Charles Dickens: a Life by Claire Tomlin

Charles Dickens: A LifeCharles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn’t really know much about Charles Dickens before I read this book. I’ve read a number of his novels but never appreciated them in the context of his experiences and the events occurring in his life at the time of writing. So I decided to find out more.

Claire Tomlin has written quite a few biographies of famous authors and this book was released for the bicentenary of Dickens’ birth. Tomlin manages to weave a detailed account of his life with some interesting anecdotes from Dickens’ own letters to family and friends. In and amongst, she also critiques the novels and puts them into the context of his rather hectic life.

I found the book to be easy to read and even though it was full of detail, it never stopped being readable and you don’t feel bombarded with information that is uninteresting or irrelevant. It certainly made me appreciate his novels as a snapshot of London life but also how the author was feeling at his time of writing. It puts into place why his books became more disillusioned and showed a darker edge to Dickens.

Tomlin doesn’t pull any punches with critiquing his novels – many of which she is quite scathing about and has evidence to suggest that even Dickens’ friends also felt the same. She does such a good job of portraying Dickens that you feel disappointed at him at times but also his despair when he watches as family and friends start to disappear.

A very enjoyable read and I certainly know a lot more about this great author than I did before.

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