Dodger by Terry Pratchett and Dickens by Peter Ackroyd – Dickens in December

Dickens in December (hosted by Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Delia at Postcards from Asia), considering how busy I have been this month, most regrettably turned into Dickens in the last week of December. Dickens, however, did also turn into quite an obsession. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I adored The Old Curiosity Shop, A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities. I am certain the year 2013 will see me read a lot more of Dickens, as much as I can fit into a year! This is the last day of the event and I don’t suppose I’d finish reading either of these two books tonight, so here’s what I think so far:

I’m about halfway through the book, which is saying something since I started reading it about an hour ago. This book by one of my favourite writers stars the Artful Dodger (right out of Oliver Twist) and Charles Dickens himself! The idea of an author meeting one of his own characters is charming and Pratchett has done justice to both. The book is written in a very quintessentially Terry Pratchett style and has at the same time a wonderfully Dickensian vibe about it – I mean, really, what’s not to like?

This massive biography of Dickens by Peter Ackroyd, began interestingly enough, with his death in 1870. The biographer describes in haunting detail the scene of his death and what a stir it caused in the world. Even the prologue talks about his writing style, his social commentary and his influence on the readers as well as his role in the literary history of the world. The author then begins the biography right from his birth, making it a point to mention every little detail. You don’t just read a book about Dickens, you witness his life.
It would probably be the end of February by the time I finish this book but I will definitely finish it. I have heard about Peter Ackroyd being a masterful biographer and this book, whatever I have read of it, justifies the praise.

Dickens in December has been a great event, a perfect ending, really, to the year. If it were to take place next year, I would certainly make it a point to participate!

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – Dickens in December

Dickens in December is hosted by Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Delia at Postcards from Asia.

Wow. The book is just… wow. It is absolutely brilliant. I really couldn’t write a lot about the book without revealing anything that a potential reader might not like to know beforehand. I hardly knew anything about the book before I started reading it, except perhaps that it was amazing. The twists and turns in the plot and the suspense definitely added to the reading experience.

(From here) The novel depicts the plight of the French
peasantry demoralized by the French 
aristocracy in the years leading up to the
revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries
toward the former 
aristocrats in the early years of the
revolution, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during
the same time period.

There was a reason I read The Old Curiosity Shop before I read this: I wanted to read something that not many people recommend, so that I won’t be obligated even in the slightest subconscious way to like it – although I did find out later that The Old Curiosity Shop is a particular favourite among the Dickens aficionados. I loved it and when I began reading A Tale of Two Cities, the heavier prose (in comparison to TOCS) made me doubt, initially, that I would enjoy it quite as much. The book isn’t enjoyable, really: the wry, twisted humour doesn’t quite make it ha-ha-funny and the characters aren’t as eccentrically realistic as in TOCS.

The book is much darker and harder to get through; but that is the way it supposed to be: it couldn’t have been otherwise. Though the book is about the Revolution, the fact that my knowledge of the world history is despicable didn’t quite matter, as the ideas involved are far from redundant. Every revolution, every ‘strike-back’ must have that biased brutality, that makes you wonder just whom to consider the villian. It is heart wrenching and horrifyingly bone chilling and very graphic and gory and that is what makes it such a beautifully haunting tale. The themes and the characters are powerful, memorable: Sydney Carton has taken Levin’s (Tolstoy – Anna Karenina) place as my favourite character in a novel. Their emotions, behaviour are terrifyingly genuine and saddening.

I couldn’t initially see what people meant about the first and the last lines of the book being perfect, but I do now. The beginning and the ending form a beautiful wooden frame that perfectly holds the story, a crinkly sparkly gift wrap, if you may. The ending of A Tale of Two Cities contains the very essence of the book and if not for anything else, I do think everyone should read it to its very last page to experience that.

TOCS, though quite bleak, still had a touch of romance to it, something that made it unlikely to ever have happened: there aren’t many Nells in this world, after all. On the other hand, A Tale of Two Cities as a historical fiction presents the sinister reality of the French Revolution in an unforgettable manner. This is a book I’d like to read over and over: I’m sure every read would reveal something new and even more amazing about the book.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Dickens in December

Dickens in December (hosted by Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and
Delia at Postcards from Asia) has
to be my favourite event of 2012. I adored The Old Curiosity Shop, I’m halfway
through and completely in love with A Tale of Two Cities and now this

Here are a few of the questions I answered:
Is this the first time you are reading the story?
This was actually my favourite story when I was little. The funny thing is my book was called Mickey’s Christmas Carol. It was based on the Disney version of Dicken’s novella, with Uncle Scrooge as Ebenezer Scrooge, Mickey Mouse as Bob Crachit and Goofy as Marley, not to mention, Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past. It had the cutest illustrations in it. I can’t believe I never got around to reading the original book until now!

