24 August 2006
I have a like/hate relationship with Charles Dickens's novels. Some of them drive me batty - particularly Great Expectations. It's the only novel which has been spoilt for me by having to study it far too many times at school and as part of my Literature degree. (I am not someone who found studying novels got in the way of my enjoyment of them; quite the opposite in fact.)
I think the reason that I find it hard to love his work is that for me his novels lack intimacy. I can't get close to his characters. I can't get wound up in their emotional journey because there is so damn much going on. It's all too much - too many caricatures, too much detail, too many plot twists and turns. This is entirely a matter of taste, of course.
But there are some Dickens novels I have enjoyed: threads of stories that do capture my imagination or amuse me. The household of Betsy Trotwood in David Copperfield comes to mind. I'm also enjoying the BBC adaptation of Bleak House - just about to end here in Australia - although it took me a while to get into it (Anna Maxwell Martin's subtle and lovely portrayal of Esther is what's done it). I might even pick the novel up again after many years and read it.