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Charles Dickens : a life
Claire Tomalin
Adult Nonfiction PR4581 .T66 2011

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From Publishers' Weekly:

"[E]veryone finds their own version of Charles Dickens [1812-1870]," concludes award-winning British biographer Tomalin: Dickens the mesmerist, amateur thespian, political radical, protector of prostitutes, benefactor of orphans, restless walker-all emerge from the welter of information about the writer's domestic arrangements, business dealings, childhood experiences, illnesses, and travels. Bolstered by citations from correspondence with and about Dickens, Tomalin's portrait brings shadows and depth to the great Victorian novelist's complex personality. Tomalin (Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self) displays her deep scholarship in reviewing, for instance, the debate about Dickens's relations with Nelly Ternan, concluding that the balance of evidence is that they were lovers. She also highlights the contrasts between his charitable actions toward strangers and his "casting off" of several relatives from father to brothers to sons, who kept importuning him for money: "Once Dickens had drawn a line he was pitiless." By the end of this biography, readers unfamiliar with Dickens will come away with a new understanding of his driven personality and his impact on literature and 19th-century political and social issues. Tomalin provides her usual rich, penetrating portrait; one can say of her book what she says of Dickens's picture of 19th -century England: it's "crackling, full of truth and life, with his laughter, horror and indignation." Illus.; maps. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Tomalin (Thomas Hardy) offers what is effectively the bicentennial biography of Dickens. She examines all aspects of her subject's life and career, with an emphasis on his personality's many contradictions: he was kind and cruel, charitable and pitiless, gregarious and intensely private. Dickens's friendships, as Tomalin illuminates, were numerous and lifelong. His close friends, such as his first biographer, John Forster, loved and honored him. But in family relationships, especially with his wife and many children, he was often cold and unfeeling. Tomalin investigates and speculates on Dickens's relationship with Nelly Ternan, providing information beyond what is in her prize-winning The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens (1992). She praises Dickens's many accomplishments and the sterling qualities that endeared him to so many friends and readers, while also delineating his dark side and how it cast a shadow over his later years. He died at age 58. VERDICT Michael Slater's recent biography examines Dickens's literary works more deeply; Tomalin's focus is the writer himself. While it neither offers much in the way of new insights nor replaces classic studies of Dickens, Tomalin's entertaining book deserves to be the go-to popular biography for readers new to Boz and his works. (Index not seen.)-Morris A. Hounion, New York City Coll. of Technology Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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