There are 7 novels written by Charles Dickens on the high school AP reading list. This is more than any other author on the list. Arguably, Charles Dickens is one of the most notable novelists of all time.
The 7 novels on the AP reading list are: Bleak House, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Hard Times, Oliver Twist, Our Mutual Friend, and A Tale of Two Cities.
His novel, A Tale of Two Cities, is one of my favorite books, and everyone is familiar with Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. My kids all loved reading Great Expectations, so I decided that it was about time that I read it, too.
My daughter, Katy, loves the character of Pip and ranks him up there with with Mr. Darcy (from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) as one of her favorite male characters. In my opinion, Pip does not hold a candle to Mr. Darcy, but that’s another story.
So, if it’s been awhile since you’ve read a Dickens novel, you might consider picking one up. Here are some fun facts about this author.
Picture of Charles Dickens from Wikipedia
1) Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, nearly 200 years ago, in Portsmouth, England.
2) Dickens was the 2nd child out of eight born to John Dickens and Elizabeth Barrow. He was born in England and lived in and around London his entire life.
3) Dickens lived during the Victorian era, a time of great change in England and the world. The industrial revolution was dawning and the rise of the middle class was breaking down barriers of class.
4) Dickens’ father spent some years in debtor’s prison resulting in Charles having to work in a boot blacking factory pasting labels on shoe polish. Dickens’ mother kept him working in this factory even after his father’s debts were relieved thus fostering Dickens’ generally low opinion of women (think Mrs. Joe Gargery, Pip’s sister, in Great Expectations). These experiences had a profound impact on Dickens’ life and attitudes with regard to the hardships of the poor and social reform. Later in his life, Dickens did become involved in the establishment of a home for “fallen women” as well as a hospital charity for poor children. The stories he heard from people provided sources of material for his writings.
5) Dickens had a photographic memory, and he did receive formal schooling eventually becoming a freelance reporter and an author. He became famous at 25 years old with the publication of The Pickwick Papers and was very prolific publishing over 30 books and publications including one which was unfinished at his death, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Variously, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist are cited as being his best works.
6) Like many of the authors of his day, most of his novels were published in serialized form in magazines. He was famous for the cliffhanger – leaving his readers anxiously waiting for the next installment of his writings. In later years, Dickens would become involved in the theatre and public readings of his stories.
7) Dickens’ first love was a woman named Maria Beadnell, but her parents disapproved of their courtship and sent her to Paris thus ending their relationship.
8) The novel, David Copperfield, is considered Dickens most autobiographical work, and the character, Dora, was said to be modeled after Maria. Many of Dickens’ characters were modeled after family members and others he met and knew throughout his life.
9) Charles Dickens was married to Catherine Thomson Hogarth. They had 10 children – 7 boys and 3 girls. They were separated in 1858 but never divorced. Divorce, particularly for someone as famous as he had become, was unthinkable during this era.
10) In 1857, Dickens met an actress, Ellen Ternan, who many believe became his mistress. Dickens and Ternan destroyed much of Dickens’ correspondence so most of the evidence for this came from Dickens’ daughter, Kate.
11) Dickens made two trips to American, but became increasingly frail and ill eventually dying of a stroke at the age of 58 on June 9, 1870.
12) Charles Dickens is buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey in London.
13) “As a writer who drew attention to the hardships borne by the socially deprived and who advocated the abolition of the slave trade, he [Charles Dickens] won enduring fame and gratitude and today, more than 110 years later, a wreath is still laid on his tomb on the anniversary of his death each year.” (Citation from www.westminsterabbey.org).
I think Dickens’ attention to social issues as reflected in his novels is what continues to make him an author that has withstood the test of time and worthwhile reading to this day.