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Topic: Charles Dickens

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Subject: Charles Dickens
Date Posted: 6/19/2009 1:04 AM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 924
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A couple of months ago, I saw a couple of film adaptations of Charles Dickens's books (saw part of Little Dorrit, David Copperfield, and The Old Curiosity Shop) on Masterpiece Classics. I thought they were quite interesting, so I'm thinking I ought to try reading some of Dickens's books, since I haven't read any of them before. *hangs head in shame*

So, what should I start with?

Date Posted: 6/19/2009 3:02 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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My personal favorite Dickens novel is A Tale of Two Cities -- it's one of his most romantic (not as in love romance, but as in "a novel or other prose narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits, etc., usually in a historical or imaginary setting." -- thank you Dictionary.com.)   :)

Date Posted: 6/19/2009 10:21 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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I love love love Dickens.  My favorite is Our Mutual Friend, followed by Nicholas Nickleby, Bleak House, Pickwick Papers and Tale of Two Cities.  That said, he can be seriously daunting and most of his stuff is massive.  For just getting a taste of Dickens one of his shorter ones might be best, I'd recommend Oliver Twist.



Last Edited on: 6/19/09 9:57 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/19/2009 1:22 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
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I love Dickens!  A Tale of Two Cities is great, but it might not be the best one to start with (IMO), just because it is so different from many of his others.  My favorites are Bleak House, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend.  Maybe if we had an idea of what kinds of books you enjoy normally, we would be able to recommend the perfect Dickens starter book.  I do think Vanessa is right, and Oliver Twist may be a good place to start.  It was the first one I read, and I loved it.  My taste as an adult tends to run toward his later, darker books.  I also love Hard Times, which no one seems to read, which I think is a shame.  Old Curiosity Shop is the only one I've had any trouble with - I just had a lot of trouble getting into it.  Martin Chuzzlewit isn't one of my favorites either.  Pickwick is loads of fun, but it's really episodic and doesn't have much of a through-line, which I understand could be bothersome. I enjoyed Little Dorrit, but it is seriously long, and a little slower moving than some of his others.  If you want to start with one of his giant, long books, David Copperfield may be a good place to start as well.

In general, the protagonists in his earlier books are a little cypher-like, innocents set adrift in a big scary world.  In the later ones, his protagonists have a little more going on, I think.

I hope this helped!  I love Dickens, he's an absolutely wonderful and entertaining writer.  I'm not sure that you can go seriously wrong whichever book you choose.



Last Edited on: 6/19/09 1:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/19/2009 3:37 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
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Well, in Classic Literature, I love Jane Austen.

Classics are sort of a new genre for me--I haven't read a lot of different authors. I will say I did not care for Little Women when I tried to read it as a teen. Maybe I should give it another try sometime now that I'm an adult...

I like to read historical fiction, but I have pretty diverse tastes in books.



Last Edited on: 6/19/09 3:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/19/2009 3:50 PM ET
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I'm sort of assuming from your avatar that you like Harry Potter.  In a way, the Harry Potter books are more like Dickens than anything else I can think of.  They both have similar senses of humor, vivid - sometimes broad characterizations, and a real feeling for the injustices one finds in life.  I think Dickens and Rowling share a very similar sensibility.  Maybe try Oliver Twist or Nicholas Nickelby.

 

Date Posted: 6/19/2009 3:54 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
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:) Yes, Harry Potter is one of my favorite series--had to get the avi in anticipation of the movie next month. LOL

Anyway, I'll give those a look. Thanks for the suggestions!

Date Posted: 6/19/2009 4:16 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
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You're welcome!  Let us all know what you think when you start reading.  Now I'm all inspired and feel like re-reading a Dickens book.

Date Posted: 6/19/2009 11:16 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
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Over more than a hundred years, critical appraisals of Dickens' books run somewhat like this:

1. Oliver Twist.

2-4 in no particular order: Great Expectations, The Pickwick Papers, Bleak House.

5. Hard Times (but this one could also with no serious argument be included in the above group.

A Tale Of Two Cities has long been and maybe still is a great favorite with high school teachers. Critics have (rightfully in my humble judgment) always place it near the bottom of the Dickens canon. It is so melodramatic.

I watched Lttle Dorritt,  mostly, on TV. It was fun to watch. They took many liberties with the plot. They almost disguised the fact that this one is justifiably rated at the very bottom by all critics over the last 150 years.

I like Dickens. His strength is the huge menagerie of characters, none of them types. He has great ability in this area, but borrowed a hundred or two of them from two fat books by Henry Mayhew titled London Labour and The London Poor.

Dr. John T. West, III

Date Posted: 6/19/2009 11:17 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
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And if you wish, I can cite about four histories of English Lit, the English Novel, and like, beginning with Saintsbury's of 1893. I don't make this stuff up.

Date Posted: 6/19/2009 11:19 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
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Copperfield, David Copperfield! Always ranked near the very top. How can I have been such a dunce!

Date Posted: 6/20/2009 8:03 AM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
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John - The London Labor and the London Poor wasn't collected into those big volumes until 1851 when Dickens had been writing for about 15 years. I've read Mayhew's book, and I don't doubt that Dickens may have used it for reference, but I truly believe the bulk of his characters came from his life and experience and imagination.

I might be wrong here, but I belive that the critical praises of Great Expectations far surpass those of Oliver Twist.

Date Posted: 6/20/2009 11:12 AM ET
Member Since: 5/18/2008
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YEEESSS! Dickens is SOOO good!

My personal favorite is David Copperfield, although I'm still working my way through them. They're ALL wonderful. I just finished "The Old Curiosity Shop." In that one, the villain makes the story. He's awesome.

Oliver Twist might be a good beginner. I wouldn't try "The Pickwick Papers," as a starter--better to save that one until you've read a few, OR read it slowly as you read other things. It was written as a series of stories about several (wonderful) characters. All of his books were originally serialized (or at least most of them), but Pickwick isn't really in a novel format. While there ARE ties from one chapter to another, and sometimes several chapters focus on one story at a time, think of it as one book full of lots of stories. It's harder if you try and read the whole thing at once.

I do hope you enjoy his writing!

HML

Date Posted: 6/20/2009 12:02 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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I like Dickens, even when he is melodramatic, because he's entertaining.  I usually have to keep a dictionary handy when I read his stuff, but his stories, characters, little sarcastic asides and all are fun to read, IMO.  But I guess I tend to like the less popular ones (Our Mutual Friend & Nicholas Nickleby are my faves, Great Expectations was the only one I didn't really care for).  I read the Pickwick Papers in January and loved it, but its episodic and I'm not sure I'd have enjoyed it as much if I wasn't used to Dickens.

eta: finally got copies of Hard Times and David Copperfield and mean to get to them this year!



Last Edited on: 6/20/09 12:05 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/20/2009 1:45 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 924
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:D This is great! Thanks for all of the info everyone! I'm going to start with Oliver Twist, and go from there. I'm looking forward to it!

Date Posted: 7/1/2009 10:09 AM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2006
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Starting with Oliver Twist was a good choice. I think David Copperfield and Nicholals N. and Great Expectations would be good follow ups. Then, if your still into CD, the romantic Tale of Two Ciities and then the masterpiece Bleak House. Pickwick only for the hardcore, I think, like Vanessa implies. Dickens is a spellbinder, no doubt about it.

Date Posted: 8/23/2009 7:49 AM ET
Member Since: 12/22/2008
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I would love to read Dickens but the tiny print strains my eyes.  Are any editions or publishers particularly noted for using a bit larger font?

Thanks for any suggestions/advice.