Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't like Dickens?

If you don't like Charles Dickens' writing, might I ask which of his books you've read?

I have a theory that most people's encounter with Dickens consists entirely of A Tale of Two Cities and/or Great Expectations. I expect these two are read mainly because they're assigned in school, and because they're short(er). But having become a recent Dickens fan, I think it's a shame that these are read most often, especially Great Expectations.

I love happy endings, and these don't end quite as splendidly as I wish. Nor do they have entirely sympathetic main characters, in my opinion. Interesting, yes, but not heroes you root for and want to emulate. Pip is rather unlikable for quite a while, though he gets a little better. Lucy and Darnay are likeable and noble, but a bit flat, and Carton is the scoundrel turned noble, but then he's gone suddenly just when he's turning around.

Oliver Twist I haven't read yet, having gathered from the film and play that it's depressing.

But there was a whole list of novels Dickens wrote, which I had never even heard of. Alas! Glorious books, how have I missed you all my four-and-twenty years?

I hadn't even heard of Bleak House or Little Dorrit two years ago, but now they're firm favorites. I think they're much more interesting and satisfying stories than the better known tales, though they are a bit longer. Ah, but so much more room for Dickensian characters and huge plot developments! :-) Now I'm itching to find and read all the other Dickens novels I've never heard of, since I like them the best so far. I would encourage you to do so also, and then let me know what you think of my theory. :-)

I've been told that Dombey and Son is an excellent picture of how a woman can build up or tear down. And apparently Andrew Davies is planning to write that one next as a miniseries, hurrah! So I might tackle that one next, and see what I think of his version after reading the book this time.

But it might be a while. After finishing Little Dorrit, I re-read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson, and am about to dive into the just-out sequel, North! Or Be Eaten, from which pages not even Dickens will be able to distract me. Watch for reviews and thoughts!


  1. Hmm, interesting. My exposure to Dickens consists only of watching various versions of A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist on videos and reading A Tale of Two Cities in high school. Incidentally, I loved Two Cities mostly because of its ending (otherwise, it was a good book, but rather wordy and slow in bits). I'm not sure I've ever read a final chapter in another book where my spine tingled more than 75% of the time, but I'm a sucker for themes of redemption (Casablanca is one of my favorite movies for that reason).

    Perhaps strangely, I haven't really had much of an urge to read any more Dickens. Your post gets me interested again. He will, however, have to get in the back of a very long line of authors I want to read…

  2. I so want to read "Little Dorrit"!
    After seeing the movie!!
    Dickens has such an amazing writing
    style... I love Mrs.Gaskell too!!

    Lots of Love~ Miss Jen

  3. Staples, I expected the "wordy" accusation would come up. :-D Hmm, that might be the other reason more of Dickens' books aren't read. I can think of some shorter books far more wordy than Dickens, though, so I don't really mind. And his wordiness always seems to have an amusing or enlightening point to it. But perhaps that's purely my opinion. I like Tolkien, and people say he's wordy as well. :-)

    How could I forget poor Christmas Carol? See, it's even shorter than the others, so of course it's read more often! ;-) And I really do like A Tale of Two Cities, though I had to listen to the BBC dramatized version about four times before I did (I've recently listened to the book on tape, so technically I haven't read it yet, but I know the story). Yep, it is a grand story of redemption, and the ending is stunning. But as far as getting into a book where I can live for a few weeks, it's just not one of those. I suppose that's what I meant, if that makes sense. If books were poems, I tend to go for rambling ballads over snappy sonnets.

    I've never had an urge to read Dickens(other than the "I ought to someday, I suppose" sort of urge) before watching the Bleak House miniseries. Pretty sad when a film has to urge me to read! ;-)

    Miss Jen, I think you'll like it. Good old Panks actually has hair, and it does all sorts of crazy things! ;-) I still need to read more of Elizabeth Gaskell. On my reading list somewhere, at some point... ;-)

    Thanks for the comments!