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Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist Hardcover – August 29, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (October 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674050037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674050037
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #984,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Becoming Dickens" by Dr. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst a professor at Magdalen College Oxford is a fascinating read. The book focuses on the rise of Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870) whose 200th birthday will occur in 2012. The book is a chronicle of the life of Dickens linked with literary analysis of many of Boz's greatest works. (Boz is the pseudonymn used by Dickens)
Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812 to an impecunious naval pay clerk who spent time in debtor's prison. Young Dickens was a literary lad who dreamed of becoming famous. He wanted to be an actor but instead became a pariliamentary reporter as well as a newspaper journalist. Dickens began to write short stories. His sketches of London life were published in "Sketches by Boz" His first novel "Pickwick Papers" was published in twenty monthly parts in 1836-37 becoming wildly popular with all classes of society. The picaresque comic novel follows the adventures of Mr. Pickwick and his servant Sam Weller. Dickens went on to produce "Oliver Twist" the first novel he wrote which uses Charles Dickens on the title page rather than that of Boz." Dickens was the author of several three decker Victorian novels which are still widely read today: "Barnaby Rudge"; "Dombey and Sons"' "Martin Chuzzlewit"; "The Old Curiosity Shop"; "Little Dorrit"; "David Copperfield"; "Hard Times"; Nicholas Nickleby"; "Our Mutual Friend" "Bleak House" "A Tale of Two Cities"; "Great Expectations" and his final unfinished novel "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." ( I did not list the avove books in the order Dickens wrote them). Dickens also wrote many short stories and articles on a wide range of social issues.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Of all the Dickens biographies I've read recently, this is my favorite. That judgment comes with a caveat, however. This is not a biography for someone looking for a book about Dickens' entire life. Mr. Douglas-Fairhurst is focused almost entirely on that period during the 1830's when Dickens was evolving from an adolescent with a number of career paths open to a young man who became one of the "literary lions" of England.

There have been a number of decent biographies of Dickens published recently but they tend to fall into two categories: the big, bloated book that attempts to cover his entire lifetime and books that focus on a special topic, often of no use but to scholars. Though this book would technically fall into the second camp, it nicely straddles the line between the scholarly and the book for the general reader. In particular, it is extremely well-written, making it easy to follow his argument even with only a general knowledge of Dickens life and work.

And his argument, which is generally lost in a full biography of Dickens covering his lengthy career as a successful writer, is twofold. First, that it was by no means clear that Dickens would become successful author. Early in his working life he tried a number of occupations and could have easily spent his life as something else--a lawyer, a straight journalist, or an actor, among the most prominent. It was quite awhile before Dickens settled down and considered himself a writer primarily.

Second, which is less purposeful, perhaps, but very obvious and extremely well done, is the attention Mr. Douglas-Fairhurst draws to the connection between Dickens' early life and the themes he comes back to again and again throughout his life in his work.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Contents 5 Stars, Kindle 1 Star
The book is excellent and a must-read for anyone interested in Dickens or early-mid 19th century England. A fascinating and daring search through the books and the times to enable more analysis of Dickens the young man.

The Kindle version is quite simply a disgrace. Here is a book, scholarly in the research and writing, with a full index etc, but without the drawings (referred to in the text as figures) frequently relied on in the text as evidence for arguments made by the author. These drawings were not simply decorative. Even if they were, they should still be there, and with hyperlinks to them.

There are 28 of these drawings, all relied on by the author. It is extraordinary to have the text culled of essential information by Kindle without any warning that if you buy the Kindle version it will be incomplete, you will not be getting the whole book. You can see for yourselves the inconsequential difference in price between the paper and Kindle versions.

Contents 5 Stars, Kindle 1 Star
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