Jason's Reviews > Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin
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's review
Nov 11, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: nonfiction, biography, literary_biography
Read from October 27 to November 11, 2011

A traditional, cradle-to-grave live of Charles Dickens. In fact, it starts well before the cradle -- with tbe obligatory discussion of the lives of grandparents and parents before the subject is even born. And in an innovation, the final chapter covers the remainder of the lives of everyone who knew Dickens -- including a brief life and death of each of his children (he had ten in total) and friends (many more), going through 1939 when the last person that knew him died.

But that should not be a turn off. The biography feels definitive. It focuses on the life, especially Dickens' manic travel, but also includes a thoughtful few pages on each of Dickens' novels. It is less focused on the process of writing and editing than Michael Slater's Charles Dickens. And it is less creative than Douglas-Fairhurst's Becoming Dickens. And less vast than Ackroyd's Dickens. But at about 400 pages of text (not counting the extensive notes, etc.), for most people this would be the best biography to read.

Claire Tomalin is especially strong on the women in Dickens' life, including his horrendous treatment of his wife Kate, his likely affair with Nelly Ternan (Tomalin has a chapter speculating, reasonably convincingly, that Dickens fathered a child who subsequently died with her), as well as the sister-in-law and subsequently daughter who managed his household.

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