"[O]nward-driving, hypnotically vivid… the result of Claire Tomalin's unrivalled talent for telling a story and keeping a reader enthralled: long as the book is, I wanted more.”
Charles Dickens: A Lifeby Claire Tomalin
Charles Dickens was a phenomenon: a demonicly hardworking journalist, the father of ten children, a tireless walker and traveller, a supporter of liberal social causes, but most of all a great novelist - the creator of characters who live immortally in the English imagination: the Artful Dodger, Mr Pickwick, Pip, David Copperfield, Little Nell, Lady Dedlock
Charles Dickens was a phenomenon: a demonicly hardworking journalist, the father of ten children, a tireless walker and traveller, a supporter of liberal social causes, but most of all a great novelist - the creator of characters who live immortally in the English imagination: the Artful Dodger, Mr Pickwick, Pip, David Copperfield, Little Nell, Lady Dedlock, and many more. At the age of twelve he was sent to work in a blacking factory by his affectionate but feckless parents. From these unpromising beginnings, he rose to scale all the social and literary heights, entirely through his own efforts. When he died, the world mourned, and he was buried - against his wishes - in Westminster Abbey. Yet the brilliance concealed a divided character: a republican, he disliked America; sentimental about the family in his writings, he took up passionately with a young actress; usually generous, he cut off his impecunious children. Claire Tomalin, author of Whitbread Book of the Year Samuel Pepys, paints an unforgettable portrait of Dickens, capturing brilliantly the complex character of this great genius. Charles Dickens: A Life is the examination of Dickens we deserve.
"As Claire Tomalin demonstrates in her vivid and moving new biography, Dickens’s own life was rich in the attributes we call “Dickensian” — shameless melodrama, gargantuan appetites, reversals of fortune... To encompass this frenzy, Tomalin keeps the story racing. She brings Dickens to life in all his maddening contradictions... Dickens walks off the page, and the pace never flags. Tomalin accomplishes this resurrection in a mere 417 pages of text, supplemented by dozens of illustrations, several maps of Dickens’s London and a helpful dramatis personae... Tomalin’s is not the definitive Dickens — it’s too concise for that — but if you plan to read only one biography of the most popular Victorian writer, it should be this one."
“[A] splendid history… Tomalin skillfully presents the chief trauma of Dickens' young life — being sent to work in a factory at age 12, after his father was imprisoned for debt — and suggests the ways it left a lasting mark, from his sympathy for the working class to his towering ambition and herculean work ethic.”
“Clear-eyed, sympathetic and scholarly, she spreads the whole canvas, alive with incident and detail, with places and people. She writes of publishers, illustrators, collaborators and all Dickens’s intersecting circles of friends and family. It is wonderfully done.”
The Washington Post
Like Shakespeare, Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was an overachiever of genius, and his life was as eventful, dramatic and character-filled as any of his novels. This rich new biography brilliantly captures his world.
Acclaimed biographer Tomalin (Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man,2007, etc.) has always hunted big literary game (Hardy,Jane Austen, Samuel Pepys, etc.), and here she goes after one of the biggest and most complex. Dickens once told a visiting Dostoevsky that his heroes and villains came from the two people inside him: "one who feels as he ought to feel and one who feels the opposite." However, there were many more dimensions to Dickens' character. Besides being a tireless writer of long, complicated novels and hundreds of articles, an editor of a succession of magazines and a frustrated actor whose public readings became standing-room-only events, he was ebullient, charming, radical, instinctively sympathetic to the poor, generous to friends but unforgiving once you got on his bad side. At home, he was a domineering husband to his long-suffering wife and a distant father to his ten children. Dickens certainly would have appreciated Tomalin's keen eye for scene, character and narrative pace. Ever the deft critic, she notes how the characters inMartin Chuzzlewitare "set up like toys programmed to run on course," and thatHard Times"fails to take note of its own message that people must be amused." Having written previously on Dickens' disastrous late-life affair (The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens, 1991), Tomalin also displays considerable detective work to bolster the possibility that Dickens and his other woman had a secret child who died in infancy.
Superbly organized, comprehensive and engrossing from start to finish—a strong contender for biography of the year.
- Penguin Publishing Group
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Meet the Author
Claire Tomalin was literary editor of the New Statesman then the Sunday Times before leaving to become a full-time writer. Her first book, The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, won the Whitbread First Book Award, and she has since written a number of highly acclaimed and bestselling biographies. They include Jane Austen: A Life, The Invisible Woman, a definitive account of Dickens' relationship with the actress Ellen Ternan, which won three major literary awards, and Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self was Whitbread Book of the Year in 2002. In the highly acclaimed Charles Dickens: A Life, she presents a full-scale biography of our greatest novelist. She is married to the writer Michael Frayn.
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