Once upon a time…
…back in the mid 80’s when I was slightly more interested in boys and ra-ra skirts that great literature, I was made to read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for English lessons. I hated it! I came to dreaad those lessons where we would be expected to disect this book to within an inch of its life and gained no enjoyment from it whatsoever – in fact the only thing I did gain was an aversion to anything Dickens-related for the next twenty years!
About four years ago, I was browsing in Borders (ahhhh, remember those days?) when I came across a copy of Great Expectations: it was staring at me from the shelf. I half-smiled as I picked it up for old times sake and flipped to the front page. Within 5 minutes I found myself sunk into one of the comfy chairs and completely and utterly engrossed in this wonderful (and so FUNNY!) tale. How did I miss the fact that Dickens was a comedy genius? Perhaps it was because we (the class) were trying to work out if the colour of Pip’s underware was a reflection on Dickens’ mood (or some such nonsense). Seriously, who’da thunk? That copy of Great Expectations found its way home with me that day and in the days ahead it had me howling with laughter at all the stuff I had missed all those years before.
That year I went on to read A Christmas Carol (while snuggled up on the sofa on Christmas Eve) which rapidly became one of all-time favourite books. I remember being so in awe of Dickens and his ability to suck me into the book so entirely that it was often a surprise to surface for a moment and realise that I wasn’t flying through the air hand-in-hand with a ghost and was, in fact, still in my front room.
So why haven’t I read any more Dickens since? THAT is a very good question! I actually don’t know. The only reason I can come up with is that most of his books are soooo long that I know I will have to sacrifice at least 4 other books in the time it would take me to read one of his.
A month or so ago, I received a gorgeous hardback copy of Clare Tomalin’s new Dickens biography – Charles Dickens: A Life – from the lovely Riot Communications girls (they know my love of Victorian lit) and I have been dipping in and out of it ever since. I haven’t read the whole thing yet so I can’t do a proper review but it was awakened my passion for wanting to read more Dickens – and soon!
Also, I am so looking forward to the new Great Expectations drama from BBC that is coming out in the UK on 27th December. It looks like it’s going to be fantastic – and the brilliant Gillian Anderson as Miss Haversham is sure to steal the show once again. This is definitely one show I will be settling down to with a glass of mulled wine and plate of mince pies.
It must be because it’s Dickens’ 200th birthday in February but it does look like 2012 is going to be the year of all thing Dickens. It appears that the BBC will also be doing The Mystery of Edwin Drood (the book he never quite finished before dying). I haven’t read this book and actually don’t know very much about it so I am excited to see this one too. I wonder what else is in the pipeline? I would love to see some of his longer books made into a series (maybe Our Mutual Friend or Dombey and Son – the ones that don’t seem to get as much attention as the others).
Dickens in 2012
I am going to make an extra special effort to read more Dickens in 2012. I keep meaning to pick up Oliver Twist or David Copperfield but are there any others that you recommend or insist that I absolutely MUST read?