Charles Dickens

The Pickwick Papers

I laughed so much, my face ached.

RORY KINNEAR! You did me in, you wicked man! 

I literally can't think of anyone else who could have read this book with so much character and so many characters! He brought EVERYONE alive to me. Rory Kinnear should be renowned as one of the great modern orators. ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!

LAUGH! I can't remember when I laughed so much! One evening while listening on the way home from work, my cheeks ACHED! I often laughed so hard I couldn't breathe. Once or twice, I felt for the characters as Dickens I daresay intended, but mostly it was so much fun.

Mr Pickwick sets off on an adventure with his friends. A wealthy man of advanced years. As his travels go on he helps his friends. As the book progresses, the kind-hearted old man even helps those who have wronged him along the way. The book should be called The Benevolent Mr Pickwick. 

Oliver Twist

This story needed to be told, as most uncomfortable stories do, to help us see the mistakes of the past, to stop us from ever repeating them.

It was an appraisal of how the author saw life for poor people in Victorian England.

Dickens wrote this well. Maintained tension throughout, and as I listened to it on Audible, kept me listening until the very end.

Jonathan Pryce brought the characters to life. Especially Fagin and Mr Brownlow. If I could give him 10/10 I would. Absolutely wonderful performance.

Now the not so great bit.

I didn't like being a party to the abuse of a small child. It was horrible. The story was necessary, but sickening.

I also did not like Fagin getting continuously referred to as 'The Jew' as if being Jewish was the root cause of his bad behaviour. I can't stand racism and antisemitism, and every time the phrase got mentioned bile rose into my throat.

What idiot thought it was a good idea to make this into a musical? It is not fun, and it is not romantic. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

I can but imagine Dickens wrote this to highlight the plight of paupers in his time, and hopefully helped to bring about the end of the workhouses.

Overall the whole story regardless of length was captivating in its horror, but I will never re-read it nor watch a movie or see the musical. I'm done.

Dickens is a genius. But, this broke my heart and sickened me to the stomach. 

Nicholas Nickleby

Dickens makes me wonder.

I wonder how Nicholas Nickleby can be a children's book? Yet, my hard copy says, "The Children's Dickens." We should not scare children out of their wits with a tale about a school "Dotheboys Hall" that starves, poisons and freezes little children. About a young man (Nicholas) who is prone to violence, another (Smike) who the proprietors of said school beat mercilessly and an uncle (Ralph) who wants everyone beaten half to death, especially his young nephew Nicholas. Ralph and several other savages attempt to sell two young ladies, his niece (Nicholas' sister Kate) and the object of Nicholas' affections (Madeline) whose father owes Ralph money and on a fortune to which she does not know she's entitled and on which Ralph and several others are trying to get their hands. 

Without a doubt, Nicholas Nickleby is not a children's book.

The book is not a pleasant tale by any means. It show's the grit and grime of Victorian England and shows the heartlessness of sub-human nature. 

In typical Dickens' style, the story goes the long way around to get to a conclusion that he could have gained in half the time. There's a lot of unnecessary descriptive text. Yet the story and characters are engaging and this is why Dickens went down in history as one of the best novelists. 

The Old Curiosity Shop

7/10 Dickens has written better.
Dickens' excelled himself with provocative prose in this novel and not for the reason of identifying with the character as it should be.
An old man who owns a run down store uses his granddaughter as an excuse for his gambling. When he has lost everything, the child's plight gets worse.
As stated earlier, the author has an anti-Semitic streak and infers that anyone who does not conform to social norms must be evil. Being poor is fine, but just don't be a dwarf or a Jew. My aggravation at Dickens' bigotry outweighed the upset that I should have felt at the Grandfather's treatment of the child as all her woes were squarely on his shoulders.
A book that if your bent is to read all of Dickens' must be read. If reading, for reading's sake, then it might be best, if you have a dislike of cruelty and ignorance, to pass this one by.

Barnaby Rudge

I have only 1 complaint. The length. Dickens could have told the story in half the time. That said, I LOVED IT. In so much as one can love a story of hard times in Dickenesian Britain. I got to know the characters pretty well, and rooted for or against each as appropriate, except for one who I rooted against at the beginning and for at the end. But to find out who and why, you shall have to read for yourself. 

Martin Chuzzlewit


From the first to the last, I cried, and I laughed. Dearest Tom. I got so wrapped up in this novel that I garnered strange looks while walking the local hills and listening to it on audio. At one point I stamped my foot and shouted, "Punch him!" And that's when I nearly ended up in the asylum.

