Reviews for Dickens
Library Journal Express Reviews
``Dickens saw reality as a reflection of his own fiction,'' contends Ackroyd, novelist and biographer of T.S. Eliot ( T.S. Eliot: A Life , LJ 11/15/84) and Ezra Pound ( Ezra Pound , Thames & Hudson, 1987). This massive life and times attempts to re-create Dickens's internal and external realities. Ackroyd makes better use of the autobiographical memoranda first published in John Forster's Life (1872-74) than did Edgar Johnson in his Charles Dickens (S. & S., 1952), and the interweaving of critical comments with his presentation of Dickens's personal and social preoccupations often yields more insights than does Johnson's technique of interlarded essays. The same vast mental and physical energies that led Dickens to triumph drove him to an obsessive need for total control of all aspects of his personal and professional life. Furthermore, his sensibility was formed in a pre-Victorian England that was often squalid and brutal, and which frequently relied on role-playing as a guide to conduct. Ackroyd's great strength is his ability to draw the reader into a sensory apprehension of this world. A lack of footnotes will keep scholars turning to Johnson and Fred Kaplan's shorter and far less evocative Dickens: A Life ( LJ 9/1/88), but this engrossing work is enthusiastically recommended for academic and large public libraries.-- Barbara J. Dunlap, City Coll., CUNY Copyright 1991 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1991 January #1
Ackroyd ( The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde ) is a master biographer with a seductive prose style, and this massive volume is likely to stand as the Dickens biography for decades to come. Ackroyd moves around with authority in the world of the ebullient, ambitious, insecure, haunted, theatrical genius, which is also the world of early and mid-Victorian England assimilated and transformed to a stupefying degree. We read about Dickens's penurious and painful childhood; the triumphant reception of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers ; the prodigious flow of subsequent novels which, though increasingly somber in tone, continued to reflect a mind whose primary reaction to experience was anarchic laughter; the two trips to America, for the most part wildly successful; the scandal surrounding Dickens's desertion of his wife. And Ackroyd pinpoints Dickens's two great innovations: he was the first to introduce the language of the romantic poets into the novel; and his dramatic public readings from his novels constituted a new art form. Illustrations. Major ad/promo; BOMC main selection. (Feb.) Copyright 1991 Cahners Business Information.