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Claire

Who loves Dickens?

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What's everyone's favourite Dickens novel, overall?

That's a big question which assumes a comprehensive knowledge, which I certainly don't have. I'm planning to read David Copperfield next, then Bleak House at some point. I have really enjoyed the two Dickens novels that I have read so far (Grt Exp and Our Mutual Friend) but they both had their challenging times and I had to intersperse easier reads. I have the abridged Ackroyd biog which I'm looking forward to slotting in.

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I haven't read enough of them to be qualified to answer (in spite of having owned a complete collection for 30+ years :o )

 

In fact, I can't remember which I've read, which I've seen adapted for TV or film, and which i've read as a 'children's version'.

 

I can only be 100% sure that I have read 'The Chimes', as that was in recent memory. :rolleyes:

 

ETA: I am 100% sure that I've read some of the others, just not sure which ones :P

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I would probably say Great Expectations is my absolute favourite, but it's a very difficult question. Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend are well up there too.

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Personally, I love Dickens.

 

I hope people don't mind me using this thread to ask a question: what do you think of the Orion Compact Editions? It's where around 40% of classic novels have been cut out, so they can be read "in half the time". And yes, David Copperfield is one of the books chosen. (Others are Anna Karenina, or The Mill on the Floss... the big weighty Victorian ones. Bleak House follows in September.)

 

I'm a student at City University, London, writing a project about how we can make the classics more accessible to people. As I say, I hope people don't mind me asking: but does anyone have any opinion on this kind of cut-down version? Good idea, or total travesty? Does anyone read the whole versions any more?

 

Best wishes to all,

 

Louis

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Hi Louis*3, we had a thread on what must be the books you're referring to here . If that doesn't answer your question, feel free to revive the thread.

 

BTW, I bought Bleak House today - unedited. :)

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Yes! Charles Dickens is one of the greatest novelist. Have someone read his novel "David Cofferfield"?

 

Carter

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I can't bring myself to report this as spam but "David, cop a feel" would have been a much better misspelling.

 

1/10. Fail. But you do get an extra point for bringing to mind the great Ted Lewis and the best (and only) Doncaster based crime novel.

 

"You're a big fella, but you're outta shape..."

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From Dickensworld.com -

 

Dickens World will truly offer visitors the ‘day out of a lifetime’.

Dickens World is based on a credible and factual account of Charles Dickens works and the world in which he lived. Working with The Dickens Fellowship great attention has been paid to the authenticity of the time, characters and story lines.

 

Doesn't this sound promising at least?

And there was the problem, Hazel - it sounded oh so promising!

 

I went to see DickensWorld today. My mother is a big Dickens fan too and we'd said we'd go once the holiday crowds had dispersed and since the weather looked reasonable today off we went.

 

Oh dear.

 

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

 

It was deeply disappointing and in my opinion an outrage at £12 a throw.

 

It didn't start promisingly since it's set in huge building works at Chatham docks and is effectively part of a retail park. Underneath the long artwork of Victorian London that stretches across the top of the warehouse building is a Pizza Hut. Not overly olde worlde.

 

Inside the mock-up of Dickensian London is weak. It's very obviously fibreglass and is oddly lit. Mum found it too dark and one of the workers there said it used to be even darker until complaints. Clearly this was to mask the poor quality of the mock-up. I'd hoped for plenty of things you could 'experience' - an old curiosity shop, a workhouse etc., but it was nearly all facades.

 

There was a 'boat' ride which wasn't overly inspiring, including a backwards descent down a ramp for a log-flume-type splashdown which seemed out of keeping with what it was supposed to be doing and just a desperate attempt to keep the kids on board, so to speak. You passed a stuffed cat and rat, some gravestones of Dickens' characters and some models of others that might as well have been dead (don't know where all this state-of-the-art animatronics was - a crow turned its head: that was about it).

 

There was a '4D' cinematic presentation (I think '4' D because the seats jiggled twice and there was a swish of moving air at the start of a trans-Atlantic voyage). It was computer generated 'cartoon' material based on Dickens' travels in America and Europe. Was this just to interest foreign tourists? I can see little other point because we really learned very little about Dickens' life and work: nothing was grounded or contextualised. If I were a kid I don't think I would have learned much at all. Equally, I would have been left fairly unilluminated by the Victorian schoolroom, in which you sat behind a desk with a touchscreen quiz that wouldn't have engaged children very much.