When Old Martin tries to teach his grandson a lesson, it all goes horribly wrong, with thanks in most part to Seth Pecksniff.

The book goes into young Martin Chuzzlewit's journey to America and the friendship and mutual respect that grows between Martin and his friend Mark "Jolly" Tapley.

In his attempt to put things right on his grandson's return, old Martin nearly does more harm than good. 

Dombey & Son

This isn't Dickens' darkest novel, but it's not comedy either. Florence Dombey craves her father's attention and love. Mr Dombey is deliberately neglectful of his daughter in favour of his son. When the son dies, it's almost as if he forgets the daughter exists and when he remembers her, it's not in a good way.

Dombey and son is very long. Dickens goes the long way around telling a story that could get done in half the time. If you're intent on reading all Dickens, then Dombey and Son is a must. You will enjoy it in a sombre way, much as you would enjoy Oliver Twist. It's a dark story, set in dark times, but as I said earlier in my review, it's not Dickens' darkest. 

David Copperfield

Bleak House


In classic Dickens' style, he went the long way about telling a story he could have adequately told in half the time. Also, for the first three quarters I scarcely knew what he was on about as he jumped from what felt like one disjointed storyline to the next. That said, he tied most of up at the end but some of it was so long in the making I had forgotten all about it by the time he got there. 

I assume this to be Esther's story.

The book centres around a case Jarndyce vs Jarndyce, if Dickens' explained this case I must have been asleep. Two of the wards in the case fall in love and get married although why they should not have is another point on which I am not entirely clear but if the outcome is anything to go by they should have been left to their own devices in the first place.

Towards the end Dickens' completely creeped me out with the suggestion that Esther's guardian had watched over her as a child as an object to make his wife when she came of age.

Why Lady Dedlock chose the place she did to expire I am still unclear and why her sister hated her so much as to lie about such an important matter is still left in hazy in-distinction.

Unless, as I, you are reading the entire Dickens' collection, if you want to keep your sanity, you might give this one a miss. 

Hard Times

Finally, a Dickens' book that he didn't take all around the wall of China to get from Manchester to Liverpool.

Dickens has several stories on the go in Hard Times but ties them up and in tidily at the end.
Hard Times is set in a Northern English mill town and tells the stories of Mr Gradgrind whose manner of teaching his children sets his son off on a path of self-destruction and his daughter Louisa into the arms of a husband more than twice her age, a Mr Bounderby who has fabricated his origins.  And of Stephen Blackpool - a worker at one of Bounderby's mills and whose life is a sad reflection of the times. 

Little Dorrit


I have to say that for most of the book I had no clue as to what was happening. Dickens' went so far around the houses to get to the point that I think he forgot what point he was trying to make. We are at a point now where he introduces many characters IMO pointlessly and makes the story drag on and on and on. So many sub-plots and sub-stories and while he ties up the main lines quite well, he talks for the sake of talking.

Little Dorrit is the story of a young girl born in the Marshalsea Prison who falls in love with a gentleman, Arthur Clenham. Their lives collide but their paths were destined to cross from birth. They go the long way about falling in love. In the main it is a heart-warming story. A little sad in places, funny in other's and if you are reading the Dickens' collection, an absolute must. 

A Tale of Two Cities

It was not the best of books. It was not the worst of books.
From the get-go I struggled to empathise with the characters and not until near the very end did I relate to any of them. The beautiful wife of which Dickens is so fond held no pity for me. In this story there were no abused children for a change. 

A Tale of Two Cities doesn't really tell the tale of two cities. It tells the story of an old man Dr Manette, wrongfully imprisoned for many years reunited with his daughter, Lucy.
The daughter marries a Frenchman Charles Darnay who has cast aside his aristocracy because his family are the scum of the earth.
The book tells of the French revolution and for once Dickens' portrays the poor in an unfavourable light. Maybe he thought the French poor to be less deserving of his pity than the English poor.
Whether his account of the revolution is correct or not I can't say.
Darnay returns to France at the beginning of the revolution to try to save his friend from imprisonment but instead finds himself behind bars and constantly at risk of the guillotine.
To find out whether he escapes it you shall have to read for yourself. A Tale of Two Cities is shorter than most Dickens novels and is a must read for anyone who intends to read the collection.

