Are you between 5 and 25? If so, enter the Wicked Young Writer Awards NOW - click here for details...

tudor queens series win prizes
Search our site
Last Letter from Istanbul by Lucy Foley Read the opening extract of the brand new Lucy Foley book before its publication on 19/03/2018

Charles Dickens : A Life by Claire Tomalin

Lovereading view...

Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 23 February 2012.

Winner of the Galaxy Biography of the Year Award 2011.

Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2011.

Sue Baker's view...

You can’t have failed to notice 2012 is a big year for Dickens – and for all those who love his work. I do hope, though that all the banging of the drum will interest new readers and what better place to start than with Claire Tomalin’s powerful biography. Dickens was no saint and she manages to steer a course between condemnation and overt praise, his faults not neglected but we never lose sight of the driven genius and we do end up loving him warts and all. I much enjoyed her intermingling of the novels into the biography, excellent short critics of the majority of his work making this reader, at least, eager to get back to reading his work. Claire Tomalin also creates a vivid word portrait of Victorian England and the London, whose image we still see through Dickens’s eyes. I’ve read so many biographies of Dickens but this has to be one of the best.

Like for Like Reading
The Major Works of Charles Dickens (Great Expectations, Hard Times, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House, Tale of Two Cities) Boxed Set
Charles Dickens’ England, presented by Derek Jacobi DVD x 2 Guerilla Films 5th October 2009 (see Amazon for details)


Charles Dickens : A Life by Claire Tomalin

Winner of the Galaxy Biography of the Year Award 2011.

Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2011.

Charles Dickens was most of all a great novelist - the creator of characters who live immortally in the English imagination: the Artful Dodger, Mr Pickwick, Pip, David Copperfield, Little Nell, Lady Dedlock, and many more. At the age of twelve he was sent to work in a blacking factory by his affectionate but feckless parents. From these unpromising beginnings, he rose to scale all the social and literary heights, entirely through his own efforts. When he died, the world mourned, and he was buried - against his wishes - in Westminster Abbey. Yet the brilliance concealed a divided character: a republican, he disliked America; sentimental about the family in his writings, he took up passionately with a young actress; usually generous, he cut off his impecunious children.


‘Gripping, galloping... Tomalin has captured Dickens, in sun and shadow, with all the full-hearted exuberance, generosity and keen wit that he merits.’ Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

'She has the gift of being able to set a scene and a time with compelling vividness. This is a superb biography of a great writer' William Boyd, Observer

'Clear-eyed, sympathetic and scholarly, she spreads the whole canvas, alive with incident and detail, with places and people. It is wonderfully done' Economist

'With Claire Tomalin as our guide, the life of Charles Dickens, 200 years after his birth, reads as newly minted as one of his novels' Sunday Express

‘Tomalin is the nimblest of narrators... with a steady gaze, she does her utmost to single out the many Charles Dickenses that made up the man. Magnificent’ Chris Moss, Time Out

‘Hypnotically vivid...’ Jenny Uglow, The Guardian

‘A book that goes to the heart of the mystery of Dickens as a writer.’ A N Wilson, New Statesman

‘Vivid, illuminating…fascinating.’ John Carey, Sunday Times

‘Superb…meticulous…fine’ Miriam Margoyles, The Times

‘Deft, acute, magisterial.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘The inimitable biographer.’ Independent

About the Author

Claire Tomalin was literary editor of the New Statesman then the Sunday Times before leaving to become a full-time writer. Her first book, The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, won the Whitbread First Book Award, and she has since written a number of highly acclaimed and bestselling biographies. The Invisible Woman, a definitive account of Dickens' relationship with the actress Ellen Ternan, won three major literary awards, and Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self was Whitbread Book of the Year in 2002. Claire Tomalin is married to the writer Michael Frayn.

More books by this author
Author 'Like for Like' recommendations

Loading similar books...
Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

6th October 2011


Claire Tomalin

More books by Claire Tomalin
Author 'Like for Like'

Author's Website


Viking an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd




Biography / Autobiography
All Shortlists and Winners



I love the 'like for like' author recommendations, it's like an old friend whispering in your ear.

Emma Caddick

Lovereading has all the new books and also suggestions for 'similar' authors whilst waiting for your favourites new books.

Carol Peace

My horizons have been broadened by some of the books I have been lucky to review and I expect it to be no different in the future.

Daran Bellingham

I love the newsletter with reviews of all the new books coming out. Can't wait to open it when it arrives in my inbox.

Rachel Aygin

I love reading books I wouldn't normally choose before everyone else gets to read them!

Dawn Lynch

Lovereading takes the guesswork out of finding your next read with "if you like you'll love" and extracts to help with your decision.

Sarah Bruch

Their sending me my first book to review 18 months ago re-awakened my fondness for reading, since then I have purchased some real gems.

Barry Griffiths

You can trust Lovereading to show unbiased reviews by actual, ordinary readers that help likeminded booklovers choose their next great read.

Linda Hill