne's Tristram Shandy or Catch-22 you'll get a kick out of The Pickwick Papers.

Some one of you conbiners needs to check out why Nicholas Nickleby comes up as the first touchstone for The Pickwick Papers. Last I heard tell they were two distinctly separate works.

14slickdpdx
feb 6, 2009, 2:38pm

I am duly chastized. I thought the funniest parts occured when Pickwick takes the reins of the four-in-hand and when the Pickwickians end up the in the middle of the military exercises.

15Seajack
mar 4, 2009, 11:04am

I started with Pickwick - and now I need to re-read it! I recall finding it hilarious, but don't recall much beyond the appearances of Mr. Jingle.

I liked David Copperfield, but I read it after several others by Dickens, and found the beginning regarding his abused childhood rather grim, so wouldn't suggest it as a start.

I'm re-reading Bleak House (unabridged audio) at present; again, I recalled almost nothing from that, except Mrs. Jellyby. That'd one'd be a bit ummmm ... involved ... for a Dickens newbie to me.

16Seajack
mar 4, 2009, 11:07am

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

17geneg
Redigerat: mar 4, 2009, 11:45am

I really thought Our Mutual Friend just about the closest to perfect Dickens I've read. It was multi-threaded, had solid characters from all spectra of society, included a chase, and other adventures and of course was chock-a-block with commentary on Victorian society.

It was the result of a mature mind, comfortable in its ouvre, and by that time in his career Dickens had learned to write nine hundred page novels that didn't seem stretched or wordy for the sake of the installment. It still has somewhat of the feel of writing on the installment plan, but Dickens really overcame much of the episodic feeling that made some of his other works, Pickwick included, read like carriage rides into the countryside, up hill and down dale.

Would i start with this one? That's an excellent question. It depends on the level of disappointment one is likely to experience from his other books. I think the only one that comes close in quality is David Copperfield.

That said, Charles Dickens, regardless of which work you read, will be hours well spent. Not many people writing in English are as accomplished, even at his worst, as he was. I would recommend for a fair selection mechanism for the first work of his to read to list the names of all his novels on a piece of paper and tack it to a wall, blindfold yourself, and throw a dart at the list. Read what gets hit.

18tomcatMurr
mar 5, 2009, 5:01am

Well said #17. All of it.

My favourite changes all the time. OMF is very very good, Bleak House I think is his masterpiece of masterpieces; Pickwick, however, is the book I want with me in my coffin. It's sublime. To add to the funniest moments mentioned above, is the scene when Pickwick is hauled up in front of the justice of the peace Mr Nupkins (ch 25). It's a hilarious foreshadowing of the later, grimmer scene, when P is sent to jail.

Someone in another thread mentioned Henry James's dislike of OMF. interestingly (for me) Dickens's last story, George Silverman's Explanation, is very, very Jamesian, very psychological and quite unlike anything else he wrote in its interiority. I highly recommend that one as well.

19slickdpdx
mar 5, 2009, 10:35pm

That whole court sequence was spectacular. You can still spot the same characters and events today.

20LadyMaria
apr 21, 2009, 11:33am

I vote for Oliver Twist. Once you begin to read it, you can't stop! It's especially fun if you're familiar with OT dramatizations, as most of them drastically differ from the novel.

21AuntieCatherine
Redigerat: maj 5, 2009, 9:03am

I think it depends on whether you are used to long 19thC novels. If you are used to the shorter run, I would go with Great Expectations - it's probably the novel where Dickens got more things right than any other, and it's quite short. It is dark in tone throughout, but it has some of the funniest things in Dickens - the trip to the theatre to see Hamlet is laugh out loud funny.

However, if you are used to longer books, and can stick with a few unpromising chapters in the beginning, I'd also go with Pickwick Papers. It's definitely the novel of a young man finding his feet, but when he does - he takes off at a run and takes the reader with him. It's loose, it's baggy and some of it rings false but it is a work of genius.

And I envy you starting on Dickens, there is no better way (IMO) that to start with his first novel and follow him through to the mature genius.

22nibs_
jun 4, 2009, 8:22am

Don't go with the later books like Great Expectations or Our Mutual Friend. They are brilliant once you KNOW Dickens' style, but the number of plots and characters are too confusing for beginners!

I would recommend The Pickwick Papers for comedy, or David Copperfield - it was Dickens' midpoint novel and has the good humor of his early works but is more interesting and meaningful.

23yosarian
jun 23, 2009, 11:24am


There seems to be a real agreement here on which way to go next ... I've only read great expectations and a christmas carol by Dickens, but I'm starting to get his complete works in a fortnightly collection (I'm terrible for being suckered in by Marshall Cavendish I'm ashamed to say ...) and I think my next read will definitely be david copperfield (although I am a big fan of catch 22 and I am intrigued by qeneq's comments in post 13. that fans of that book will like pickwick papers ..!)
I've not included a Dickens category in my 999 challenge this year, though I'm sure I can squeeze a couple in ..., I'll certainly be putting him in next year!