I'm a big fan of Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities remains a powerful, exciting adventure novel with an epic and a prophetic voice behind it, with thoroughly allegorical and primeval feeling. A Christmas Carol has the energy of an allegory with the concise feature of a novella.
Great Expectations is not a novel I immediately thrilled to while reading, but it has lingered in my memory as perhaps one of Dickens's most mature, retrospective, elegaic novels.
David Copperfield was a bit too long for my taste, but I thought it was a great novel overall, filled with some of the best prose and some of my favorite literary characters - Mr. Micawber, David Copperfield, Betsy Trotwood, Uriah Heep.
And now I am in the midst of swimming in the wide billows of Dickens's big epic megalosaurus of a mega-novel - Bleak House, the novel where he, in Chesterton's words, "grew up." I'd say this may come close to becoming my favorite novel, replacing A Tale of Two Cities. I am awed by the control of the two voices - the omniscient, cinematic, present narrator, with his command of moralizing and poetry in his voice, and the voice of Esther Summerson, which develops and shifts and carries with it its own elegaic, reserved power that captures the Dickens rhetoric. I think Bleak House, in a way unique among all his novels, captures Dickens' powers of rhetoric at a fever pitch. This makes me think, more than his other works, that Dickens was one of literature's great masters of rhetoric.
So, what is your favorite Dickens novel, and why? What do you think of his earlier work - Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist - as compared to his later work - Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, Hard Times, Great Expectations?