Authors I have read – Charles Dickens

charles-dickens

 

Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors of all time – I just love his characterisations and observations concerning the quirkiness of human behaviour.  I have read nearly all his books, but there are one or two that have passed me by and some, though popular with others, leave me cold. 

Miss Haversham

 

My favorite book changes from time to time.  It is actually ‘Great Expectations’, but having recently re watched the latest Bleak House remake, I’m beginning to dither…  But no, I will go by the book.  So it’s ‘Great Expectation’ 

Magwitch using the stolen file

 

Great Expectations 

What I love about it: The marshes, the cruel stepmother, the impervious Estella and Miss Haversham.  I love the idea of the old bride still in her tattered bridal gown – I love the cake which mice have made their home in and the clock that’s stopped.  I love the way simple Pip becomes a snob then changes back when he finds out his real benefactor. 

 Thrills: Magwitch in the graveyard, Pip being saved by the convicts escape, the fire at Miss Havershams.  Magwitch’s daring visit to Pip and the way he drowns.  Last and not least the renting of those dirty curtains from the windows and the scales dropping from Estella’s eyes as she realises that Pip is her own true love!

Pip is told he has great expectations

 

Oliver Twist 

Oliver dares to ask for more

What I love about it:  the poor woman in the workhouse, the beadle who names the child, Sowerby the undertaker – who in their right mind would like to sleep with coffins, the hideous Claypole who gets his come uppence, the thieves den, Dodger, Nancy and Fagin.  I love the tangled web that is woven, the intricate relationships and the honour among thieves.  The Brownlow connection, trust and betrayal and how everything comes out right in the end. 

Bill Sykes gets a fright

 

Thrills: Plenty to be had, the Murderous Sykes and the ghost of Nancy on the roof, the workhouse regime, the actual murder of poor Nancy, the match made in hell in the form of Bumbles wife (actually, that’s more comical) and the triumph of Bulleye as he escapes a drowning.  The man who stop Oliver with a punch when he runs off after they think he is a pickpocket – well he deserves a punch himself.  I love the way that all the threads come together in this story.  It is so well thought out and told and what an array of characters! 

David Copperfield 

David Copperfield

What I like about it:  the perils of a cruel stepfather and what happens when his mother dies.  The novel is very like Dickens’ own early life – including the factory.  Betsy Trotwood his aunt who proves a good sort.  Mr Dick is an enigma – I can’t quite make him out.   I love the idea of Peggotty’s relatives living in an upturned boat.  The sweet Emily.  Dora Davids fluffy but useless wife.  Big daft Ham who loves Emily, whose head is soon turned when she sets eyes on Steer forth. 

The Cheeryble brothers by Phiz

 

Thrills: Not many apart from Ham drowning to save Steerforth and poor Emily’s father searching all over London for his fallen daughter.  The creepy slimy character of Uriah Heep who is slowly plotting his takeover of Wicklow’s firm, swindling all who gets in his way. Ham and  Dora’s death is more sad than thrilling though. 

Nicholas Nickleby 

Nickleby makes himself comfortable at Dotheboys Hall

 

What I love about it:  Mr Murstone who kicks things off for Nicholas.  ‘Dotheboys’ Hall’, Wackford Squeers and his wife and especially the ridiculous Fanny Squeers who takes a liking to Nickleby.    The horrible uncle Ralph Nickleby, the pitiful Smike, the loyal Noggs. I like the bleakness of ‘Dotheboys’ Hall and the humour and general niceness of the Cheeryble brothers.  I am not keen on the theatrical bits of the novel, although the ‘Infant Phenomenon’ is quite an amusing character.

confrontation

Thrills: Ralph Nickby who would compromise poor Kate, the cruelty of Squeers to those poor boys, especially to Smike who could have had a nice home and family. Pathos comes from the gentle Smike, secretly in love with Kate and his eventual death – very moving. 