Great Expectations

10/10 This is up with Barnaby Rudge. I laughed, I cried, and I loved it!
I had all but given up being enthralled by another Dickens novel. Yet this!
The book opens as with all Dickens’ novels. A small boy getting mercilessly abused by most of the adults about him. Dickens’ has by this time told this tale so many times that it no longer shocks nor conjures pity in the reader’s heart.
Pip gets abused by his sister on whom he depends, but not by her husband Joe, a blacksmith, who gently cares for the boy.
Pip gets set upon by an escaped convict, Magwitch, and steals food and drink for the felon. Then Magwitch gets recaptured, but that is not the end of the tale.
An uncle of theirs sets the boy to employment as the amusement of a rich old woman, Miss Haversham, who lives her life in a mansion surrounded by the remnants of the wedding day that never was, when her husband-to-be jilted her at the eleventh hour.
Miss Haversham has an adopted daughter, Estella, who she is raising to break every young man’s heart.
When Pip grows up, he falls into a sort of inheritance. Believing the benefactor to be Miss Haversham and her intent to be that by making him a gentleman he should marry Estella, he happily spends the money and even gets himself into debt.
But! Miss Haversham is not the benefactor.

Who is Pips saviour? Will he and Estella ever marry? And will Joe ever forgive him for his desertion?

Our Mutual Friend


I did not care one jot about any of the characters. Especially not about the hero and heroine.
The major problem was that the plot was just so unbelievable and it took the long way of getting to the point.

First of all, what man in his right mind throws a fortune away so that he can spy on those who would have benefitted if he had got the money in the first place? And that's the plot in a nutshell.
John Harmon has a run-in with some bad guys. One of them steals his identity but then ends up dead and by chance John survives but reinvents himself as John Rokesmith so he can spy on those who got his fortune in his stead but would have benefitted if he had walked back in and said, "Hi, I'm alive!" And it took thirty-five and a half hours of an audiobook to get there.
Bella his money-grabbing arranged-marriage wife-to-be came good in the end and stood by him in the most unbelievable circumstances and if you didn't see that coming you can't call yourself a reader.

If you're reading the Dicken's complete works, you have to read it to tick off your list. Otherwise, unless you particularly love Dickens, leave this one on the shelf. And on that note, I'm done with Dickens and am on to the King of horror.

The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton 

5/10 Short Story
The story reads exactly as the title. The goblins steal a sexton. Dickens' takes the high moral ground. In the story, the sexton is a scrooge who hates Christmas and the goblins teach him a lesson. 

I love that Dickens sermoned the high moral ground. The same man who tried falsely to have his wife committed to an asylum.
I hope the goblins got him.

A Christmas Carol

10/10 Short Story

Once again how classic ghost story is a children's tale I shall never know. That said "I love it!" I listened to the tale on Audible with Hugh Grant narrating and sat mesmerised from start to finish. I saw the knocker change. I was there with Scrooge when old Marley came to visit. I cried at the part where all listeners, readers and watchers of A Christmas Carol, cry. (You know which part I mean. Don't pretend you didn't have a pocket handkerchief to hand!) 

If you  haven't read it then I suggest you pick it up, right now and find out if Ebenezer Scrooge learns the error of his ways. 

It is the epitome of Christmas and one to be read at this time of year. And for once Dickens' got to the crux of the matter in a timely fashion and didn't go all around the Great Wall of China to get there.

And on that note "Merry Christmas one and all!"  

The Chimes

10/10 Short Story
Dickens fires my heart with indignation, and so, I must stop listening to these audio books while out walking. Earlier this evening while in the meadow, I believe I may have frightened several other dog walkers when, incensed by Alderman (so-called) 'Cute', I let rip a rant of what I would like to do to him and his companions when they ate the tripe. I stamped my feet. Shook my fist and uttered many an un-ladylike oath.

Then I observed my surroundings.

Head up, shoulders back, smile plastered and saunter away innocently before they call for the men in white coats.

Did I enjoy it? Not at all.

Could I turn it off until it had finished? Not on your life.

Is it worth a read/listen? If it fires me to a passionate outburst while walking the dog in the mountainside's quiet, then I'd be lying if I said "No. 

The Haunted Man

8/10 Short Story

At least Dickens' did not go around the wall of China to tell another Scrooge story.
Redlaw is a chemistry teacher and from the opening I couldn't work out whether he was a bad man or not. Everyone he goes near forgets, starting with one of his students Denham. The forgetfulness he bestows upon the student spreads like disease.
The only exemption is a wild child who Redlaw dislikes, and a spirit visits him and tells him the child is the embodiment of the sorrows of humanity. Redlaw aims to protect Milly from the child and from the forgetting curse and feels pity for the child in doing so, returns everyone to their natural state.

Not Dickens' best, not his worst either and again, if you are reading the collection is an absolute must.

The Cricket on the Hearth

The Battle of Life