Written with wit, verve and compassion, this is another brilliant biography from one of the great exponents of this form.
As with her biography of Sam Pepys, we are swept right into the Regency world of young Charles' birth in the home of an improvident and debt-ridden father
Dickens is shown in the round: as hugely complex man, full of foibles, possessed of almost superhuman levels of energy and self-belief. A man who could be a champion of the down-trodden and oppressed, a steadfast friend-in-need and also incredibly self-centered. A man with a genius for writing and melodrama but who also could record the scenes of life around him and give dignity to those contemporary society considered had none. Acreator of villains and heros. One of my favourite authors.
When writing the biography of this massively complex life, the author must choose: breadth or depth? For breadth, this well-researched, sensible-shoes book is a good start. All events are touched on, and Ms. Tomalin has a brisk frankness that eludes most of her rivals. (Yes, OF COURSE Dickens had a physical affair with Ellen Ternan and visited prostitutes. And not just to rescue them.) Her assessments of Dickens`s writings are conventional and easily skipped. For depth, try Michael Slater`s Dickens and Women (the first bio that gave the unfortunate Mrs. Dickens a fair shake), or even Peter Ackroyd`s biography. It`s annoyingly fanciful, but has Dickens`s sense of drama.
This biography of Dickens is almost as exciting and touching as reading a Dickens novel. Beautifully written, meticulously researched (with speculation here and there as well). Humane and engaging.
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