Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dickens and Me

For Celebrating Dickens at Fanda Classiclit, those of us who are participating are celebrating Dickens's 201st birthday today by writing a post about "Me and Dickens"--a little something about our experience with Dickens that the man himself would appreciate, as a little birthday gift.

Dickens has rather loomed in the background of my life. I have many very specific memories with him, myself. I've seen several adaptations of A Christmas Carol, as most of us have, since I was a kid, and last year I finally buckled down and read it, albeit for a class (although sadly, a little far in advance for Christmas). Around the same time, I read a biography of Dickens and was enthralled by his multi-faceted life. In high school, all my friends were reading A Tale of Two Cities for school (while I was homeschooled) and had so many different opinions of it that I just had to read it myself. I watched the BBC adaptation of Our Mutual Friend last month and loved it. And of course, being an English major, I often feel totally surrounded by loyal followers of Dickens.

And yet...I have yet to figure out what all the hype is about.

Yeah, yeah, I know--happy birthday to you, Dickens, I can't understand why you're so famous.

But obviously, since I'm spending this month celebrating you, I haven't given up yet. The fact is, I'm a little aghast at how little Dickens I've actually read. The terrible truth is that, A Tale of Two Cities being my first ever Dickens read, I was rather disappointed. I knew Dickens was regarded as one of the greatest writers ever, and I was expecting something...I don't know...different. I enjoyed the book, but I didn't love it.

Of course, that was several years ago, so I'll probably read A Tale of Two Cities again someday and like it much better. But the experience turned me off to Dickens just a little bit. It wasn't until last semester when I was sitting in my British Literary History class and my classmates and teacher were discussing Dickens...
"Everyone likes A Tale of Two Cities soooo much, but it's never been my favorite Dickens."
"I know! Some of his other books are so much better."
"A lot of teachers assign it because it's a lot shorter, but I really think his longer books are the real masterpieces."
Yep, I realized, it's time to give Dickens another try.

So watching the BBC film of Our Mutual Friend was my foray into the wild. I had watched the beginning several times, but could never finish it because my school library only allowed me to check it out for 3 days at a time, and that's simply not long enough for a full-time student to finish such a long movie (supposedly). But finally last month I found myself with oodles of time, and I watched the entire thing. And it was so good. I simply couldn't let out the literary critic in me, and found myself completely attached to the characters and getting emotionally involved in the story. As soon as I finished the movie, I knew I had to read the book.

So there you have it, Dickens. I haven't lost faith in you. I know there's a genius behind those gazillions of famous books you wrote, and I'm going to find it.


  1. I'm glad you give him another try! Hopefully you'd reach a new level of your relationship with Dickens by the end of the month...

    I have read many positive reactions on Our Mutual Friend. Besides that, Great Expectations is another piece you should try, I loved it.

  2. I have a love/hate relationship with Dickens, to the extreme! Don't lose faith before reading Great Expectations, that is the book that swings me towards love every time. Enjoy your month of Dickens.

  3. I'm giving Dickens a second try this month too, and while I've set aside Great Expectations for now I have no thought of abandoning it. I hope you have a great month discovering Dickens.

  4. I love Dickens! It's a toss up for me as to whether he or Charlotte Bronte takes the spot for my favorite author. I, too, loved the Our Mutual Friend mini-series, and look forward to reading the book!

    Have you heard the common assessment: A Tale of Two Cities is the most un-Dickens like Dickens novel? I believe it. Although I read A Tale of Two Cities in high school and loved it then, I don't remember it well, and I think if I re-read it now, I'd probably say the works I've read more recently (Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol, Little Dorrit, and Bleak House) totally blow ATOTC out of the water.

    Since I could go on and on about how much I love Dickens and why, I won't! Don't want to write a novel in your comments. However, I highly recommend Bleak House! I think it's the best Dickens to start with (or retry with)!

    1. Yes, I have heard that ATOTC is the least Dickens-y of the bunch. I'm not super far in Great Expectations yet, but it seems totally different than I remember ATOTC being! (And better.) I will definitely take your recommendation for Bleak House! I've heard really good things about that one too. It's on my Classics Club list! :)