#Victober Update - The Pickwick Papers

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The Pickwick Papers
Charles Dickens
Published 1837
#Victober Readathon

The Pickwick Papers is Dickens' first novel and widely regarded as one of the major classics of comic writing in English. Originally serialised in monthly instalments, it quickly became a huge popular success with sales reaching 40,000 by the final part.

From the hallowed turf of Dingley Dell Cricket Club to the unholy fracas of the Eatanswill election, via the Fleet debtor’s prison, characters & incidents sprang to life from Dickens’s pen, to form an enduringly popular work of ebullient humour & literary invention.

In the century and a half since its first appearance, the characters of Mr Pickwick, Sam Weller and the whole of the Pickwickian crew have entered the consciousness of all who love English literature in general, and the works of Dickens in particular.

It's taken me ages to write this review. I finished the book over a week ago - but it turns out reviewing Dickens is even harder than reading him.

That said, this was the complete opposite of what I was expecting. It was utterly different to what I thought I was opening up - the only thing I got right is that it's long. 900 pages, to be exact. But it's not the dull, bleak, depressing book I was waiting for - instead, it's light-hearted, funny and a joy to read.

This is Dickens' first book - definitely one of his most neglected, but certainly not bad. It follows the middle class Pickwick club travelling all over the country, getting themselves into all kinds of scrapes and situations. It never take itself seriously, and as soon as you get over the (dated) writing style the whole experience become... enjoyable.

There's some parts, even today, that I found pretty funny. Laugh out loud, snort tea through your nose, kind of funny. It's slapstick and light-hearted - but I never thought it got too carried away. Originally published in 19 separate episodes, and then compiled into a single novel, there are some chapters that are a little drier than others. However, the book always somehow manages to pick itself back up and continue to delight.

I think this is perfect if you want to get a foothold into the Dickens novels. It really could be called a collection of short stories - it almost is. The plot jumps around from place to place, and is often interspersed with stories narrated by minor characters (of which there are many). It's not the stereotypical Dickens, which I found slightly disappointing, but I found reading this useful to get used to his style before moving on to some of his chunkier works.

I didn't find the story as well-written as some of the later novels, and somehow I didn't feel an urge to want to finish the story quite like I do with some of his later books. That said, though, it's full of brilliant characters from start to finish and provides a wonderful first step into the world of Dickens.

Have you read any Dickens?

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