08 February, 2012

What the Dickens to read?

If you're alive and in the UK, you can hardly have failed to notice that this year we are having a Charles Dickens Festival in honour of his 200th birthday. So far, I have been mostly ignoring DickensFest but at this current moment I am feeling inspired, so let's seize it!

I have a terrible confession - terrible for a writer that is - to make.  I have an awful memory for plots. I forget the plot of most books I read within a year, even if I loved it. Thus, I know for a fact that I have read Nicholas Nickleby, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House and a Tale of Two Cities, but I could only tell you about two of them. Everyone knows the plot to A Christmas Carol and the plot of A Tale of Two Cities has remained with me largely because it is one of the best books ever written. Other than that I am in the dark. Further adding to my confusion has been the BBC Radio 4 comedy series 'Bleak Expectations' which is a spoof Dickens, starring Pip Bin and Mr. Gently Benevolent, and is hilarious. If you haven't heard it, then the first series is being re-broadcast at the moment and can be found on iPlayer. Stop reading this garbage and go and listen!

Anyway, as of 30 seconds ago, I have it made it a 2012 mission of mine to read at least two more of old Charlie's work. That's where you come in. Should I pick up Pickwick Papers, or visit the Old Curiosity Shop? Is Martin Chuzzlewit worth getting to know, or do you prefer Little Dorrit? Help me out here, friends. Which Dickens is your favourite?

Is anyone prepared to join me? All those willing to read one or two Dickens novels they haven't read before during 2012, shout 'Aye' and wave your hands in the air. More usefully, leave a comment telling me which one you fancy. (Which book, I mean. I'm not interested in your Strictly Come Dancing fantasies). If a handful of hardy souls volunteer then I will make a new page on the blog to publish short reviews of each book, written by you lovely people. Do you think we can do them all between us by the end of 2012? If no hardy souls volunteer then I will sulk. Think of my poor husband before opting out.

I will leave you with my favourite piece of Dickens and possibly the best opening to a book ever (oooh, there's a whole new post waiting to happen!). Sometimes I read this, just to make me happy. This is the famous opening sentence of A Tale of Two Cities...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.


  1. Chloe, I will definitely join you in this challenge, and since you sing it's praises so highly I will put up my hand to read the tale of two cities during 2012. I have only read great expectations and a Christmas carol before so I'm open to suggestions as to what my second should be...

  2. I'm alive and live in the UK - hoorah! I have an even more shameful confession to make. I have never read a single Dickens book. Not one. That's horrendous, isn't it? I have been in two theatre performances of Oliver! Does that count at all?

    *shuffles away hanging her head in shame*

  3. You can borrow it from me, when we see you in March, Jenny :)

    Angeline! The trouble is there are so many good books! I don't think I'll ever read anything modern because I have a good 300 or 400 years of literature to catch up on! I have no idea who wins the Booker Prize each year (except this year!), which is probably more shameful for a modern writer.

    This could be your chance Angeline. A Christmas Carol is short...

  4. Ah I was doing the same thing (although shamefully I've NEVER read a Dickens). So I started a Tale of Two Cities a few weeks ago - : )

    Some amazing writing in it.

  5. A Tale of Two Cities is my favourite Dickens too!! Missing you and Hugs! xxx

  6. And want to read The Olde Curiosity Shop, so that would be my vote.

  7. I've never read a Dickens novel yet either, although I have written jokes based on some of his titles. In fact, I once wrote a Dickens inspired poem. It was the best of rhymes, it was the worst of rhymes... On the plus side, I plan to read some of his works at some point and to abstain from poetry henceforth. If you can pick a short Dickens book, I'll be happy to read it.

  8. Thanks Chloe, though I may see if I can get an electronic copy of it from project gutenberg as motivation to read is always so much higher these days if I can involve my iPad ;)

  9. Of the 2 you've picked I would go for 'The Old Curiosity Shop'. It's mostly men who like 'Pickwick' ~ it seems to spark a totally spurious nostalgia in them, for some reason. OCS is good, or one that you haven't mentioned which is also worth a read is 'Dombey and Son', and everyone should read 'Hard Times', which is quite short but interesting in that Dickens uses some truly impoverished central characters. One of his most direct social comments, and a goodie if you don't want to be Dickensing for months! Ceve

  10. Thanks everyone! I think I will definitely go for The Old Curiosity Shop and then see how I feel.

    Derek - if you fancy giving Hard Times ago, my mother assures me it's quite short!

    Abby, dear, I miss you too. Come and visit and we'll go to Brixham :)

    As Freya is currently reading it, I won't say anything specific, but I love AToTC because one of the chracters in it I think is the best bit of characterisation I've ever read. Amazing.

    Seems like a lot of people haven't read Dickens. There's just too many good books out there!


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