January 2, 2012 - Further delights from Dickens…
We promised you further recommendations for Dickens. Here are a few more of his works to encourage you to celebrate his anniversary year!
A Tale of Two Cities was Margaret Thatcher’s favourite book, and whether or not you approve of her Prime Ministership, you cannot fault her literary judgement in her enthusiasm for this wonderful story.
The two cities are London and Paris, and the time is that of the French Revolution. Dickens brings history to vibrant life as the backcloth to his intricately interwoven and colourful story, which carries the reader or listener along at a terrific pace while revealing unobtrusively the real moral battleground between man’s humanity and inhumanity. We think the opening and closing words (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” and “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”) are among the most memorable in all literature. It has been filmed many times, and there is a good version in the BBC Collection which we mentioned last time, but we think the best and most faithful dramatisation is still the 1958 black-and-white film with its superb cast led by Dirk Bogarde and Dorothy Tutin.
A Tale of Two Cities – audiobook, abridged, read by Anton Lesser
A Tale of Two Cities – audiobook, unabridged, read by Anton Lesser
A Tale of Two Cities – paperback (Wordsworth Classics)
A Tale of Two Cities - DVD, 1935 (Bogarde and Tutin), remastered 2007 – brilliant!
Little Dorrit, brilliantly dramatised and produced episodically by the BBC and now available on DVD, had the population of England glued to its television sets. When each episode ended, there was a sudden electricity crisis as everyone switched on kettles to make tea! It is not only a gripping and moving story but a withering exposé of the cant, humbug and seamier side of all levels of society in an age of tremendous change and development. Many things that have happened will happen again. We were horrified by how closely both Dickens’ description of the bureaucratic strangulation of enterprise and business parodied in the Circumlocution Office parallels the absurd world of the European Commission, while Merdle’s Bank is the original Ponzi scheme worthy of Madoff.
Little Dorrit - audiobook, abridged, read by Anton Lesser
Little Dorrit – audiobook, unabridged, read by Anton Lesser
Little Dorrit – paperback (Wordsworth Classics)
Little Dorrit – DVD (BBC 2008 production)
Little Dorrit – Blu-ray (BBC 2008 production)
Nicholas Nickleby was Dickens’ third novel, and we think one of his best. The story is utterly gripping and with its rich and varied cast of characters it exposes the good, bad and seamy side of all classes of society. Nicholas Nickleby and his befriending of the poor simple Smike is one of the most touching relationships in all literature.
Nicholas Nickleby – audiobook, abridged, read by Anton Lesser
Nicholas Nickleby – audiobook, unabridged, read by Anton Lesser
Nicholas Nickleby – paperback text (Wordsworth Classics)
The Pickwick Papers introduces us to the portly, wealthy, affable, kindly and unworldly Mr Pickwick, who is ably and wittily defended from disaster by his devoted servant Sam Weller. They are two of the most delightful and lovable characters in the whole of Dickens. Reading about the hilarious adventures of Pickwick and his Club, behind which there is the usual witty but highly perceptive observation of the humbug and folly of the age.
The Pickwick Papers – audiobook, abridged, read by Anton Lesser
The Pickwick Papers – audiobook, unabridged, read by David Timson
The Pickwick Papers – paperback text (Wordsworth Classics)
January 1, 2012 - Celebrate Charles Dickens’ 200th anniversary!
2012 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of England’s greatest novelist, and one of the greatest story-tellers in English the world has ever known. We hope you will celebrate the genius of “the master of smiles and tears” with us.
Those who have studied our English Speech and Pronunciation Course will not be surprised at a strong recommendation to soak yourself in Charles Dickens, who ranks among English novelists as highly as Shakespeare does among dramatists. His fertile imagination, his powers of observation and characterisation, his mastery of emotions, his command of language – all combine to make him the incomparable genius among English story-tellers. Dickens’ stories are designed to be read aloud as well as silently. The author himself packed countless halls for readings that he gave himself, and the eagerly awaited episodes of the many stories that came out first in monthly magazines were often read to the whole family by a father or mother.
There are excellent audiobook readings and filmed dramatisations of almost all the stories, and for those seeking complete immersion in this anniversary year we recommend the following, one set of audiobooks and one set of DVDs:
The audiobook collection of Dickens’ favourite novels, The Dickens Collection, read by Martin Jarvis, is excellent. It contains five abridged novels ‒ David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities and Nicholas Nickleby ‒ together with his most famous short story, A Christmas Carol. We think it is very good value!
The Dickens Collection – audiobook, abridged, read Martin Jarvis
Equally excellent among the collections of filmed dramatisations is The Charles Dickens BBC Collection containing The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Martin Chuzzlewit, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend. These beautifully filmed and acted productions, dated from 1977 to 1999, give you over 30 hours of compulsive viewing, and this collection is also very good value for money.
The Charles Dickens BBC Collection - 12 DVDs containing eight superb BBC productions
For those wishing to put a toe in the water before plunging in to a whole collection of Dickens there are very many audio-books and dramatisations (both radio and filmed) of the individual stories, but for anyone wanting simply to hear them beautifully read as books we strongly recommend Anton Lesser’s audio-book readings.
The whole of Dickens is downloadable virtually free of charge on Kindle, and there are nice, inexpensive paperbacks in the Wordsworth Classics series. But best of all is to find a lovely old hardback edition in a second-hand bookshop!
We shall have many more blogs about Charles Dickens, and if you are coming to him for the first time, we suggest that you start with David Copperfield and then follow our recommendations in the order we present them.
For the development of your English speech and pronunciation (as distinct from the enjoyment of hearing these wonderful stories beautifully read) we recommend that you follow the method of the Course and have a text to follow as you listen, though do be aware that many audiobooks are abridged and this can cause confusion. The text is best followed when you are listening to unabridged readings.
Our first recommendation…
David Copperfield, bursting with the most amazing characters, has a great deal of autobiography in it. It is no accident that the initials of the name of its hero, DC, are those of Charles Dickens in reverse. You could read or hear it a dozen times and never get bored by it.
David Copperfield - paperback text (Wordsworth Classics)
David Copperfield – audiobook (abridged) read by Anton Lesser
An unabridged version read by Nicholas Boulton is in preparation and we shall review it and give you details on our blog when it becomes available.
We recommend the stunning 1999 BBC television adaptation of David Copperfield, superbly filmed and brilliantly acted by a cast that includes Maggie Smith as Betsy Trotwood, Bob Hoskins as Mr Micawber, and the now internationally famous Daniel Radcliffe as the young David. It was in this film that Daniel Radcliffe made his acting debut at the age of ten before going on to gain great fame, wealth and acclaim as Harry Potter. This DVD is in the BBC Dickens Collection already mentioned, which is well worth having, but it is also available separately.
David Copperfield – DVD (superb BBC 1999 adaptation)