• Charles Dickens

  • A Life
  • By: Claire Tomalin
  • Narrated by: Alex Jennings
  • Length: 16 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 20-12-11
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.4 (376 ratings)

Summary

The unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Charles Dickens: A Life, the major new biography from the highly acclaimed Claire Tomalin, published for the 200th anniversary of his birth. Read by the actor Alex Jennings. Charles Dickens was a phenomenon: a demonically hardworking journalist, the father of ten children, a tireless walker and traveller, a supporter of liberal social causes, but 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. Claire Tomalin, author of Whitbread Book of the Year Samuel Pepys, paints an unforgettable portrait of Dickens, capturing brilliantly the complex character of this great genius. Charles Dickens: A Life is the examination of Dickens we deserve. Alex Jennings is an associate actor with the RSC and has also worked with the Royal National Theatre. He was Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, for which he won the second of his Olivier Awards for Best Actor in a Musical. He played Charles, Prince of Wales in the film The Queen, and his TV appearances include The State Within, Inspector Morse and the title role in Ashenden.
He's a prolific reader of audiobooks, the most notable of which are The Horse and his Boy, Oliver Twist and Attention All Shipping.
©2011 Claire Tomalin (P)2011 Penguin Books Limited
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Critic reviews

"Tomalin is the most empathetic of biographers - Craig Brown." ( Mail on Sunday)
"The finest and most disinterested of biographers." ( Hilary Mantel, New York Review of Books)
"A biographer who goes from strength to strength." ( Melvyn Bragg, Guardian)
"Tomalin is one of our greatest biographers." ( Wullschlager, Financial Times)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Kirstine on 27-01-12

As lively a story as a good novel

I really enjoyed this biography read excellently by Alex Jennings. The author had a colourful character to write about which helps, but she has created a pacy life-story that cracks along like a novel, but is also a work of scholarship involving much delving into archives. Dickens is presented as a complex man, not all good, and driving himself to extinction by over-work. The characters and themes of his books are woven into the biography and one can see how his life experiences have enriched his writings.

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18 of 18 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Linda on 29-01-12

A Flawed Genius

This was a brilliant audiobook excellently narrated and very well researched by the author, I have loved Dickens work since I began watching the old BBC adaptations as a child back in the early sixties but never gave much thought to the man who created all these wonderful stories. Having now learned so much about him I can view his work with fresh eyes and ears. Claire Tomalin has written a biography that is informative, entertaining and very accessible.

As I learned of Dickens early life I could see the events mirrored in his later writings and I could almost understand the dual aspects of his personality as an adult. For all his genius as a writer he was deeply flawed in his ability to form truly meaningful emotional relationships with his own family and often treated them in a cold, cruel manner. However I still could not help but feel sad for him instead of angry, and like most of the people who knew him, I too am willing to overlook his flaws in the face of his creative powers. I would certainly recommend this audiobook as an excellent biography which kept me fascinated and stirred my desire to revisit some of my favourite Dickens books again.

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Ken Nielsen on 05-11-12

An insightful story about a great writer

Any additional comments?

To me, the above categories are not very useful. We all know of Dickens but, I suspect, few of us know much about the man. After reading this book, we do. And we understand how he became the great storyteller that he was.
Not a great man, not even an admirable man in how he treated his family. Still, for me his novels become more understandable are reading this biography.

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3 out of 5 stars
By Jeff on 11-01-12

Just the facts mam.

I was sooo looking forward to this bio! Ive read all of dickens novels and have been dying for a good biography. If the facts are what your after, you will get them in this biography but the quality of the writing is mediocre and superficial. The author lacks the emotional connection to her subject that is evident in a good biography and whatever insights she portends to reveal from her research are lame, questionable and unconvincing. Throw in a rather boring narration (though to be fair he didnt have much to work with) and you get a let down. If your a major fan like me I would get it because his whole life is laid out for you but as a listening experience it left me kind of disappointed.

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0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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