Monday, December 12, 2011

Charles Dickens and I

I have never been a full fan of Charles Dickens. I've waded through pages and pages of Oliver Twist, getting properly lost and confused in the many clever plot twists and sub plots. That was my very first introduction to Charles Dickens, and I can't say I liked him very much. He was too difficult to follow, too clever to understand. He was someone a professor might read and enjoy, not a young girl like me.

I abandoned Dickens, leaving his books languishing on the bookshelves gathering dust and turned my mind to easier, lighter books which required less effort to read. And I forgot all about him.

Then, Mum started to read Bleak House to Charlotte and me. Sitting on the sofa with nothing to distract me from the words falling from Mum's lips, I was sucked into the world of Bleak House. The many, varied characters and their enthralling actions held me captive. The vivid descriptions, spanning pages and pages, brought the world to life.

Our daily readings battered at my former idea of Dickens. Maybe he wasn't so hard to read. Maybe I just wasn't trying hard enough to understand and enjoy his books. Maybe I should try again, give him one last chance.

Before I even touched a book however, I received an unexpectedly nice birthday present. The BBC's Little Dorrit mini series.

After hearing this series praises sung, I was eager to start watching it. And it did not disappoint. The end of every episode left me begging for and craving more. I hardly wanted to stop watching to go to bed each night.

The moment we finished the mini series, I wanted to read the book. Surely, to make a series that good you had to have an amazing book to start with.

And so I picked up Little Dorrit. I fully expected it to be quite different from the series. After all, adaptations are nearly always drastically different from their source books.

Imagine my surprise when the book and the movie stuck close together. I read whole speeches and remembered them from the mini series. Whole scenes, almost perfectly recreated, waved at me from the mini series. And the characters! In my head they went through every action, spoke every speech, and showed every emotion in full colour while I was reading, almost exactly like I had seen them in the mini series.

Little Dorrit amazed me at every turn. Thanks to the movie I understand the book so much better. And, thanks to the book, I understand the movie much better.

Charles Dickens and I may have got off on the wrong foot. We may not have had such a happy relationship up to now. But, thanks to the BBC and Little Dorrit, I may finally be finding the love of Charles Dickens that every good reader should know.


  1. Have you read a Christmas Carol? Dickens is a dear old friend here for me, when I can't find anything else to read I pull him out and am very happy.

  2. Maybe it's time I give Charles Dickens a go as well, I've never read his books, because they look so very big and what I have heard hasn't really interested me.

    But Im going to take a proper look now :)

  3. Dickens and I shared a similar story. I mean, seriously. Goosebumps is more entertaining when you're a young reader. Later I picked up Oliver and loved it. I just had to buy a nice compilation of his works, too. Needed a copy of A Christmas Carol anyway. I need to watch Little Dorrit. :)

  4. Autumn, actually I was just thinking I should read 'A Christmas Carol' as it's the right time of year. I love the story from what I've seen through movies, but I've never had the courage to open the actual book. I must change that.

  5. Legolas, Charles Dickens is quite a long winded writer, but if you can power through the slow parts of his books the rest is well worth reading. Plus he's the master of description, so his books are well worth reading just to learn the art of description.

  6. David, I was a rather advanced young reader, being that I was reading and writing at the age of five. However I definitely think Charles Dickens is best kept until later years. Even now I doubt I'm clever enough to keep up with Dickens. Maybe when I'm ninety I'll have finally caught up with him.

  7. Oddly, though I've read most of the other great classic authors out there, (see my list post)Dickens really appealed to me. I read A Tale Of Two Cities twice by the time I was fourteen, and of course, probably missed the point completely. I also David Copperfield, but I don't really remember it. What do you think of those?

  8. I haven't actually read them yet, though they're sitting around waiting for me to open them. I'm partway through Nicholas Nickby and also partway through Little Dorrit so I don't really want to start another one just yet. But they'll be high on my To-Be-Read list. Are there any others of his books that you'd recommend?

  9. Oops. one little word changes everything, doesn't it? My previous comment should say that he did NOT appeal to me. That word changes the whole meaning of the comment, doesn't it?

  10. JT, It's weird how so much meaning hangs off one little word like 'not'. I perfectly understand your comment with that word inserted. Does Charles Dickens appeal any more to you now?