Leah's Reviews > Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin
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's review
Jul 10, 2012

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bookshelves: books-read-2012
Read from June 28 to July 10, 2012

Some lives are just too full to be adequately covered in one biography. As this book so clearly shows, Dickens was one of those large-lived persons. I had great expectations going into this book due to Tomalin's impressive biography of Samuel Pepys, and the first few chapters of this book led me to believe it would be equally impressive. However, it seemed to deal more with the surface of his life rather than the substance, with the "busyness" of his life. I gained no new insights into his writing from reading this book. I gained no new knowledge of how this supposed epitome of the Victorian period came to be seen as such. I did, however, learn about his affinity for the French, something I found surprising--and refreshing--in this author who is often seen as being so quintessentially English. Tomalin also does an excellent job examining Dickens' troubled marriage and his affair with Nelly Ternan, and I agree with Tomalin's conclusion that the affair was sexual.

This book is a good read, and it does provide an excellent introduction to Dickens' complex life and career. But readers shouldn't think of it as the ultimate Dickens bio. I would suggest reading it in conjunction with Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's Becoming Dickens or Peter Ackroyd's Dickens for a more complete insight into Dickens' life.

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