The Dickens Dictionary : An A-Z of England's Greatest Novelist, Hardback

The Dickens Dictionary : An A-Z of England's Greatest Novelist Hardback

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


For fans new and old, an enjoyable tour through the world of Dickens in the hands of a master critic.

Charles Dickens, the 'Great Inimitable', created a riotous fictional world that still lives and breathes for thousands of readers today.

But how much do we really know about the dazzling imagination that brought all this into being?

For the bicentenary of Dickens' birth, Victorian literature expert John Sutherland has created a gloriously wide-ranging alphabetical companion to Dickens' work, excavating the hidden links between his characters, themes, and preoccupations, and the minutiae of his endlessly inventive wordplay.

Covering America, Bastards, Childhood, Christmas, Empire, Fog, Larks, London, Madness, Murder, Orphans, Pubs, Punishment, Smells, Spontaneous Combustion and Zoo to name but a few - John Sutherland gives us a uniquely personal guide to the great man's work.

Excerpt: HANDS; Every Dickens novel has a master image.

In Our Mutual Friend it is the river. In Bleak House it is the fog. In Little Dorrit, it is the prison. In Great Expectations it is the hand. We often know much more about the principals' hands in that novel than their faces. Who, when the name Magwitch is mentioned, does not think of those murderous 'large brown veinous hands'?

Jaggers? One's nose twitches---scented soap (the lawyer, like Pontius Pilate, is forever washing his hands).

Miss Havisham? Withered claws. So it goes on...




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As a middle-aged American (or should I say Merrikin) who hasn't actually read any Dickens since, perhaps, high school, I found this book hard going at times. The writing style is very British, and Sutherland seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with the characters and plot lines of Dickens' works. That said, the author has gathered together many choice tidbits about Dickens, his cohorts, and the time and place they lived in--and he writes about them with a sense of humor. If and when I eventually get around to reading more of the classics, I'm sure Dickens' works will make a lot more sense to me than they would have before I read this book.I was hoping it might be a helpful resource to have in the library where I work, to help students working on term papers. However, it isn't arranged or written in a style that would make it easy to use as a reference book. Who would think to look under Onions for a description of how Dickens purportedly burned most of his personal papers, so they couldn't be used against him? In addition, there are some quite racy parts that might not be suitable for younger readers. For the true Dickens fan, however, I can see that this would be a fun book to keep on hand, for leafing through in spare moments.I received a free electronic advanced reading copy of this book from Netgalley, but received no other compensation.