‘Recalled to life’: Bleak House and The Man in Black

I’ve always thought that Bleak House is Dickens’ masterpiece – not just a vast panorama of contemporary London, from the highest to the lowest, but a rich compilation of literary genres from social commentary, to psychological drama, to mystery thriller. You can say something similar of most of his novels, of course, but in BleakContinue reading “‘Recalled to life’: Bleak House and The Man in Black”

Bleak House, Dickens’ masterpiece

I’m sure I’m not the only Dickens fan who’s been both surprised and exhilarated to see how much interest has been generated by his bicentenary. Adaptations, exhibitions, new biographies, special events, and – last October – a poll in the Guardian newspaper asking readers to vote for their favourite novel. The winner, fairly comfortably, was Great Expectations, followed by BleakContinue reading “Bleak House, Dickens’ masterpiece”

‘A Dickensian novel for the 21st century’

An interview for the Foyles blog in 2012, updated 2022 What are the challenges of writing a Dickensian novel for the 21st century? Interesting question! I suppose I would say that there are challenges that I chose not to take up, and challenges I couldn’t avoid. The most obvious example of the first was myContinue reading “‘A Dickensian novel for the 21st century’”

Revisiting Dickens’ London

One thing everyone knows about Dickens – whether they’ve read him or not – is that he is London’s literary patron saint.  Whole generations have grown up seeing Victorian London through his eyes, from  the grime on the streets to the phoney glitter of the Veneering house in Our Mutual Friend, where everything is ‘in aContinue reading “Revisiting Dickens’ London”

Austen, Dickens and me: The art of literary ventriloquism

I’ve never much liked the word ‘pastiche’ . It always sounds rather condescending to me – as if the meticulous re-evocation of another’s style is some rather inferior form of passing-off.  Personally, I prefer ‘literary ventriloquism’.  The art of catching a recognisable and distinctive voice, just as Dickens describes young Sloppy doing in Our Mutual Friend,Continue reading “Austen, Dickens and me: The art of literary ventriloquism”

A profile of Charles Maddox, Victorian investigator

Let’s start with some backgroundIt’s 1850, and Charles Maddox is 25. As the book opens he’s living in a room in a lodging house near the British Museum with his cat, Thunder. As you look round his room you can tell that this is a young man with a scientific bent – the whole placeContinue reading “A profile of Charles Maddox, Victorian investigator”

Following in Dickens’ footsteps

2012 is a year of Dickens anniversaries – a major one for him, and what’s turned out to be quite a significant one for me.  It’s his bicentenary, of course, but it will also be 30 years since I first read Bleak House. I know that because I wrote an essay on it in my firstContinue reading “Following in Dickens’ footsteps”