Customer Review

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Voyeuristic rather than analytic, December 26, 2012
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This review is from: Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens (Hardcover)
I wish I could see some other reason for this book than a "great expectation" by the author and publisher that continuing interest in Charles Dickens would provide a ready market for a book with his name in the title. Admitedly, Dickens' family life is in many ways a tawdry story -- most notably his banishment of his wife of twenty-two years and the mother of his ten children after meeting a woman, the age of his youngest daughter, who became his mistress. After discarding his wife like a well worn carpet, the strangest part was the fact that her younger sister, who had lived with them and helped care for their children since the birth of their first, continued to make a home for him and the younger children who he insisted live with him rather than their mother.

One son became a successful lawyer and one daughter a recognized artist but none became a disgrace. Others, striving for modest success, were a disappointment to the famous father who adored his children and was adored by them when they were very young. He was quite vocal about what he saw as their lack of drive as adults.

If Gottlieb had focused intently on comparing Dickens' family of real children to the detailed characteristics he created for his fictional children, or if he had analyzed Dickens' apparent lack of awareness of the great differences between being the children of a famous father and his own experience as the son of a man in debtor's prison he might have made a real contribution to our understanding. Unfortunately this book seems voyeuristic for those anxious to read about the failings of a famous author.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 15, 2015 5:51:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 15, 2015 5:57:47 PM PDT
TREVENSKA says:
Yes, I agree with you about the 'expectation' of the author of this book who, as an ex-editor of The New York Times would have had little difficulty getting published. It's important to remember too that Dickens left his wife with enough money and a hansom cab to enjoy her independence for the rest of her much longer life. No one even seems to consider that Ellen Ternan may not have 'fancied' Dickens in this way. There is evidence to suggest she was too much of a romantic waiting for the likes of a her young clergyman while, at the same time, being protected by a man with whom she shared a love of literature, poetry and the theatre in a spirit of true equality. Dickens vehemently denied the sexual innuendo. Claire Tomalin, who wrote the voyeuristic sexual fantasy known as '`The Invisible Woman' quoted some false words supposedly uttered by Dostoevsky about Dickens in her biography of Dickens. The quote has since been proved a hoax and not only shows how ignorant Claire Tomalin is about Dostoevsky's admiration for Dickens but also shows how willing she is to quote fiction as fact. Separate bedrooms are not unusual when marriages begin to crumble these days and bitterness and a degree of poverty for all can follow the final break-up. At least Dickens didn't leave everyone in the lurch - including his children who went on to depend on his earnings for life. Imagine if our own lives and spontaneous utterances and e-mails were 'cherry-picked' and dissected in this way!
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