Did you like it?
I always the story was just magical. But reading the original version was an entirely surprising experience. Such a small book has such a a lot to say. The writing is seriously mesmerizing and the story is hauntingly beautiful. I loved it.

Which was your favorite scene?
It’s hard to choose one scene, I liked the time when the first ghost showed up, the scene at the Crachit family’s home was touching; but fittingly enough, I’d say my favourite was the last scene – with the new and improved (redeemed?) Scrooge.
Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and
little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened
on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of
laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway,
he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as
have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was
quite enough for him.

Which spirit and his stories did you find the most interesting?
When it comes to my Disney version, my favourite spirit is Jiminy Cricket. Because? Well. But in this one, it had to be the last ghost – the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Everything about the phantom was chilling, eerie. 
I knew A Christmas Carol was, like any story with a moral, obviously far-fetched. The idea that someone could so entirely change in just a night is hard to contemplate. I knew what the Ghost of Christmas Future was going to show Scrooge and I didn’t think it would make the story any more believable, but the way it is described – so gory, so tragic, so real – made me believe. I loved what the third spirit showed Scrooge because it was the most convincing. It was kind of the essence of the story for me and I could really see the change that it triggered in Scrooge.  

Did Scrooge deserve to be saved?
I think everyone deserves to be saved.

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens – Dickens in December

Dickens in December is hosted by Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Delia at Postcards from Asia.

I may be a bit late in finding my way to Dickens but I am hooked. There are three things I realized in succession as I read the book, the three things which made me fall deeply in love with The Old Curiosity Shop.

First: Dickens was a great judge of character, I thoroughly enjoyed the occasional snippets about human nature. Not to mention, the characters in the story and their behaviours are strikingly real. Second: Wow, he could really write. The rich language and the beautifully apt descriptions made reading the book the most treasured experience. Third: He was certainly a masterful storyteller. Not a single moment of the story was particularly spectacular and yet none of it was dull. I do know it was bleak, but it just wasn’t Thomas Hardy bleak. Okay. I don’t quite know why or how, but I found the book very engrossing.

This tiny paragraph is hardly all that I want to say about the book. There will be more over the course of this month. Till then, here are some of my favourite moments from the book:

(on conscience)
In the majority of cases, conscience is an elastic and
very flexible article, which will bear a deal of stretching and adapt itself to
a great variety of circumstances. Some people by prudent management and leaving
it off piece by piece like a flannel waistcoat in warm weather, even contrive,
in time, to dispense with it altogether; but there be others who can assume the
garment and throw it off at pleasure; and this, being the greatest and most
convenient improvement, is the one most in vogue.

(on separation)
Why is it that we can better bear to part in spirit than in
body, and while we have the fortitude to act farewell have not the nerve to say
it? On the eve of long voyages or an absence of many years, friends who are tenderly
attached will separate with the usual look, the usual pressure of the hand,
planning one final interview for the morrow, while each well knows that it is
but a poor feint to save the pain of uttering that one word, and that the
meeting will never be. Should possibilities be worse to bear than certainties?
We do not shun our dying friends; the not having distinctly taken leave of one
among them, whom we left in all kindness and affection, will often embitter the
whole remainder of a life.

(an old woman talks about her long dead husband)
Now that five-and-fifty years were gone, she spoke of
the dead man as if he had been her son or grandson, with a kind of pity for his
youth, growing out of her own old age, and an exalting of his strength and
manly beauty as compared with her own weakness and decay; and yet she spoke
about him as her husband too, and thinking of herself in connexion with him, as
she used to be and not as she was now, talked of their meeting in another
world, as if he were dead but yesterday, and she, separated from her former
self, were thinking of the happiness of that comely girl who seemed to have
died with him.
(…and, this is the kind of language I was talking about.)
It had been gradually getting overcast, and now the sky was
dark and lowering, save where the glory of the departing sun piled up masses of
gold and burning fire, decaying embers of which gleamed here and there through
the black veil, and shone redly down upon the earth. The wind began to moan in
hollow murmurs, as the sun went down carrying glad day elsewhere; and a train
of dull clouds coming up against it, menaced thunder and lightning. Large drops
of rain soon began to fall, and, as the storm clouds came sailing onward,
others supplied the void they left behind and spread over all the sky. Then was
heard the low rumbling of distant thunder, then the lightning quivered, and
then the darkness of an hour seemed to have gathered in an instant.

I can’t wait to start reading A Tale of Two Cities. After completely relishing this, I can only imagine what that would be like! Which is your favourite Dickens novel?