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Dickens's Christmas ghost story and moral fable reinvented Christmas and has never gotten old.


A Christmas carol

Published in 1843, Approx. 32,000 words. Available for free at Project Gutenberg.




A Christmas Carol has constantly been in print since its original publication in 1849, and has been adapted for stage, television, film, and opera. It has often been credited with returning the jovial and festive atmosphere to the holiday season in Britain and North America, following the somber period that emerged during the Industrial Revolution.

The story opens on a bleak and cold Christmas Eve as Ebenezer Scrooge is closing up his office for the day. As the story progresses and Christmas morning approaches, Scrooge encounters the unforgettable characters that make this story a classic: Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and, of course, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.


Everyone should love this story, even if your heart is two sizes too small. )

Verdict: Don't let Dickens daunt you. Being less than a hundred pages, A Christmas Carol is a quick read, and it really is one of those little gems that everyone is familiar with but not enough people have actually read. You know the story, but if you haven't read Dickens's complete novella, you are missing out. It's got all the heart and sentimentality for which it's famous, but it's a powerful little story even for secular Scrooges like me.

Also by Charles Dickens: My reviews of A Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Default)
Dickens's Christmas ghost story and moral fable reinvented Christmas and has never gotten old.


A Christmas carol

Published in 1843, Approx. 32,000 words. Available for free at Project Gutenberg.




A Christmas Carol has constantly been in print since its original publication in 1849, and has been adapted for stage, television, film, and opera. It has often been credited with returning the jovial and festive atmosphere to the holiday season in Britain and North America, following the somber period that emerged during the Industrial Revolution.

The story opens on a bleak and cold Christmas Eve as Ebenezer Scrooge is closing up his office for the day. As the story progresses and Christmas morning approaches, Scrooge encounters the unforgettable characters that make this story a classic: Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and, of course, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.


Everyone should love this story, even if your heart is two sizes too small. )

Verdict: Don't let Dickens daunt you. Being less than a hundred pages, A Christmas Carol is a quick read, and it really is one of those little gems that everyone is familiar with but not enough people have actually read. You know the story, but if you haven't read Dickens's complete novella, you are missing out. It's got all the heart and sentimentality for which it's famous, but it's a powerful little story even for secular Scrooges like me.

Also by Charles Dickens: My reviews of A Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Default)
Tom-all-alone, the Court of Chancery, spontaneous human combustion, an illegitimate birth, and a murder mystery in Dickens's big bleak honkin' epic.


Bleak House

Published in 1852, approx. 356,000 words, Available for free at Project Gutenberg.




First published in monthly parts from March 1852 to September 1853, this novel follows the fortunes of three pedestrian characters; Esther Summerson, Ada Clare, and Richard Carstone. The story they tell embodies Dickens' merciless indictment of the Court of Chancery and its bungling, morally corrupt handling of the endless case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, giving the novel its scope and meaning.

Starting with Esther's account of her lonely, unhappy childhood, her role as protégée of the worthy John Jarndyce, Richard and Ada's guardian, the tale develops the relations between the three young people in the Jarndyce household. Numerous other characters contribute to the complex portrait of society which emerges from the novel. They include the romantic, effusive, and unworldly Harold Skimpole (based on Leigh Hunt, poet, journalist, and critic, who published The Examiner in which he introduced the public to Keats and Shelley); the boisterous, short-tempered Boythorn (based on Walter Savage Landor, poet and essayist, mentor to Robert Browning); Krook, the rag-and-bottle shopkeeper who dies a hideous death by 'spontaneous combustion'; Gridley and the crazed Miss Flite, both ruined by Chancery; Mrs. Jellyby, neglectful of domestic responsibilities in favor of 'telescope philanthropy'; the greasy Mr. Chadband, a parson 'of no particular denomination'; and Conversation Kenge and Mr. Vholes, lawyers both.

Of particular importance to the moral design of the novel is Jo, the crossing-sweeper whose brutish life and death are the instruments for one of Dickens' most savage judgments on an indifferent society.


Dickens wants to kill all the lawyers. )

Verdict: An indictment of the Victorian legal system and society's discarding of all the poor, impoverished Tom-all-alones, Bleak House is one of Dickens's longer novels and requires some stamina to get through. I would not recommend it as a "starter" Dickens, but it's a complicated epic that's got everything that makes a Dickens novel great: humor, pathos, satire, and romance. (The romance, Dickens was usually better leaving alone.) There just may be a bit too much of it. I view Charles Dickens much like Stephen King (and I consider that in no way disparaging to either author): great tale-tellers who sometimes write much more than they need to to tell the tale, and yet you can't actually point to any parts that aren't entertaining.

