Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Charles Dickens

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, and as the blogger in our little group who lives only 30 miles from where Dickens is buried, it feels that is is somehow my duty to pay homage to one of the greatest writers of all time.

Unfortunately - and this is a shocking confession - I've never read any Dickens.

Yes, I admitted it. I have a degree in English Literature, and yet I've never read anything written by Charles Dickens. My mother dislikes his work, and when I was young she told me why. He wrote about dark, depressing and troubling things; his characters were exaggerated caricatures; and when he had an affair in his mid-forties he threw his wife out of their family home and forbade her from ever seeing their ten children again.

So although at the tender age of ten (or whatever) I couldn't have put it in quite these terms, I fixed Dickens in my mind as a writer I didn't like. My life has, thus far, been pink and fluffy and frothy, and I try so hard to avoid anything upsetting or depressing that I don't watch or read the news - my mother told me that Dickens' work is particularly miserable. I hate anything vaguely surreal (including Alice in Wonderland) so exaggerated caricatures were not characters I would warm to, and, as you'll know if you've read my post about Enid Blyton, the character of the author matters to me, and I prefer not to buy books by people whose personal lives I object to.

Makes it a bit tricky to write a tribute, of course.

However, I will acknowledge the huge influence the works of Charles Dickens have been on the world, and what a debt of gratitude even I owe to him. From the musical Oliver! and the Muppets' Christmas Carol (which I do like) to workhouse reform and making 25th December a national holiday, Charles Dickens became a very loud and enduring voice against the injustices of society and improved things for all of us. He had his work serialised in a magazine so that even the poor could afford to read it, and in doing so invented both the "cliffhanger" ending, and the "Previously, on ...." preface that we are so familiar with from TV.

Now that I have confessed to this shameful gap in my literary education, I feel I need to pay Mr Dickens the best tribute I can. I'm going to read one of his books.

Any suggestions as to where I should start?


Cheri J. Crane said...

A Tale of Two Cities! =) That is probably my favorite novel written by this great man.

Kerry Blair said...

Read "The Life of Christ." The depressing part at the end was not of Mr. Dickens' creation and I know you'll love the main character. :)

Great tribute, Anna. I've read everything he's written. Don't hate me by association, okay? A bit of "Great Expectations" actually changed my life for the better. Best.

Anna Buttimore said...

Kerry, I am well aware that my dislike of Dickens was on shaky ground. Just because my mother doesn't like his work, doesn't mean I won't. After all, she doesn't like Stargate!

I have downloaded "A Tale of Two Cities". The first line is strangely familiar...

Gale Sears said...

Dear Anna,
Thanks for the insight on Mr. Dickens.
I like David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol. I was creeped out by Miss Haversham in Great Expectations, but liked the majority of that novel.