Dickens:A Biography by Fred Kaplan
Paperback: 640 pages
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (September 11, 1998)
From Publishers Weekly
“This first major biography of Dickens in nearly 40 years is a winning mix of insight, narrative skill and shrewd judgment,” commended PW. As limned here, “Dickens was convivial, loyal, secretive and arrogant, with a ‘performance personality’ that required applause for self-definition.”
When I picked this book up in a used book store for $1.00 I thought “ok, MAYBE one day I will read this”.. I couldn’t refuse the price!
I’m not sure why I picked it up to read when I did, and I fully expected to be bored with it within a few days and lay it aside… but that didn’t happen!
The author, Fred Kaplan, had an excellent style to make things interesting… and so I read on and on until this morning when I finished it!
My mini-fascination with Charles Dickens and Wilke Collins truly began when I read Drood, a historical fiction that made Dickens and Collins both sound interesting and captivating. Since then I read Dickens Christmas Carol (always saw the movie and never read the book), and The Old Curiosity Shop . I also read the Woman in While by Wilke Collins, and a few other fiction books about them both.
This Biography, though long, kept my interest. Dickens didn’t lead an adventurous life nor was much of his life spectacular, with the exception of his writing of course, but still the book prevailed. The author managed to merge the biggest truths about Dickens writings and that was that most all his writings had some autobiographical touch to them. Often his father was one of the figures in his books and many times he himself drew things from his childhood to write upon.
I did learn some small things too, like the fact that Dickens had 10 children. One was a miscarriage though and another died shortly after birth. Actually he outlived most of his other 8 children.
I was surprised to find out that he and Wilke had not met earlier in his career, but in fact later, yet still became good friends and even collaborated on some writings.
In the book Dickens moves around quite a bit and begins his “readings” of some of his work, which takes him to come across the pond to America twice in his life . He also separates from his wife later in the book.
A big thing I noticed in the writing is the feeling one gets for the time and place of where Dickens is ..and how doctors have yet to discover how to care for and cure illnesses.
If you want to know about Dickens his biography is a good place to start. But don’t pick it up expecting a bunch of “dirty little secrets” or adventure , still I can say I liked the book and I’m glad I read it.
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