My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Writing is a thankless job, or so it seems, for many of us struggling to make ends meet, sell books and articles, live modestly well. But who said the following?
“I could not bear to think of myself – beyond the reach of all such honourable emulation and success. The tears ran down my face. I felt as if my heart were rent. I prayed, when I went to bed that night, to be lifted out of the humiliation and neglect in which I was. I had never suffered so much before.”
Answer: Charles Dickens.
Never give up on your talents, whatever they may be. Cultivate a belief in your own self-worth. Fight if you have to. Cry if you must. Keep going. These are the messages one can receive from Dickens’ determined approach to life, having started out disadvantaged and sidelined by his family, shamed by his father’s debts.
This biography is amazing, filled with quotable passages like the one above.
Detailed but not in a nerdy way, this impressively meaty tome is textured as a narrative in ways that give you a real sense of the society Dickens inhabited and critiqued: its inequalities and absurdities, achievements and failings.
Of interest to Dickens fans, obviously, inspirational to many authors and a wonderfully evocative read for everyone. It provides us with a timely reminder in this Dickens anniversary year of the fact that his push for social justice was left unfinished, although he achieved much by way of highlighting poverty, greed and unfairness, making them — through mass market exposure of his books and performing extracts live on tours — intolerably offensive to people of good conscience.
Dickens was a flawed but ultimately good man, this book makes clear. It hides nothing. It neither judges him nor deifies him.
An excellent read. If you’ve never approached biographies before, this would be a good starting place. You’ll want to grab his legacy thereafter — some of the greatest novels and stories ever crafted.