Bleak House

Bleak House

What I like about it: Reputation was all.  I like the mysterious Nemo, the bored Lady Dedlock and Miss Flyte and her birds.  I’m not keen on Jarrdyce versus Jarndyce, which gets a bit monotonous, but I like Esther Summerson and the simple way that she accepts everything, she has no pity for herself at all I also like the way that the court case makes people act in ways they wouldn’t normally act – putting their life on hold for an outcome that is by no means a forgone conclusion.  Skimpole the ‘child’ who is anything but, kind Mr Jarndyce who has seen this Will fever ruin many a poor man.  I like the way that secrets which get into the wrong hands can be lethal – there must have been a lot of blackmail around in Victorian times.

Esther Summerson and Caddy Jellyby by Phiz

Thrills: Absolutely lots!  the opium dens, Krook the rag and bottle merchant who finally combusts literally –  only a pair of smoking legs are left.  the murder of blackmailer Tulkinghorn by Hortense.  This is a wonderful book with a great plot and a very dark and mysterious aura about it.

A Christmas Carol

What I like about it: Who doesn’t like this Christmasy tale!  This story has got everthing really.  It’s sentiments unfortunately are rarely thought about apart from at Christmas time.  Charity and the turning over of a new leaf cheers the reader on and the thought occurs that it’s never too late to trun over a new leaf.

Scrooge and dead partner Marley by Leech

Thrills;   It has to be the ghosts of course: the rattling chains, the ghostly light, the pointing finger, the glimpses into what the future could hold….

Little Dorrit

Fanny and Little Dorrit calll on Mrs Merdle

What I like about it: The exciting glimpse into the Marshalsea prison where debtors carry on like they were at home and are encouraged to do so.  I love poor little Amy Dorrit and despair of her selfish father.  The story is full of lots of little sub stories that make it more complicated than most.  However, Little Dorrit is a lovely character, full of kindness, patience and  self-sacrifice – which are rewarded in the end 

Thrills include the mystery of the paper in the back of the watch case.  The very strange luring away of Tattycoram (what a name!).  The murderous Rigaud and the strangely weird Mrs Clennham and Miss Wade. 

The Old Curiosity shop

daniel cattermole illustration Quilp in the background grinning

 

What I like about it:  The cast of characters.  The hideous hunchbacked Quilp who lends money to Nell’s Grandfather putting him in debt.  Nell and grandfather become homeless and wander as beggars as Quilp takes their shop.  Kit, Nell’s friend, Dick Swivvler and Nell’s brother all join in the search for Nell and grandfather , aided by the nasty Quilp. 

Little Nell's death

Thrills:  Not a lot, this is a very sad book, as Little Nell dies in the end of fatigue.  Critics said that this particular novel was over sentimental – and so it is in places, the death scene in particular is a real tear jerker.  I still like this book though more than some of the others. 

Martin Chuzzlewit

frontpiece for Martin Chuzzlwitt by Phiz

 

What I like about it:  It’s alright – that’s about it really.  I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of the other books and I think this is down to  Chuzzlewit’s adventures in America (reflecting Dickens’ opinion). I am amazed that Dickens thought this his best novel.  It is the least popular with most people.

Thrills?

Hard Times

Gradgrind catches Louisa and Tom at the circus

 

What I like about it:  Very different to other Dickens books.  I have only read it once and found it quite sobering.  it is political, set in fictitious Coketown and about Class, education and trouble at t’ mills.  I can’t remember much about it to be honest, but it is something I wouldn’t read again, but I would choose it over  Martin Chuzzlewit. 

Tale of Two cities

Tale of two cities by Phiz

What I like about this book: not a favorite, but great if you are interested in the French Revolution.  Basically its about one man sacrificing himself for another because he loves the others wife.

Tale of two Citoes frontpiece Darnay and Carton

Thrills; Lots of intrigue and underground Revolutionists.  Sydney Carton who starts out a dissipated man ends up a martyred hero.  It’s not a book I would read again, but it has been translated quite well into very watchable films. 

