Sunday, July 08, 2007

My Year of Dickens

Like many of you, I was required to read at least one Charles Dickens novel for English class. We read Great Expectations one year. It was not very interesting to me at the time. I was completely grossed out by Miss Havisham and her home. I couldn't seem to get past my revulsion at her way of life to notice the rest of the story.

I know I also read A Christmas Carol somewhere along the way as well. I enjoyed that story more, but still wasn't too interested in Dickens as an author.

I think part of the problem was that we read the stories aloud as a class. So much is lost in a story to me that way. I would get caught up and distracted by how others read aloud, usually poorly, and certainly without expression. If I tried to ignore my classmates and read ahead on my own, I would be totally off track if I was called on to read, so that didn't work too well. All in all, I read what was required, but no more.

That recently changed. Sweetheart and I bought the DVD of Nicholas Nickleby awhile back. This was the 2002 version. We loved it. It is a wonderful movie that, while not including all 800+ pages of material, does a fine job as a feature film. Of course, I also like the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film which may make my opinion suspect to some of you. :) see my thoughts here.

It was probably a year or so after watching the movie several times that I decided I should read the book. I read it last fall and enjoyed it tremendously. It is quite long and contains an amazing amount of detail, but was an enjoyable read none the less. I highly recommend it!

Reading Nicholas Nickelby led my on to reread A Christmas Carol last December. I took a few months off of Dickens, but then reread Great Expectations. This time through I loved it! I am sure that it was due in part because I was reading it for my own pleasure and not as an assignment. I was amazed at how little I remember. Of course, high school was a long time ago for me...

I then jumped in and read Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities in just a few weeks. We had seen a recent movie version of
Oliver Twist on sale at Target, but didn't purchase it. This motivated me to read the book to see if I'd want to get a movie version.

While I was reading Oliver Twist and ATOTC, I discovered a set of 1874 editions of all of Dickens' writings on ebay. I was so excited when we won the auction for such a low price. It's a lovely set, well-worn, but so neat to own. Besides, I think most books that are over 130 years would be pretty worn, don't you?

I was in for another surprise, though. Sweetheart mentioned he found a copy of the BBC version of Oliver Twist and ordered it. I was so pleased when it arrived, all 12 episodes! Imagine my surprise though when Sweetheart informed me that it came with a two box set of ALL the BBC movie productions of Dickens. We now have about 10 different movies to enjoy. Of course, it took about two weeks to get through watching Oliver Twist a bit t time every few evenings, so I think this is a set that will keep us busy for quite some time!

I absolutely adore Dickens now! His wit and attention to detail is masterful. How he kept track of so many characters and plot twists astounds me, especially when you note that most of his writings were done as serials in monthly installments. While he made a few editorially changes in some of his works as they were printed in novel forms, he was basically publishing his stories while he was still writing them.

The history contained in his writings is fascinating to me as well. I feel as though I have learned so much just from reading his novels that I never knew before. It is quite an education.

It is neat to know that his writing was more than just entertainment. He actually championed a lot of needed reforms at that time through his writings. His descriptions of conditions in both schools and poor houses led to much needed change. How wonderful that he could both entertain people and lead them to fight for reform!

I've just started the copy of The Pickwick Papers from my wonderful old set. I look forward to discovering what awaits between the covers of this story. I am planning to read through the entire set. It will take some time, but I'll keep you posted.

Apparently, I'm not the only fan of Dickens. Mrs. Wilt has some ideas and links on him as well on her new blog. I look forward to checking them out as well.

Why don't you join me in revisiting some of the old classics, and see if you too enjoy them more the second time around? Let me know what you're reading.

****Question: Usually movie titles are in quotes while book titles are listed in italics, what does one do for a book that's been made into a movie?


Anonymous said...

Hi Kimberly,
I'm only on my first run of the classics (last year was my year of Austen) and am currently reading "Wives and Daughters" by Elizabeth Gaskell. I bought the dvd before the book and loved it so much that it gave me the impetus to tackle the book. "North and South" by her is next. Again, I bought the dvd before the book and loved it. I can highly recommend both movies. Love them.
Oh, actually I AM re-reading a classic. How could I forget our Anne Shirley? I wanted this to be a year of L.M. Montgomery but have only recently finished "Anne of Green Gables." I'm way behind my goal! I first read the book when I was about 12. I don't know how many times I've read it since (or seen the movies) but I haven't read the entire series all the way through more than once or twice.
Joanna :)

Heather said...

Hi Kimberly

Thank you for visiting my blog and listing it in your favorites! What an honor!

I too enjoy the classics and have a few musty old Dickens favorites that need to have the dust blown off! It has been a while, but during our year of 'homeschool from the couch' when I first became ill, I read A Christmas Carol and Tale of Two Cities aloud. It was heavy slugging for our 4 & 7 year olds (at the time) and required a great deal of explaination, but I wanted them to hear the beauty of the language and tune their ears to it's voice. We'll read them again soon, I'm sure, but right now we are enjoying a bit more fluff!

Kimberly said...

Joanna--I love Austen as well and only wish she had written more! I reread her novels every year or so now.
I enjoyed Wives and Daughters as well. I'll have to check out North and South. I've not seen the movies, but it sounds intriguing.
As for as Anne, she's a obvious favorite of mine. In fact, I just watched Anne 2 and Anne 3 recently while working on some projects. I've read the series, but don't own all the books-yet. Sweetheart bought me the two old editions in the pictures on my sidebar. There so much more fun to read than the paperbacks!
Heather--I love reading aloud to kids. It was one of my favorite things as a teacher. I love to do all the voices! :) One of the schools I taught at had us reading quite a few classics including Don Quixote and Shakespeare to fifth graders. That definitely requires reading and translating at the same time--especially challenging with all the voices. We also read The Secret Garden and Little Women which I personally enjoyed more. I do miss that. Pumpkin sure enjoys being read to, though, and I'm sure will be read to quite a lot in his life.


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