 

During this experience, we were 'entertained' by the stentorian Victorian schoolmaster who went round the room being generally annoying. Mum hates this sort of roleplay and would happily have clouted him round the head with a hefty tome, but fortunately the idiocy of it all had us in stitches.

 

There were a few of these character actors scattered about, but they didn't make a great impact, apart from Mr Brownlow, who descended on Mum the moment I left her to do the boat ride and proceeded to chat her up.

 

There was also a haunted house in which you walked around viewing scenes with gauze and mirror effects making it look like transparent actors were in the rooms playing out Dickensian roles. But this was strangely flat and the reduction of the whole of A Christmas Carol to about three minutes was execrable. On top of that, we had to wait some 20 minutes to get in there even though the place was half-empty: the attraction was managed very poorly indeed, I thought, and goodness knows what they do in the summer (Mr Brownlow told Mum queues for the boat rides had been two hours).

 

The place is much smaller than you'd imagine and on the whole was badly conceived and executed. It taught you little about Dickens or Victorian life and was an exercise in cosmetics rather than anything worthwhile. I felt very cheated.

 

If you live far from it don't make the effort to go and if you're close I think your money would be better spent elsewhere.

 

What a sadly missed opportunity to do something wonderful.

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A rave review David, methinks I might give it a miss :rolleyes:

Living not that far from there I have often thought about visiting it - will stop that thought right now!

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Did the water ride feature authentic Victorian sewage?

Not a nasty niff at all! And it was too dark to establish whether the water was brown as promised.

 

At the end the be-costumed assistant asked if we'd seen Magwitch (his female counterpart at the start had warned us to look out for him). The woman behind in the boat had actually missed him completely - I suspect because she was contemplating the 20-foot descent we'd seen just before a very static convict was dimly illuminated behind a window telling us to get him some wittles. Anyway, she said no, which threw him a bit, then the information was supplied that perhaps we had, to which he then replied that he's loose somewhere and they were looking for him, at which we said oh, all right then, after which we all died a little.

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It all sounds rather cheesy. Time surely would be better spent, at least by adults or for educational purposes, at places like The Dickens Museum. As for kids, they're too sophisticated these days for this kind of thing these days, aren't they?

 

It doesn't sound like it would inspire anyone to explore Dickens further, and surely that's the point. Apart from making money, obviously. I imagine the place had a gift shop nearly the size of the rest of the place put together to satisfy all your Dickens tea cosy needs.

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Time surely would be better spent, at least by adults or for educational purposes, at places like The Dickens Museum.

Yes, I must go there, actually - I'm sure I'd love it.

As for kids, they're too sophisticated these days for this kind of thing these days, aren't they?

I would have said so. The interactive schoolroom quiz was a bizarre mixture of snakes and ladders with questions about Dickens' life and work that kids who like snakes and ladders wouldn't have a clue about. Most peculiar.

 

It doesn't sound like it would inspire anyone to explore Dickens further, and surely that's the point. Apart from making money, obviously.

Exactly. It was like stuffing a few aimless facts into a shotgun and blasting it into the air. It's notable that their website doesn't feature lots of interior shots, otherwise the game would be up. I'll grant you there's quite a good 'money shot' view when you first go in, but that's it.

I imagine the place had a gift shop nearly the size of the rest of the place put together to satisfy all your Dickens tea cosy needs.

I'd have expected that too. In fact it was medium-sized but desperately over-priced and full of the tackiness that you predict, Gram.

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I see there are quite a few threads on Dicken's further down the page, so apologies if this question has been asked before.

 

I read 'David Copperfield' two years ago, and thought it was incredible. I thought it was about time I read another Dicken's novel, so was just interested to know which one's other forum members would recommend? Undertaking a Dicken's book is quite a commitment (I think David Copperfield took me 7 weeks), so if I'm going to commit to another 'epic' novel, I'd like to go for one of his best.

 

Any suggestions? Thanks.

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Page Turner, I've merged your thread with this one since it contains posts on many people's favourite Dickens novels and recommendations about which ones to try.

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'Our Mutual Friend' is probably my favourite Dickens novel. On the other hand, 'A Tale of Two Cities' is more straightforward, without all the complex threads to unravel. If you want to try a short one, what about 'Hard Times'? Don't worry, you can't go wrong - they're all good.