Also by Charles Dickens: My reviews of A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations.

Bleak House is on the list of 1001 novels you must read before you die, but I did not read it as part of the [livejournal.com profile] books1001 challenge.
inverarity: (Default)
Tom-all-alone, the Court of Chancery, spontaneous human combustion, an illegitimate birth, and a murder mystery in Dickens's big bleak honkin' epic.


Bleak House

Published in 1852, approx. 356,000 words, Available for free at Project Gutenberg.




First published in monthly parts from March 1852 to September 1853, this novel follows the fortunes of three pedestrian characters; Esther Summerson, Ada Clare, and Richard Carstone. The story they tell embodies Dickens' merciless indictment of the Court of Chancery and its bungling, morally corrupt handling of the endless case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, giving the novel its scope and meaning.

Starting with Esther's account of her lonely, unhappy childhood, her role as protégée of the worthy John Jarndyce, Richard and Ada's guardian, the tale develops the relations between the three young people in the Jarndyce household. Numerous other characters contribute to the complex portrait of society which emerges from the novel. They include the romantic, effusive, and unworldly Harold Skimpole (based on Leigh Hunt, poet, journalist, and critic, who published The Examiner in which he introduced the public to Keats and Shelley); the boisterous, short-tempered Boythorn (based on Walter Savage Landor, poet and essayist, mentor to Robert Browning); Krook, the rag-and-bottle shopkeeper who dies a hideous death by 'spontaneous combustion'; Gridley and the crazed Miss Flite, both ruined by Chancery; Mrs. Jellyby, neglectful of domestic responsibilities in favor of 'telescope philanthropy'; the greasy Mr. Chadband, a parson 'of no particular denomination'; and Conversation Kenge and Mr. Vholes, lawyers both.

Of particular importance to the moral design of the novel is Jo, the crossing-sweeper whose brutish life and death are the instruments for one of Dickens' most savage judgments on an indifferent society.


Dickens wants to kill all the lawyers. )

Verdict: An indictment of the Victorian legal system and society's discarding of all the poor, impoverished Tom-all-alones, Bleak House is one of Dickens's longer novels and requires some stamina to get through. I would not recommend it as a "starter" Dickens, but it's a complicated epic that's got everything that makes a Dickens novel great: humor, pathos, satire, and romance. (The romance, Dickens was usually better leaving alone.) There just may be a bit too much of it. I view Charles Dickens much like Stephen King (and I consider that in no way disparaging to either author): great tale-tellers who sometimes write much more than they need to to tell the tale, and yet you can't actually point to any parts that aren't entertaining.

Also by Charles Dickens: My reviews of A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations.

Bleak House is on the list of 1001 novels you must read before you die, but I did not read it as part of the [livejournal.com profile] books1001 challenge.
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A poor little orphan comes into money, grows to become a gentleman, and never gets over his first kiss.

Great Expectations

Published 1860, Approximately 186,000 words. Available for free at Project Gutenberg.


Considered by many to be Charles Dickens's finest novel, Great Expectations traces the growth of the book's narrator, the orphan Philip Pirrip (Pip), from a boy of shallow dreams to a man with depth of character.

From its famous dramatic opening on the bleak Kentish marshes, the story abounds with some of Dickens's most memorable characters. Among them are the kindly blacksmith Joe Gargery, the mysterious convict Abel Magwitch, the eccentric Miss Havisham and her beautiful ward Estella, Pip's good-hearted roommate Herbert Pocket, and the pompous Pumblechook.

As Pip unravels the truth behind his own "great expectations" in his quest to become a gentleman, the mysteries of the past and the convolutions of fate through a series of thrilling adventures serve to steer him toward maturity and his most important discovery of all - the truth about himself.


My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. )

Verdict: This isn't my favorite Dickens novel, but I haven't read one yet that I didn't like. Great Expectations is creepy in places, which is probably why so many people like it, and the bittersweet ending (Dickens actually wrote two endings) is perfectly consistent with the story. This book is a good "starter" Dickens, and also perfectly satisfying for Dickens fans.

Also by Charles Dickens: My reviews of David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities.

Great Expectations is one of the 1001 books you must read before you die, but I did not read it for the [livejournal.com profile] books1001 challenge; it has already been assigned to someone else. (Waves at [livejournal.com profile] books_n_cats. ;))
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A poor little orphan comes into money, grows to become a gentleman, and never gets over his first kiss.

Great Expectations

Published 1860, Approximately 186,000 words. Available for free at Project Gutenberg.


