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Could someone please suggest a good place to start please?
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!
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.
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.
Not at all "heavy going".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!