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What the Dickens

Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2011 12:26 pm
by Sequin
I have never read a single Dickens novel in my life, but the bugger regularly urns up in quizzes and I drop points accordingly.

As you can download all of them for free from Amazon or Project Guttenberg, what would you recommend I read first? Should I do them in chronological order, or go for the biggies first?

Re: What the Dickens

Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:00 pm
by audrey
Start with The Old Curiousity Shop - Quoting Oscar Wilde 'One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears...of laughter.'

Seriously they are so tedious you should not waste your eyesight - just Wiki them because there are hundreds of key facts and plot lines

Re: What the Dickens

Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:05 pm
by DanielFullard
Tale of Two Cities comes up a lot in my experience

Re: What the Dickens

Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:47 pm
by Chris
I tried to read Hard Times once (because of Gradgrind's fondness for "facts, facts boy!"). I think I managed 3 pages.

So, however, what knowledge I have of Dickens comes from seeing the myriad of television and film adaptations of his work.

I note there's yet another new version of 'Great Expectations' on telly this Chrimbo (with Ray Winstone playing Magwitch, and the totty off X Files as Miss Faversham) but I would heartily recommend David Lean's classic movie version (starring John Mills, with Alec Guinness making his film debut). Similarly I would recommend Lean's 'Oliver Twist' and the wonderful musical version, 'Oliver!'.

Re: What the Dickens

Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:07 pm
by DanielFullard
I had to read Hard times as part of my History degree.......and I had to read it within a week which for a normal book is pretty easy but I found Hard Times very tough.

I do like some of Dickens but of the "classic" authors he is perhaps my least favourite.

Funnily enough I was reading synposis of his main works in the excelletn "I used to know that...." book on the bus this morning

Re: What the Dickens

Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:41 pm
by Angram
I've read and enjoyed most of his novels, but concede that perhaps for modern tastes they are long winded and rather complicated, with countless sub plots and minor characters. However, they are cracking stories which is why they adapt so successfully for TV and cinema. My favourite would be Bleak House.
(I inherited my grandfather's complete set of Dickens, which he had read many times over, but declined his equally well thumbed Walter Scotts - they are really heavy going....)

Re: What the Dickens

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:02 am
by DanielFullard
Also if I had a pound for everytime Id seen or known of someone guessing "The Great Gatsby" to a Dickens question Id be a very rich man indeed

Re: What the Dickens

Posted: Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:40 am
by Ambassador
Chris has expressed the existential GK dilemma; is it enough to "know about" or do you have to "know"?

There was an interesting piece on Today this morning (16 Dec) about bibliotherapy (me neither). Justin Webb fessed up to not being able to get to grips with Dickens; he was advised to read it in episodic chunks (which is how most of the novels were published, if I recall correctly).

David Copperfield in the first year was the first signal that I would never get on with English literature (ironically I did a very literature based decree). Like Chris Jones I get most of what I know from TV adaptations - if I am really hooked/want to know how the original dealt with an issue, then I'll look at that. I've enjoyed Dickens, Eliot and Trollope in this way... though Charlotte Bronte still leaves me cold.

My advice to Chris Q would be use the upcoming BBC Dickens at 200 season to get a taste for the man/his work, and follow up whatever interests. The BBC DVD box set does eight of his best known works.


Re: What the Dickens

Posted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 3:48 pm
by Giotto
Here is an invaluable Dickens resource

Re: What the Dickens

Posted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 6:32 pm
by neilmac
Try Trevor Montague's A to Z book which includes synopses of the novels and notes on characters.

I do find Dickens long-winded (though not as bad as Scott!) and so have started many a Dickens novel and given up well before the end but I do like Great Expectations which is a satire on class and snobbery in 19th century England and is pretty concise - for Dickens that is!