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Thread: Which is your favorite Dickens novel?

  1. #16
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekimhtims View Post
    So, oddly enough I've never read Dickens. I know, I may deserve a good spanking. So Victorians aren't really my thing these days, but how can I go on saying I've never read Dickens! So what might be a good recommendation for someone like me who has an inclination towards Huxley and Hesse and leans towards the philosophical and metaphysical and likes the romantics and their modern progeny? Can't say I'm much into literary realism and naturalism, which i take Dickens to represent (I guess), but is there anything that spares me the external horrors of the world and rather tends towards the self-referential and psychological?
    Reading Dickens is like getting married. It's a mistake to try it just because you think it's something you ought to have done by now; you're only going to make yourself miserable unless it's something you genuinely want to do. Pip is right to recommend Great Expectations--based on what you say. But he's also right that Dickens didn't write psychological novels per se. My suggestion is to forget what you think you want and immerse yourself in something new, but not unless you are willing to read for character over plot and for words glorious words. If you are not prepared to bathe in words like a warrior bathes in blood, then you should spare yourself Dickens. If you are, then sure, Great Expectations, Bleak House, David Copperfield. Don't be afraid to drink the Pure.

    But if it's a 19th century psychological novel you want, read Dostoyevsky. Start with Crime and Punishment (which I get the feeling you would love), then go on to The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov. Notes from the Underground is probably not the best one to start with (maybe read it second). The Possessed (or whatever they call it now) was politically/socially/psychologically prophetic but artistically kind of a mess. Read it last.

    But nothing by Dickens or Dostoyevsky is going to spare you "the external horrors of the world", not even The Pickwick Papers. Maybe it's time to come out of the safe space.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 06-04-2019 at 02:41 PM.
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  2. #17
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    Great stuff Pompey, thanks. I'm pretty sure I have Great Expectations here somewhere. Not being adverse to either the new, or glorious words, I may have to dive in if only upon your interestingly stated recommendation. I've read three of the Dostoevsky titles you mention, as well as a few short stories of his, but still have to hit The Idiot and The Possessed.

    And just as an aside, I tend toward novels that are focused on internal reactions to the horrors of the world as opposed to more discoursive analysis' of those horrors themselves.

  3. #18
    Registered User EmptySeraph's Avatar
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    No-one has mentioned Hard Times as of yet.
    Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes.

  4. #19
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    Thanks EmptySeraph, that work looks promising, at least by the opening Wiki comments...

    "Hard Times – For These Times" (commonly known as Hard Times) is the tenth novel by Charles Dickens, first published in 1854. The book surveys English society and satirises the social and economic conditions of the era. Hard Times is unusual in several ways. It is by far the shortest of Dickens' novels, barely a quarter of the length of those written immediately before and after it."

    A short satire. I may look for that before tackling one of his larger works.

  5. #20
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    Hard Times is the only Dickens novel set entirely out of London. For me, that's a negative since "Dickens' London" is probably his greatest character. But I haven't read it, so I can't really comment. JonathanB, LitNet's long-lost Dickens expert, didn't consider it was one of the better novels. I mean, read whatever you like, Ek, but if you're looking for a somewhat shorter Dickens novel, you may want to consider A Tale of Two Cities. It's flawed in some ways, but it's also a great read and a cultural monument (or, if one must, "iconic"). I get the feeling Hard Times is more an effort in raising public awareness about working conditions in England during the Industrial Revolution. So that may limit it in a certain way--I don't know. I don't think it's remembered for much more than that. Anyway, read what you want.

    ADDED: Our current expert on Victorian novels is Kev67. His advice will be better than mine.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 06-05-2019 at 02:36 PM.
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  6. #21
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    So was out to dinner with my son and suggested we go by B&Ns (I miss Borders) and while there picked up "Hard Times" in the B&N publication for $7.95. It was a bit damaged and my son dared me to ask for a discount, which I did, and got 10% off...30 cents after taxes. Worth it? Ehhh. I have to admit to liking the first two paragraphs. I'm gonna blame all of you if I become addicted to Dickens, but I guess there's lots of worse things than that to get hooked on...like Barbara Cartland for one (though if that's your thing that's cool).

  7. #22
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    Please let me know how you like it. It's nice you brought your son to a bookstore (even though B&N is the pits). If you get into Dickens, though, remember you can download his novels for nothing at Project Gutenberg.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  8. #23
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    The answer to the question is Bleak House. It is the one I re-read when I was seriously ill. Esther on her own would be insufferable but there's so much more - Chesney Wold and the rain and the Dedlocks on one hand and Chancery and the fog and Miss Flite et al on the other.

    Little Dorrit would be my second choice.