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On Saturday afternoon, I went to check out the Dickens Museum myself. It's not easy to track down, being on Doughty Street, a quiet side road in Bloomsbury.

 

It's the house Dickens bought with the money that came in from the early success of "The Pickwick Papers". He lived there with his wife Catherine from 1837 to 1839, completing Mr. Pickwick's adventures, as well as writing all of "Oliver Twist" and "Nicholas Nickleby". His first two children were born there, and his wife's sister also lived with them. She sadly died there at the age of just 17, and the commentary asserts she was the model for Little Nell and other similarly tragic young women in his fiction. Her room has been preserved, and contains a display on all the women in his life including his affair with Ellen Ternan too.

 

It's spread over three floors, so not great for those who don't find stairs easy. The stairs are peppered with framed originals of the illustrations from his books by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne) and others, along with items from a special exhibition explaining a typical Victorian Christmas, to which one of the rooms had been given over too.

 

A 20-minute film is on continuous loop in a room in the basement, giving basic biographical details of Dickens' life. The room also contains a vast array of editions of Dickens' novels through the ages and from various parts of the world.

 

Some rooms are furnished, others are used for displays on various topics, such as Dickens as social campaigner. The displays are quite wordy, and I imagine younger kids would find it pretty dull. It's the stuff of school outings. The furnishings aren't original, and rather confusingly include items from other houses he lived in, such as a sideboard from Gad's Hill Place, the house he owned in Kent in the last years of his life, and which looks oversized in its current surroundings.

 

Although he lived there quite early in his career, the exhibits try to cover the whole of his life, such as an item on the readings he started giving from the mid-1850s that really sealed his fame, although the punishing schedule he followed may have contributed to his relatively early death. There's also a family tree displayed in one of the rooms, along with pictures of his children and brief biographies of them.

 

The gift shop is modest, and thankfully not focussed on cr4p, with as much space given to books and DVDs of screen adaptations as tea towels and mugs.

 

All in all, the Dickens obsessive who wanted to know about his life would find much of interest, but they won't learn so much about his books and the inspiration behind them.

 

Star spot: David Suchet was also visiting on Saturday afternoon.

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All in all, the Dickens obsessive who wanted to know about his life would find much of interest, but they won't learn so much about his books and the inspiration behind them.

I keep meaning to make the effort to go there, Gram - I'm the type (obsessive?! :D ) who would love it simply for the ambience: being in his house; seeing his things and so on. I love places like that for another level of connection that they provide. Thanks for the detailed description!

 

Certainly sounds more worthwhile than Dickens World! :rolleyes:

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A nice little museum, David, a treat for the Dickens lover. I would also recommend a visit to Bleak House in Broadstairs, Kent - not that he wrote the novel of the same name there, but it was one of Dickens's escape routes, a place to write and escape from family and matrimonial conflict.

 

Kate Dickens, his daughter, said after his death that he was a bad father. I would suggest he was not a bad father, but simply an inadequate husband. That role will always test the man of many facets!

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Thanks for the tour in words Grammath. Paints a very graphic picture. It reminds me of the way the James Joyce Museum is laid out in Dublin. I am going to put the Dickens Museum at the top of my 'must see' list for my next trip to London.

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I've just finished reading 'Oliver Twist', admittedly spurred on to read it because of the recent TV series. It really is a good read and i would recommend it.However there is always a nagging concern with a lot of Dicken's 'heroes', like Oliver, that they are a bit weedy. Oliver spends quite a lot of time crying/weeping either with sadness or sorrow. occassionally,it irritates. anyone else feel the same?

having said that though, the characters of Fagin and mr and mrs Bumble are supreme, and the bit where nancy is killed is so well written perhaps i can forgive Dickens for a namby pamby 'hero'. am i being harsh?

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However there is always a nagging concern with a lot of Dicken's 'heroes', like Oliver, that they are a bit weedy.

 

The protagonists do tend to be flawed 'heroes', with weaker personality traits, but they do reign supreme at the end. I think you often have to look to suppporting characters to find true 'heroes' - for me that is Nancy in Oliver Twist, Joe in Great Expectations...

 

Welcome to BGO Sharon, why don't you pop over to Please Introduce Yourself in the Central Library and tell us a little about yourself. You will almost certainly receive a warm welcome!

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