On 17th December 2011 I gave myself the challenge of reading all the novels of Charles Dickens, and today, this morning in the wee hours of the 16th December 2012, I finished. I've read:
- Sketches by Boz
- The Pickwick Papers
- The Adventures of Oliver Twist
- The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
- Barnaby Rudge
- The Old Curiosity Shop
- A Christmas Carol
- The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit
- Dombey and Son
- David Copperfield
- Bleak House
- Hard Times
- Little Dorrit
- A Tale of Two Cities
- Great Expectations
- Our Mutual Friend
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood
My favourites: Sketches by Boz (not a novel, but included in the summer), Oliver Twist, Dombey and Son, David Copperfield, and, at the top, Great Expectations. Least favourite: toss up between The Pickwick Papers and Bleak House.
All in all, it was a good experience: I did enjoy reading through Dickens very much, but it was also frustrating: every single one of these novels started with such promise, but a lot of them, Our Mutual Friend and Little Dorrit in particular, seemed to me to lose their way. I think Dickens fans will disagree with me most passionately, but I couldn't help but feel with a few of them, Nicholas Nickleby too, that I absolutely adored them, until suddenly I was lost. I found myself wishing they had been a little sharper, a little shorter, too. I'm not adverse to chunksters, but unfortunately some of these didn't work so well for me. That is not to say I didn't enjoy them, of course, or that I don't recognise the genius of Dickens, but I had to conclude that, on the whole, perhaps I'm not so compatible with Dickens as I had hoped. There were, though, gems in every single one of them. Worth the chase without a doubt.
So, I do love Dickens. I wonder if I hadn't have discovered Émile Zola I would have been more in love with him. I feel like, this year, I've discovered a perfect author: someone who I feel completely compatible with, and, to a small extent, a lot of others, particularly favourites, don't quite match up.
But I'm glad I did this. Most, even the ones that disagreed with me, I would like to revisit in the future. There's not one, not even Pickwick Papers that I wouldn't re-read, although I think I would read them with a different perspective. Dickens style is very complex, and it must be remembered that these weren't presented in 'standard' novel form: or at least, what I recognise as a novel today!
As for the next 'Author Challenge': I'm not sure yet. I'm thinking of Dosteovsky, Steinbeck, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy. I'll pick one after Christmas I'm sure!
Until then, preparations for Christmas are well under way. Like everyone else, everything is very busy indeed, hence I've not been blogging as much as I'd like! As I said on Twitter earlier, I am looking forward to Christmas Day, but the build up... Not so much fun! I'm looking forward, next week, to write a 'proper' blog post instead of this kind of fly-by post!