    Yes, Dickens is grotesque, sentimental and crude but I feel that the books when he isn't (eg Tale of Two Cities) aren't the ones I enjoy.
    Previously JonathanB

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  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Hard Times is the only Dickens novel set entirely out of London. For me, that's a negative since "Dickens' London" is probably his greatest character. But I haven't read it, so I can't really comment. JonathanB, LitNet's long-lost Dickens expert, didn't consider it was one of the better novels. I mean, read whatever you like, Ek, but if you're looking for a somewhat shorter Dickens novel, you may want to consider A Tale of Two Cities. It's flawed in some ways, but it's also a great read and a cultural monument (or, if one must, "iconic"). I get the feeling Hard Times is more an effort in raising public awareness about working conditions in England during the Industrial Revolution. So that may limit it in a certain way--I don't know. I don't think it's remembered for much more than that. Anyway, read what you want.

    ADDED: Our current expert on Victorian novels is Kev67. His advice will be better than mine.
    I am not sure I'd regard myself as an expert on Victorian novels, but everything's relative. It was Great Expectations that got me into reading Victorian novels. I thought Dickens was rather stodgy and turgid at school, but on his 200th anniversary in 2012 I thought I'd give him another chance. I still think it's the best Victorian book I have read. I agree with you about Hard Times. It is quite an interesting book, but not a lot of fun. It is one of the very few industrial novels, but North and South, and Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell are better.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackson Richardson View Post
    The answer to the question is Bleak House. It is the one I re-read when I was seriously ill. Esther on her own would be insufferable but there's so much more - Chesney Wold and the rain and the Dedlocks on one hand and Chancery and the fog and Miss Flite et al on the other.

    Little Dorrit would be my second choice.

    Yes, Dickens is grotesque, sentimental and crude but I feel that the books when he isn't (eg Tale of Two Cities) aren't the ones I enjoy.
    Nice to see you back in these climes, JR. We are all happy, I'm sure, to hear you speaking of your illness in the past tense. Hope you can stay.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I agree with you about Hard Times. It is quite an interesting book, but not a lot of fun. It is one of the very few industrial novels, but North and South, and Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell are better.
    Have you tried Arnold Bennett's "five towns" novels? Virginia Woolf hated them, so I'm sympathetic already. I've never read them, though. Do you know if they're any good?
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Have you tried Arnold Bennett's "five towns" novels? Virginia Woolf hated them, so I'm sympathetic already. I've never read them, though. Do you know if they're any good?
    I've read Old Wives Tales. It was a remarkable book, very naturalistic. It follows two sisters who grow up in a draper's shop and then go their own ways. Personally, I did not enjoy it very much, but worth trying.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  13. #28
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Nice to see you back in these climes, JR. We are all happy, I'm sure, to hear you speaking of your illness in the past tense. Hope you can stay.
    Thank you Pompey. I agree about your comment that because Hard Times is not set at all in London, it is not typical. One of the pleasures for me of reading Dickens and other classic novels is that I know the current London locations and how far they are from each other and how very, very different they are now. But I'm quite happy to read any novels set in St Petersburg or Paris.
    Previously JonathanB

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  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackson Richardson View Post
    Thank you Pompey. I agree about your comment that because Hard Times is not set at all in London, it is not typical. One of the pleasures for me of reading Dickens and other classic novels is that I know the current London locations and how far they are from each other and how very, very different they are now. But I'm quite happy to read any novels set in St Petersburg or Paris.
    I'm sure the city's very different now. I did some research a few years ago about a 17th century merchant trader who lived in Ratcliffe, an area of London that apparently no longer exists. I then believed (and still suspect although I cannot yet prove it) that this man was a direct ancestor. In the course of my investigations I learned that Ratcliffe was once considered The Worst Place in the World or at least the worst place in East London. I also realized that I already knew it--Ratcliffe was the area where the father and daughter were fishing bodies from the Thames at the start of Our Mutual Friend. It was located near the dock land neighborhood of Wapping (where Captain Kidd was exposed to the tides). My brother told me that he had eaten at a nearby restaurant and found the neighborhood rather pricy--although he wasn't quite sure he was in Wapping.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 06-10-2019 at 08:32 PM.
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  15. #30
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Ratcliffe Highway still exists, but the area is very, very different. The pub was probably The Prospect of Whitby. Cher, of Sonny and Cher, had or possibly has a loft conversion nearby, which shows you how it has changed.

    The City proper, which is the UK equivalent of Wall Street occupying the area of the original Roman city, is the home of an extraordinary number of characters in Dickens, (Scrooge, Quilp, Solomon Gills in Dombey, Todgers in Chuzzlewit, Pip, Mrs Clenham, Miss Flite and so on) whereas nowadays only the very well off can afford to live in an area where the property values are so high.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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