If you want to know more about the inimitable Mr Dickens on his 200th birthday, look no further than this brilliantly written biography by Claire Tomalin. Following his journey from boot blacker to famous author, Tomalin examines the popular public face of Dickens and his shadowy private life.
Examining each facet of Dickens’ life, Tomalin explores the dichotomies in Dickens’ character which saw a on one hand a charitable man who devoted much of his life to campaigning for the rights of the poor, opening a home for fallen women, supporting the right of divorced women to retain custody of their young and involving himself in every manner of charitable endeavour but on the other, a man who coldly cut off his siblings and children when they displeased him. Not to mention his casting off his wife of twenty-two years taking their children with him and tearing her family apart.
With so much going on in his private life, it’s difficult to imagine how he managed to be so productive in his professional his life, but he was. With nineteen and a half novels under his belt, not to mention his other literary endeavours, Dickens was a power house of creativity. Carefully reading through his letters, diaries and the accounts of his friends, Tomalin traces through the people, places and events in Dickens’ own life which inspired him to write his best-loved works. The woman who jilted him and inspired the frivolous Dora, his experiences as a child labourer which allowed him to empathise with the lost children of London and the secret tragedy which one particular summer caused him to dwell on the fate of illegitimate children.
Whether you love Dickens’ books or hate them, you can’t help but appreciate the unflinchingly balanced portrait that Claire Tomalin has written with warmth, humour and humanity worthy which are worthy of the great man himself.