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02 Jan Dickensian

I read my first Dickens novel, Great Expectations, at the age of ten. I would read it before bedtime and in the early mornings before going to school. This wasn’t a book I had been encouraged to read by my teachers, this was a book I had bought myself having been captivated by the colour illustrations of the Pickwick Papers in my ‘World of Wonder’ comic which I saved up to buy each week with my pocket money. I can still remember the grey, frightening front cover of my first Dickens novel with a picture of Magwitch and the sense of danger and adventure which lay in wait for me inside the pages of this rather grown up book. I wanted to enter that world, and enter it I did armed with a dictionary which was perched on the stool next to my bed so that I was able to decipher the meaning of all of the words. And so, for a short while, I longed to read all of Dickens’ other novels. Before moving on to secondary school, I had managed A Tale of Two Cities followed by an angst-ridden, tortuous journey of misunderstanding that saw me through to the end of Hard Times. My albeit brief love affair with Charles Dickens was over by the age of twelve; Hard Times and Mr Gradgrind had done for me!

I did attempt to read Dombey and Son in my early twenties but, quite frankly, where could I now possibly find the time to read such a book? Stick with the rather good BBC adaptations I told myself. And, of course, by then I had read Austen and Hardy and really from that point onwards I could never quite see the point of Dickens and so I left him behind forever; a few tattered, dog-eared, yellowing books perched on the shelves of my beautiful Edwardian bookcase inherited from my grandparents in the late 1980s were the only remnants of my brief attempt to engage with Charles Dickens.

And then, this Christmas, along came the BBC drama series, Dickensian. Let me make this perfectly clear, I have no intention of ever re-reading Dickens, perish the thought, but it has felt rather like a 21st-century re-introduction to some of the characters from my childhood. And I have to say that I have enjoyed that re-introduction enormously!

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