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CHARLES DICKENS

AN INTRODUCTION

A deft, authoritative, and engaging reappraisal of the great Victorian novelist.

Restless, tireless, and prolific, Dickens “became an adjective in his own lifetime.”

As part of Oxford’s informative Introduction series, Hartley (English/Univ. of Roehampton; Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women, 2008, etc.), scholar in residence at the Charles Dickens Museum, offers a brisk, acutely perceptive overview of the British writer’s life, work, and legacy. Her distillation of Dickens’ biography touches on familiar points: the lonely, poverty-stricken childhood; a brief, adolescent romance; marriage and the birth of 10 children; his affair with actress Ellen Ternan; his long career as a journalist and editor; and his catapult to fame, at the age of 24, with the serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Besides creating biographical context, Hartley sharply examines the themes that engaged Dickens throughout his career, dominated by “his critique of the dehumanizing structures, ideologies, and bureaucracies of nineteenth-century Britain.” Because of his fame, Dickens was a sought-after speaker “in support of good causes,” which included sanitary reforms, the establishment of schools for poor children, and the improvement of conditions in workhouses and debtors prisons, something he recalled, darkly, from personal experience. He could be dismissive and cynical about those in power: “My faith in the people governing, is on the whole, infinitesimal,” he once declared. He was, said George Orwell, “certainly a subversive writer,” and Hartley calls him “a life-long radical.” She judiciously extracts passages from Dickens’ major writings—David CopperfieldOliver TwistHard TimesLittle Dorrit, and the much-loved A Christmas Carol, to name a few—to exemplify the author’s characterizations, plots, and style. His use of cliffhanger chapter endings, Hartley writes, was a strategy necessary in serial publication, which “builds waiting and suspense into the meaning of the novel and makes them a crucial part of the reading experience.” Just as the term “Dickensian” has entered the English language, the novels have endured in popularity throughout the decades.

A deft, authoritative, and engaging reappraisal of the great Victorian novelist.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-878816-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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