Pickwick Papers

Mr Pickwick addresses the club

 

Why I like it?  I just don’t.  I have read this book twice and I cannot for the life of me see what others see in it.  To me it tries to be too clever.  Sam Weller really gets on my nerves.  I know it’s not his fault poor chap, but Dickens gives him an impediment that makes his character hard to read.  Idon’t care much for their ‘hilarious’ adventures either.  But, having said this, I shall at some time try again to read this book – I might actually ‘get’ it eventually 

The Victorian websiteDickens pages HERE

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14 Responses to “Authors I have read – Charles Dickens”

  1. I belong to a book club and recently we read The Mystery of Edwin Drood. This was as you probably know the last book Dickens wrote and he died half way through its composition. I was so frustrated because everyone was making up their own endings. I believe it would have been one of his best had he not unfortunately left it unfinished.

  2. I must read this Ann. Also Barnaby Rudge. I don’t know which is worse – a half finished book or a very nearly finished book where the ending is missing! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hi Lynda, Dickens is probably my number one favourite author – I also love Edwin Drood and agree it is frustrating that he never lived to finish it. My son is doing ‘Great Expectations’ for an exam so I’m hoping to watch the most recent BBC adaptation with him in the next few days. I like the illustrations you have picked out.

  4. Thanks Judy. I really must read Edwin Drew! Great Expectations, for me has everything. If you can get hold of it for your son, the David Lean (1946)film on DVD is fantastic, both in the acting (John Mills) and the atmosphere – especially the graveyard scene (the opening) and the sheer lonliness of the place. Miss Haverham is really something to behold (Martitia Hunt). There has been a few re makes but this one really goes by the book – essential for studying (though the book will always be best).

  5. Thanks, Lynda – I’ve got a copy of the Lean and agree it is brilliant, but I think my son might go more for the recent version – however maybe I’ll persuade him to watch both. And of course I agree that the book is best:)

  6. Thanks Judy. I must put some more authors on here – only criterion is that I’ve read more than one book by them – could be here for quite some time… Thanks for visiting!

  7. The main blog provides so much to respond to. I read first the comments on Great Expectations, so I’ll respond those first.

    I don’t think Estella is impervious. She knows what she’s about; knows that she’s damaged goods. If she were imperviousn we’d have no ground to even hope that she and Pip might get together.

    For favorite scenes: For me, one beats them all. It’s that scene when Magwitch discloses his identity to Pip, and Pip begins to understand that every concept that has formed the foundation of his personality is wrong. Thrilling the way Dickens wrote that scene. Here’s part of it:

    “I could not have spoken one word, though it had been to save my life. I stood, with a hand on the chair-back and a hand on my breast, where I seemed to be suffocating,–I stood so, looking wildly at him, until I grasped at the chair, when the room began to surge and turn. He caught me, drew me to the sofa, put me up against the cushions, and bent on one knee before me, bringing the face that I now well remembered, and that I shuddered at, very near to mine.”

  8. Hi Ken Welcome! Whenever I think of Estella I think Jean Simmonds(who sadly died this year aged 80). She always seems much oder than Pip in the 1947 film, yet in the book, I don’t feel it as much, apart from her leading poor Pip a merry dance (behaviour taught by Haversham).
    You are right, the meeting between Magwitch and Pip is a great scene – I’d forgotten about that. That scene and the one where Joe comes to visit both allow to come face to face with his own snobbery too. It’s good to see him make amends though. He could have so easily gone down the wrong path, the money going completely to his head. Coincidence that both our favorite scenes feature the old convict isn’t it?. Thanks for visiting and commenting – it’s very much appreciated!

  9. Talking or writing about favorite books is a pleasure of a rare kind. I hope to get to your comments on other Dickens novels, but can’t seem to leave Great Expectations quite yet.

    I have a thought about why we’re attached to Magwitch. Sad to say, I think we all feel ourselves guilty of the snobbery Pip must have initially felt with Magwitch–his dress, his hair, his “lookee here.” I think we’re with Pip on this and we appreciate his growing fondness for Magwitch. We grow fond of him too. It’s almost as if were characters in the book.

    It’s not that we didn’t see redeeming features in Magwitch from the early chapters–I’m thinking of Magwitch’s false confession about stealing the pie. Yet, even knowing his qualities, even knowing near the end of the book that he was innocent of wrongdoing, can’t we see him through Pip’s eyes in that scene I quoted and feel what Pip was feeling?