Considered by many to be Charles Dickens's finest novel, Great Expectations traces the growth of the book's narrator, the orphan Philip Pirrip (Pip), from a boy of shallow dreams to a man with depth of character.

From its famous dramatic opening on the bleak Kentish marshes, the story abounds with some of Dickens's most memorable characters. Among them are the kindly blacksmith Joe Gargery, the mysterious convict Abel Magwitch, the eccentric Miss Havisham and her beautiful ward Estella, Pip's good-hearted roommate Herbert Pocket, and the pompous Pumblechook.

As Pip unravels the truth behind his own "great expectations" in his quest to become a gentleman, the mysteries of the past and the convolutions of fate through a series of thrilling adventures serve to steer him toward maturity and his most important discovery of all - the truth about himself.


My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. )

Verdict: This isn't my favorite Dickens novel, but I haven't read one yet that I didn't like. Great Expectations is creepy in places, which is probably why so many people like it, and the bittersweet ending (Dickens actually wrote two endings) is perfectly consistent with the story. This book is a good "starter" Dickens, and also perfectly satisfying for Dickens fans.

Also by Charles Dickens: My reviews of David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities.

Great Expectations is one of the 1001 books you must read before you die, but I did not read it for the [livejournal.com profile] books1001 challenge; it has already been assigned to someone else. (Waves at [livejournal.com profile] books_n_cats. ;))
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A story of the French Revolution.



Published 1859, Approximately 136,000 words., Available for free at Project Gutenberg.


A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is one of the most popular books of all time, with over 200 million copies sold to date. The novel is set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution and depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same period. The main characters are Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat who falls victim to the indiscriminate wrath of the revolution despite his virtuous nature, and Sydney Carton, a British barrister who endeavors to redeem his ill-spent life out of his unrequited love for Darnay's wife, Lucie Manette.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair... )

Verdict: Dickens is always worth reading, and all his prose skills are on display here, with a sprinkling of his usual memorable characters. A Tale of Two Cities is also a good "starter Dickens" since it's shorter than most of his other novels, and has more action and suspense. It's not exactly an authoritative historical account of the French Revolution, but probably nobody has captured the emotions and drama of that period better.

I did not read this for the [livejournal.com profile] books1001 challenge, but it is on the 1001 books list.
inverarity: (Default)
A story of the French Revolution.



Published 1859, Approximately 136,000 words., Available for free at Project Gutenberg.


A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is one of the most popular books of all time, with over 200 million copies sold to date. The novel is set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution and depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same period. The main characters are Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat who falls victim to the indiscriminate wrath of the revolution despite his virtuous nature, and Sydney Carton, a British barrister who endeavors to redeem his ill-spent life out of his unrequited love for Darnay's wife, Lucie Manette.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair... )

Verdict: Dickens is always worth reading, and all his prose skills are on display here, with a sprinkling of his usual memorable characters. A Tale of Two Cities is also a good "starter Dickens" since it's shorter than most of his other novels, and has more action and suspense. It's not exactly an authoritative historical account of the French Revolution, but probably nobody has captured the emotions and drama of that period better.

I did not read this for the [livejournal.com profile] books1001 challenge, but it is on the 1001 books list.
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One-line summary: Charles Dickens's semi-autobiographical Bildungsroman about the eponymous orphan and his rise from a hard-knocks childhood to life as a novelist.



Published as a novel in 1850; published serially a year earlier. ~357,000 words. Available for free at Project Gutenberg.


I really think I have done it ingeniously and with a very complicated interweaving of truth and fiction. So wrote Dickens of David Copperfield (1850), the novel he called his 'favourite child'. Through his hero Dickens draws openly on his own life, as David Copperfield recalls his experiences from childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Rosa Dartle, Dora, Steerforth and Uriah Heep are among the characters who focus the hero's sexual and emotional drives, and Mr Micawber, a portrait of Dickens's own father, evokes the mixture of love, nostalgia and guilt that, put together, make this Dickens's most quoted and best-loved novel.


Long and sentimental, David Copperfield is Dickens's self-insert Gary Stu. Mild spoilers, but if you read a Dickens novel for the surprise plot twists, you're reading the wrong author. )

Verdict: I don't think Dickens wrote any bad books. This one isn't my favorite, but it's still epic and memorable with too many characters to fit into any film adaptation. A good book if you want a nice long read with one of Dickens's less grim works.

I did not read David Copperfield for the [livejournal.com profile] books1001 challenge, but it is one of the books on the list. Want to take a shot at a major literary work you may not have ever read, and read reviews of other books on the "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" list? Come join us!

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