Monday, February 20, 2012

Learning Even More about Dickens - Review of "Becoming Dickens" by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

I have long been deeply interested in Dickens - the author and the man. I believe I have read all that he wrote for public consumption. I had done a number of London Walks that have Dickens as their themes. I saw Emlyn Williamson several occasions as he did his acclaimed readings reprising Dickens' tours of the U.S. I have read many of the classical Dickens biographies. In other words, I felt as if I already knew Dickens pretty well, so I was wondering what Robert Douglas-Fairhurst could add to my store of knowledge and understanding. He brought a great deal.

By focusing on Dickens' formative years - as a man and as an writer, the writer of this biography helped me to envision the progressive formation of Dickens' ideas, themes, fears, prejudices and obsessions. I see this new works as an excellent supplement to prior biographies. The author gives us a sense of how Dickens the man was impacted by the Victorian London in which he came to manhood, and how Dickens the author influenced the late stages of Queen Victoria's reign. The book does a particularly good job of taking watershed moments in Dickens' life - his time int he blacking factory - and demonstrating how that indelible experience informed many of his plot lines and fictional characters.

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