    Of course, thinking about Pip’s point of view, we have to add to run-of-the-mill snobbery Pip’s profound belief that someone finer than himself had singled him out for elevation. And now, with the scene I quoted, everything Pip depended upon to support his self image disappeared from beneath him.

  10. Yes I did think that it was pretty decent of Magwitch to take the blame for stealing the pie so that Pip didn’t get a hiding from his awful sister. Great Expectations is a fabulous book, to me it has everything that a good story should have (and that’s not even including the writing). Dickens loves his ‘characters’ and I think that is why I don’t like Pickwick (just a little too much over the top characterisation), but with Expectations, the characters are believable – even Haversham. I love the lonliness of the marshes contrasting to his ‘digs in London and even the mouldering Haversham mansion. Dark and light all the way through, even the curtains come down to reveal the light.
    Yes ‘someone finer than himself’ singling him out: a good point. He finds that everything even Estella isn’t as ‘fine’ as she seems. There’s lots of morals and also contrasts in this tale really. Thanks for your drawing my attention to these points and for commenting – always welcome!

  11. I probably read Copperfield for the first time, 20 years ago. When we were evacuated during Katrina—I’m in New Orleans—I took the book with me and read it again. What a surprise to me when I discovered that the central focus of the book was marriage: David’s and Dora’s; his mother’s and father’s; his mother’s and Murdstone’s, even Dr. Strong’s, Aunt Betsy’s, and Mr. Micawber’s. So, not until in 2005 did I realize that a reader will get different messages out of the same book, depending on the reader’s life experiences. I can honestly say that Copperfield made an important difference in my life.

    Was Dora, as you say, “useless”? We can’t blame Dora for not being what David fantasized she should be. After David realized what he was doing (after Aunt Betsey wrote it large for him), I think he did appreciate her affection—he always appreciated her beauty. She may not have been as useful to David and she might have been, but he probably wasn’t as useful to Dora and he might have been. David is not perfect; he’s not even the best person in the book—probably Traddles was. David’s midway attitude toward Dora reminds me of the time I spent too much for a car. When the car didn’t turn out perfect, I blamed the manufacturer. Was the manufacturer to blame for my unrealistic expectations? This, by the way, was not the difference in my life I mentioned above.

    And finally: Wasn’t David’s relationship to Steerforth about as complicated as a relationship can be? That was the high-point of the book for me: this often-times rat, who was David’s protector and idol. Gee, I liked that.

  12. Well perhaps ‘useless’ was a bit harsh, but ornamental and impractical. He did treat her like a child at times though. His relationship with Steerforth is an interesting one: a mixture of hero worship, hate and pity. I like most of the characters in Copperfiled – eccentric as they are. Mr Dick is a strange one – can’t quite make him out is he a sage or a fool? I think that Uriah Heep is a great character – so ‘umble’ and slimey. I like the relationship beween Peggoty and Barkis (who is willing) and of course the strange boat house.
    As for the fall of poor Emily – very sad.

  13. Jessicas Japes Says:

    Thought I would leave a comment here as i thought i had left one earlier somewhere on your 2 blogs but can’t find it now!! LOL
    I was just saying thanks for your comment on my site about Bleak House. I loved the TV series with Gillian Anderson. Burn Gorman was brilliant as Guppy =, just his face was amazing! The use of fast cuts between scenes was excellent too, and it was so dark, which I love!
    I also wondered if you’d seen the Oliver Twist TV series a couple of years ago, with Tom Hardy as Sikes. That was very good, and put across the evilness of some characters clearly. I hope this comment publishes!!

    • I think one comment was on echostains and the other is on the Dickens challenge Jessica:-) I enjoyed Tom Hardy as Sikes. He also made a very different sort of Heathcliff. I went to see the costumes at Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, I was stunned to see how small they actually were! I thought the Polanski film of Oliver Twist excellent as it really stuck to the book – and it had great atmosphere. I noticed Polanski seemed to make more of Fagin (Ben Kinglsey) than previous productions have. The only Fagin I wasn’t keen on was the one played by Robert Lindsay, which I found completely over
      the top 😀

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