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Charles Dickens : A Life

by Claire Tomalin

Biography / Autobiography

LoveReading View on Charles Dickens : A Life

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)

Sue Baker

Charles Dickens : A Life Synopsis

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. 

Charles Dickens : A Life Press Reviews

‘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

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780670917679
Publication date: 06/10/2011
Publisher: Viking an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780670917679
Publication date: 6th October 2011
Author: Claire Tomalin
Publisher: Viking an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 576 pages
Genres: Biography / Autobiography,
Categories: Biography: literary,

About Claire Tomalin

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.

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