Gwen's Reviews > The Pickwick Papers

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
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Jun 29, 12

bookshelves: favorites, literary-spinach
Read in June, 2012

I wish I had gotten around to reading Charles Dickens before my English teacher did, because I have spent most of my life erroneously believing that I loathed the author, only to force myself recently into reading through his work in chronological order and discovering that I LOVE Charles Dickens.

Seriously, this book is terrible on a technical level, having a plot which wanders all over the place, characters doing a lot of mundane things like eating, going hunting, telling stories which have nothing to do with the plot, etc., but the characters and the writing style are so fun that you forget that the whole thing is just one big shaggy dog ramble. I wouldn't normally be tempted to give 5 stars to something like that, but Dickens made it work for me somehow.

When I was young, I think to a certain extent I believed that Dickens was a horror writer. The ghosts from Christmas Carol terrified me when I was a small child, and later in English class, we read the scene from Great Expectations where Pip meets Miss Havisham, and the description of Miss Havisham left me with the impression that she was much like the Cryptkeeper from Tales From the Crypt in a wedding gown. Everything I was exposed to about Dickens when I was young left me with the impression that he was a wordy, depressing bore, or just too scary for me.

It probably does not help that English teachers everywhere seem to be enamored of his later "serious books" (read: heavy, depressing tragedies). They are also guilty of burdening what work we do study with obtuse discussions of symbolism, Jungian psychology, and all the other usual methods that teachers use to foster an "appreciation" (read: strong hatred) of classic literature.

But here's the thing: you need to make reading FUN if you want to win over new converts to the Church of Dickens or Shakespeare or anyone else, guys. His early novels may be silly fun, and sometimes read as though they were written by a Victorian J.K. Rowling, but that is actually a STRONG point in Dickens' favor! The early Harry Potter books were much the same way - silly, fluffy - but reading those first prepares the reader to accept the darker, more serious tone of the latter books, because we are already in love with the author and therefore care about what happens to the author's characters.

I believe this is the crucial point as to why Dickens was so loved and sold wildly with his original Victorian audience, but later generations perceive him as depressing school drudgework, an author you HAVE to read, but really don't want to. He was introduced to the Victorians by books like Pickwick Papers and Sketches by Boz, not by Bleak House. (ugh, the name alone sounds like a chore to read)

If you've ever stalled out with Dickens by starting with his later books, I encourage you to give him a try in chronological order of publication. I'm personally looking forward to the later books now, because I have become a Dickensian convert by the persuasive power of this book.
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Quotes Gwen Liked

Charles Dickens
“It is the fate of most men who mingle with the world, and attain even the prime of life, to make many real friends, and lose them in the course of nature. It is the fate of all authors or chroniclers to create imaginary friends, and lose them in the course of art. Nor is this the full extent of their misfortunes; for they are required to furnish an account of them besides.”
Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers


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T.E. Well said! Pickwick Papers remains one of my favorite Dickens novels, simply because such it's such a lovely romp. But ooh, no, Bleak House sounds dreadful, but it's really a great read, I promise! Great review, and good luck with Dickens!


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