Jan. 8th, 2014

[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Finally finished Claire Tomalin's biography of Charles Dickens. Which makes the book sound more of a slog than it was. It's just long. And dense. Very very dense with information and lots and lots of people and having got to the end I understand why there's so much detail about the players at the beginning. You need it. (Also, it would have helped if Georgina hadn't sometimes been Georgy, leading me to wonder if there were two.)

This is a 'warts and all' biography that pulls no punches about the less attractive aspects of its subject's behaviour. If you want to revere Dickens-the-man, don't read this book.

If on the other hand you want fascinating glimpses into his life, the people with whom he surrounded himself, and to get a taste for his astonishing popularity, go right ahead. But be aware there's rough with the smooth.

It's hard to encompass the experience of reading this book in a few lines, especially when it look so long for me to read. If I'd dedicated myself, it might only have been a week or so, but I note I started reading on the 9th December. So, nearly a month (I finished reading yesterday), albeit I didn't read the book every day. Also, as with much non-fiction, I found it necessary to read in short bursts, putting the book down for a while in order to accommodate what I'd already read. I can't read non-fic the same way I read fiction; it's more work.

Tomalin covers Dickens's life from birth to death, drawing on various sources including letters, and biographies by people who knew him. There's an extensive bibliography in the back of the book. I'm thinking it might be interesting to read Forster's biography, as he seems to have been very close to Dickens and there's possibly nobody who knew him better, except maybe the wife he deserted. Sadly, she hasn't left a record behind.

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