Book Review: Charles Dickens

Title: Charles Dickens

Author: Jane Smiley

Copyright: 2002

BR 14255 2 Volumes

Maybe your bedtime dreams aren’t yet fixed on sugarplums, but with Christmas Eve only a week away, some reference to “A Christmas Carol” or Scrooge or the hauntings of Christmas past has no doubt graced your mental stage. Charles Dickens was not simply a master storyteller. His writing reaches into the minds and hearts of every age. He knew what readers liked, and he gave it to them.

The stories Dickens penned arise from his own 19th century life–the smokey London streets he covered on daily five to six mile walks, and the raggedand well-to-do people he encountered. Books like “Bleak House: and “Oliver Twist” reflect the miserable social conditions he worked tirelessly to alleviate when he wasn’t writing. And in “Hard Times”, Dickens champions rights and protections for workers such as miners. Even governmental neglect does not escape his sharp criticism, whether it underpins one of his novels or is prominently discussed in an essay for his weekly periodical. As for his characters, Dickens uses them to express every emotion known to humankind. They act out of cruelty, greed and compassion. They long for love and tolerance. They laugh and cry and strive to overcome the hardships dealt to them.

Jane Smiley’s brief account of Dickens provides a fascinating glimpse into the writer’s life and work, his friendships, passions and shortcomings. A man of remarkable energy and insight, Charles Dickens portrayed the world as it existed in his time, and well understood the place of individuals in improving it for everyone.

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