Monday, March 2, 2009

A Charles Dickens Aficianado

My hubby and I just finished watching the entire BBC production of "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens. It was on 3 DVDs in roughly 15 episodes, and we enjoyed every bit. (We had it compliments of Netflix). I am a big Charles Dickens fan. I had seen "A Christmas Carol" in every form known to man, from Albert Finney to Donald Duck, but never read any Dickens, until 9th grade English, where we were compelled to read "Great Expectations" for class. I expected to hate it when I saw that the protagonist's name was Pip. I mean, really! But soon I was lost in the story, and when we had the daily quizzes about such trivia as the color of the vase on the mantel in Chapter One, I had trouble answering because I was pondering Pip's fortune and who supplied it, many, many chapters further on.

When I had finished that book I went on to read, on my own, "Oliver Twist" and "David Copperfield". I began "A Tale of Two Cities" but for some reason never read more than a chapter, and then I was on to another author for a while. But when our youngest son got old enough for Dickens, he was as taken with him as I had been at his age, and he begged and cajoled me to read "A Tale of Two Cities" all the way through. I did, and WOW, what a story! I proceeded to read "A Christmas Carol," "Bleak House," "Nicholas Nickleby" and "Our Mutual Friend," along with a slim volume Dickens had co-written with someone else, called "A House to Let", and I thoroughly enjoyed them all. I intend to continue reading more of his stories, but they are best savoured and not devoured, so I'm taking a breather. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying the theatre productions on DVD or PBS when the chance arises!

Some people seem a bit intimidated by Dickens because his books are usually long, peopled with multiple fully fleshed out characters and often of a somewhat sombre nature. But when he was originally published, it was in the newspapers in the form of serial stories, a segment at a time for weeks and weeks, and not meant to be read all at once! And although the subject matter can be grim at times, it is relieved by humor and a deliciously sly sarcastic wit that shows the best and the worst that humankind has to offer. These books are great character studies, as well as windows in to cultures at different times in England's history. They are very good reads, but also mini-educations! For instance, "Bleak House" exposes the justice system, "Oliver Twist" the charitable institutions, and "A Tale of Two Cities" gives an inside view of the French Revolution in chilling prose to rival any suspense story written today! Every time I go to the library I discover a "brand new" (to me!) treasure left behind by Mr. Charles Dickens and slowly I hope to sample them all. Any other Dickens fans?

14 comments:

Connie said...

I love A Christmas Carol in all forms including the written form!
Read Great Expectations with trepidation b/c it was required reading and enjoyed it. Have some on my reading list.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Dickens fan here too. David Copperfield is a personal favorite, although I've read Great Expectations about five times. (I think I've read Copperfield 8 or 9.) I've read all the others you mention. I have issues with one of the narrative voices in Bleak House, but I like all the others.

I'd recommend Hard Times for your next foray.

nikkipolani said...

Tracie, I loved reading Bleak House and have enjoyed the BBC films as well. My other favorite Dickens is Our Mutual Friend.

Cherdecor said...

The first movie my husband, then boy friend, took me to was Oliver Twist.
I sooooo did not like it. To me it portrayed Christians as mean and nasty and I knew that was not so, at least the ones I knew.

At that point I said to Alan, "You know, after we are married, I don't think we should go to movies." Ha! Ha!

Sparky ♥ ∞ said...

My husband and I enjoy Charles Dickens too! Great post. ♥ ∞

Charli and me said...

I like Charles Dickens too. I mean who couldn't love 'A Christmas Carol' My favorite has to be 'Oliver Twist'

Technonana said...

Great Post!!! We learn so much from reading Dickens!!

Susan said...

Ha - great minds think alike. I just posted today about loving classic lit. I love it! They just contain such universal themes. Thanks for reminding me about Dickens. I haven't read anything by him in quite awhile, and you've inspired me to pick up some of his books I haven't read. Does everyone read GE in high school? They must!

Merle said...

Dear Tracie ~~ Many, many years ago, I did A Tale of Two Cities in secondary school and thoroughly
enjoyed it. Also many of his other stories as well. Thanks for your comments and concern for my health.
I am improving a little each day, and can walk fairly well now, not the agony it was. The fires have settled down and that is such a relief. Glad you liked the Australian Army joke etc. Take care my friend, Love, Merle.

jenniferw said...

OH. MY. SOUL. I am now in the process of watching Bleak House on Netflix streaming video on my PC with headphones, and it is INCREDIBLE! I can't wait to sit down and watch each installment, and I'm going to be desolate when it's over! Gillian Anderson is a revelation, Anna Maxwell Martin is so adorable, and I love Burn Gorman and Charles Dance! This is cinematic storytelling at its most magnificent! I adore Dickens ... A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott is a must-see every single year at our house for Christmas.

When I finish watching BH on streaming I'm going to put the DVD's in my queue so that I can watch it again with Erica!

*high-fives Tracie*

p.s. have you seen Cranford? You must see Cranford!

jenniferw said...

pps. I cried like a baby when Lady Dedlock told Esther she was her mother! It was so great! *sob*

Rosezilla said...

Oh, I know, all the stuff with Lady Dedlock was just so tragic! To think how much her husband loved her - he probably would have accepted Esther too, and they could have had a relationship, and she would have finally known just how much her husband really did love her, but she never trusted him enough. So sad. I'm glad you enjoyed this, Jennifer. Yes, we saw and enjoyed Cranford. And the George C. Scott Christmas Carol is my hubby's fav too. (I must confess, the Muppets one is my fav, although I suppose that's not very literary of me, lol!). Right now we are watching something the BBC did called North and South, about a minister's daughter newly living in a mill town, struggling to understand the tension between the mill workers and owners. Fascinating stuff. And Anna Maxwell Martin is in it as well although she's not the main star.

jenniferw said...

I just realized, while watching Episode 6, that I gave a huge spoiler in my comment. I am soooo sorry! I feel so stupid! I was overcome by emotion! Please forgive me!

Can't wait to see the end. Anna Maxwell Martin is great and I did not know she was in North and South! I'll have to add that to my queue. I liked her as Cassie in Becoming Jane!

louise said...

I enjoyed watching this adaptation on the BBC a few years back. My favourite characters were Mr Tulkinghorn and Smallweed! x

http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/bleakhouse/characters/

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