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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  119 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Detailed and definitive, this profile of the Victorian writer explores the private life of the complicated, insecure, and wildly ambitious man who became the best-known author of his day.
Hardcover, First American Edition, 1195 pages
Published January 1st 1990 by HarperCollins Publishers
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I bought this years ago, little realizing how useful it would be later on when I was researching the life of Charles Dickens. In recent years, some new biographies of Dickens have come out, which I fully plan to read, but this is still an authoritative work by a recognized Dickens scholar. Particularly interesting to me were some "literary interludes" where Ackroyd imagines his subject conversing with him, with other authors, or with his own literary progeny. Some fine illustrations are included ...more
Brian Robbins
If an appointments committee existed to examine the CVs & references of potential biographers before selecting the best fitted for the task, they would have been hard-pressed not to have at least short-listed Ackroyd to write about Dickens. He is well qualified to undertake the task, being:-

• the author of other excellent biographies – particularly on Eliot, Blake & Thomas More
• a novelist of some standing in his own right, and therefore with a considerable insight into the processes inv
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jean by: Donald
This is the original landmark biography of Charles Dickens. It is almost as much a study of the culture and period Dickens was born into, as it is a biography. Viewed solely as a biography it comprehensively details his life, his work and the influences he continues to have. It is both imaginative and scholarly, as well as being an engrossing and entertaining read.

NB. This is not the "shorter" version as the blurb suggests. The ISBN here is correct, but the links on Amazon are not. Peter Ackroyd
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers of literary biography
One of the most beautifully written and engaging biographies ever. Ackroyd focuses clearly on the personality and affect of the author, the forces in his life, including continuing reinvention of the self that made Dickens write and keep writing. The book contains a bit of literary criticism, but this biography is most decidedly not of the "life and works" variety.

Even at 1100 pages, I was sorry that the book weren't twice as long. It is one of those books that I hate to finish, so after reachin
Boze Herrington
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Possibly the only biography of Dickens ever written that actually reads like a novel by Charles Dickens, this book is immense, sweeping, atmospheric, and richly detailed. It might seem difficult to sum up the measure of a man's life in even a thousand pages, but Ackroyd capably rises to the challenge. By the end the reader is left feeling both awed by Dickens' genius and saddened by his incurable loneliness.
Simon Mcleish
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in August 2001.

As the most popular writer of his age, and as a social campaigner, Charles Dickens had an immense influence which still shapes modern literature and the culture in which we live - his stories helped shape our ideas of the "traditional" Christmas, apart from the more difficult to trace effects of his writing about social issues.

The man who had this influence was extraordinary in himself as well. As a result, he has always been a magnet for biogr
May 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It took a month, but I finished it. This biography is chock a block full of information. The endnotes and bibliography were very informative as well.

The bio is a good introduction to Dickens. Ackroyd stuck to the facts as he he found them. Yes, I will still read more Dickens biographies because there are areas that I want to study more. Because there was so much information Ackroyd often had to just do a brief mention of some of the accounts in Dickens life.

If one is unfamiliar with Dickens as
Oct 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read the unabridged version of this book a long time ago. It's one of the best biographies I have ever read--very engaging and highly readable--no small feat for a book of that length. Dickens emerges as flawed and human like the rest of us, but with a talent for turning those flaws and his experiences into works that change lives.
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ackroyd's tremendously readable, detailed, and penetrating biography of Dickens is twice the length of Moby Dick, as well it should be for such a titanic figure. Dickens lives in these pages, along with a vast supporting cast and London itself. Majestic.
Steve Morris
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still the modern standard definitive text. Any further Dickens' biographies will be measured against Ackroyd's meticulously detailed research.
Jan 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
Amazingly thorough yet compulsively readable.
Spenser Barranco
Nov 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Massive amount of information here and quite a bit of it is interesting, but this really is a deep academic study on Dickens' life. As I stated in the past, I like it when biographies are written as if it was a fictional story and reading this was just like being in school. So if you really want an in depth read of Charles Dickens on a scholarly level, check this out. Personally, I think you can get a lot of details from his novels , which are hours of entertainment.
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers of biography, Dickens, historians; writers

Virtually, I couldn't put it down. Not all readers agree with Ackroyd's approach and manner in this monumental biography, but I was completely beguiled and recommend the book unequivocally.

It is the most difficult and most rewarding piece of nonfiction I have ever read, as memory serves, and I have not read strictly lightly in that vein.

Typographically and stylistically dense, and idiosyncratic in its grammar as in its historiography, it is like the Iron Man endurance challenge of reading, where

Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Finally managed to finish Ackroyd's life of Dickens.

To be fairly honest, I'm not quite sure what to say. There's no denying Ackroyd did an awful lot of research, sure, I'll give him that. But he could've condensed the information into, say, 600 pages - which is what he later did, publishing an abridged version. I've had no choice but to read the original one for academic reasons... and let's face it, its length certainly undermines the quality of Ackroyd's prose. Acrkoyd normally writes beautifu
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, a word about just which edition of this book I'm writing about, which is the full length bio - obviously, some of the reviews here are for the stripped down version, which it seems probably should have its own entry, but seems not to - or if it does, still gets confused with this book. So yes, we're talking about the long version of the book here - almost 1100 pages not including the index and notes, but throw in the miniscule typeface that this is printed in and it's longer even than the ...more
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Peter Ackroyd's thorough biography of Charles Dickens is the definitive book on one of the world's first novelist celebrities.

The more I read it, the more I liked it. Ackroyd occasionally inserts a creative chapter: one insert follows Dickens as he enters one of his own books; in another we follow Dickens around London as he remembers the places of his youth and his fiction; in a third insert we hear a conversation between Dickens, T.S. Eliot and Oscar Wilde; and a fourth insert shows a gatheri
A thorough and engaging biography of the classic victorian author. This is what I call a "cultural biography" in the sense that it incorporates the cultural context of the life of Dickens. I learned many details about Dickens life and loves that have added to my enjoyment of his novels. His interest in the stage is a good example of this as it not only influenced his stories but also the way he wrote them. With the addition of intelligent literary criticism and vibrant prose Ackroyd's biography ...more
Joyce M. Tice
Mar 15, 2010 is currently reading it
We really need to appreciate our education. Dickens and Hardy had to struggle so hard to get an education of any kind and yet, they made more of their lives than most of us could even imagine.
Margot Peter
Mar 03, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a door stop of a book...scholarly but just way too detailed for anyone but a Dickens scholar. I tried and died to rad it but finally gave man other great reads out there.
Mar 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
In-depth, thoroughly researched and well-written biography.
Richard Epstein
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great book, terrific biography, assuming you care almost as much about Ackroyd's gifts as you do about Dickens'.
May 11, 2009 rated it liked it
I am finished slogging through this book and now know more than I ever cared to about Charles Dickens.
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nf-litcrit, missing
Outstanding. Ackroyd is an excellent biographer.
kenneth svensson
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dickens
A very interesting biography about a very complicated man and auther in London and Europe in the Vicktorian time.
Frank Spencer
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Dec 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
It was a long and difficult read, but an informative book nonetheless
Karl Øen
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Mike Chapman
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Phillip Kay
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
More about Peter Ackroyd...

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