Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Difficulty of Dickens

On Monday I signed up for a Tale of Two Cities readalong in December with Bex at An Armchair by the Sea.

I read (or tried to read) my first Dickens book when I was about ten years old. I was obsessed with Eleanor Roosevelt at the time, and when I discovered her favorite book was The Old Curiosity Shop, I just had to read it.
I tried. I really tried. I gave it a good, concentrated effort. I had never given up on a book before - I've always been one of those people who need to finish what they start. But my mother, after hearing my complaints at yet another digression on "some random virtue," (as I consistently described it), gave me some sage advice: "You're reading this book for pleasure. If it doesn't give you pleasure to read it, you don't have to finish it."
I thought this over, and decided that yes, it was time to give it up. (Not forever, necessarily. Just for the time being.)

A few years later, I read Great Expectations. My reaction - to the plot, to the characters, to the splendid writing - can best be described in this way:


(In a good way, if you're wondering.)

I had to read it a half a year later for school, again, but I didn't mind. It's a spectacular book.

I think I've actually read it three or four times by now.

About a year or two later, I saw a preview to BBC's Bleak House. I, who am a staunch supporter of reading the book before seeing any sort of adaptation of it, got Bleak House from the library the next day.

Bleak House was better than Curiosity Shop. Much, much better. But the fact that Dickens was writing for serialization created natural digressions to take up column space. Good in a newspaper column. Not so much in a novel.

I eventually gave up on that one, too, though not as abruptly as with Curiosity Shop. I just sort of stopped picking it up when I needed something to read, and it quietly faded out of my life.

(By the way, I did see the BBC show. And it was awesome and now I'm considering possibly reading Bleak House  again soon.)

So this readalong is just the thing to get me out of my Dickens rut. I've been sort of avoiding him since the Bleak House adventure, but now may be the time to return.

I really, really hope I can finish Tale of Two Cities. Deep in my heart I hate not finishing books, and I've only ever done this with three (the two aforementioned Dickens', as well as Conan Doyle's The White Company, which is on my Classics Club list).

If you want to join me, you can link up to the original post at An Armchair by the Sea.


Update: Here are my three posts on Tale of Two Cities.
Post The First
Post The Second
Post The Third


  1. I think it's fantastic that you tried to read Old Curiosity Shop when you were ten. What your mother said is really good advice even now. I'm thinking of joining the Tale of Two Cities read-a-long too. I've only read one Dickens book, Great Expectations and I really loved it except for the ending (not an Estella fan). Hopefully we both enjoy this Dickens book!

    1. Yes! I hope you can join us!

      Thanks for reading,

  2. A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books! I hope you end up liking it! :-)

    1. I AM liking it! Here's my first update:


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