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Dickens: Abridged [Abridged] [Paperback]

Peter Ackroyd
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
RRP: £10.99
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Book Description

7 Mar 2002

Dickens was a landmark biography when first published in 1990. This specially edited shorter edition takes the reader into the life of one of the world's greatest writers.

Here, Ackroyd attempts to peel away the mask of a man whose life was outwardly a picture of Victorian rectitude, but whose love life was as complicated (and unconventional) as any modern writer's. Dickens had everything - fame, success and riches - but he died harbouring a deep sadness he had experienced all his life. He was a man of mercurial character, had enormous vitality and humour, but he also had a sense of loss and longing that would constantly appear in his work. Like many eminent Victorians, he led a double life: although he insisted that nothing in the newspapers he edited should upset his middle-class readers, he regularly indulged in dubious night-time escapades with fellow author Wilkie Collins, and, for the last 13 years of his life, kept a secret mistress.


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Dickens: Abridged + London: The Biography
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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Abridged edition edition (7 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099437090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099437093
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 126,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Ackroyd is the author of biographies of Dickens, Blake and Thomas More and of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River. Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet and historian. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

Product Description

Amazon Review

In this remarkable new biography, Peter Ackroyd offers a different view of Dickens to that presented in his earlier study of the author. In that book, Ackroyd's attempts to mimic the voice of the great writer were highly controversial, though some saw the book as a radical re-invention of the biography form. There is no arguing with the brilliant achievement of the more straightforward Charles Dickens: Public Life and Private Passion, however; the picture of Dickens and his complicated private life that emerges is fastidiously detailed and powerfully evocative, while Ackroyd's customary skill at creating a panoply of the city of London is as dazzling as ever (London, is, in fact, the subject of another biography by the author, who is unquestionably the keenest chronicler of the city's colourful history). Here, Ackroyd attempts to peel away the mask of a man whose life was outwardly a picture of Victorian rectitude, but whose love life was as complicated (and unconventional) as any modern writer. Dickens had everything--fame, success and riches--but he died harbouring a deep sadness he had experienced all his life. He was a man of mercurial character, had enormous vitality and humour, but he also had a sense of loss and longing that would constantly appear in his work. Like many eminent Victorians, he led a double life: although he insisted that nothing in the newspapers he edited should upset his middle-class readers, he regularly indulged in dubious night-time escapades with fellow author Wilkie Collins, and, for the last 13 years of his life, kept a secret mistress.

While presenting a warm but astringent portrait of the man who (along with George Eliot) can be classed as the greatest writer of his age, Ackroyd also masterfully recreates the relationship with the actress Ellen Ternan, a strong and intelligent woman (herself the subject of a biography by Claire Tomalin, The Inviisble Woman who, like her lover, outwardly observed the proprieties while living her real life behind closed doors. Ackroyd also vividly conjures the reality of Victorian life, the issues that sparked Dickens' fervent call for social reform, and the great landmarks of the time, which profoundly affected his life and work. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"The best biography of Charles Dickens which I have ever read... a thoroughly professional job. Dickens comes from it as a fiery, instinctive, complicated, uneasy man... Ackroyd soars above his predecessors in Dickens-study"--Robert Nye, Scotsman

"As scholarly as it is imaginative...fully worthy of its subject"--John Gross, Sunday Telegraph

"Full of diversions and lit by flashes of brilliance"--John Mortimer, Books of the Year, The Spectator

"Daring and utterly successful... A great book"--Literary Review

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Dickens Biography 3 Jun 2006
By M. D. Hart VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
When you first pick up this book in a bookshop or look at it online the first thing that hits you is obviously the size of it. From beginning to end Ackroyd's "Dickens" spans 1256 pages and to read it may seem like a daunting mission. This is not the case; Ackroyd is one of the best historical-biographial writers of our time and he knows how to make sure that long does not equal tedious. For fans and students of Dickens alike every word in this biography is essential; you may even find that you wish it was longer, I certainly did. The book chronicles everything Dickens from his birth through all of his works in periodicals and theatre to his sad and sudden death in 1870. To try and list the contents of this book would make the review over 200000 words long so i won't even try, but when I say everything I mean EVERYthing is in here from Dickens's family to his railway accident, his feelings, emotions, beliefs, experiences and relationships. There are also many caricatures and photographs of Dickens's life and times included, that add delight to what is already a wonderful read. If, however, you feel that 1300 pages really is too long but you still want to read Ackroyd's version of Dickens (which you should) try the abridged 500-page tie-in version that accompanied the BBC series in 2002. If you can manage the full version, you will not be disappointed.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings Dickens utterly to life 17 Dec 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I know that Peter Ackroyd has researchers working for him, so I assume the facts which he offers about Dickens are true. That being so, I greatly admire the way he so brilliantly weaves his material together, creating a picture of a living, breathing man - a genius who was irritating, temperamental, likeable, egocentric, self contradictory and generally almost impossible. Not only this but he puts Dickens in his period: he shows us what public life was like at the time and sketches in many individuals that Dickens knew, lived and worked with. He suggests what Dickens might have been aiming for at various times of his life, and what he might have felt and thought. There is inevitably some guesswork in this but after all, nobody can REALLY know another person, and Ackroyd's portrait, based as it is on research, probably contains more truth than the social front Dickens presented to most of the people who knew him personally. So I do believe this is the nearest we will ever get to understanding him, and highly recommend the book. By the way, this is the abridged version, but it is so illuminating and fascinating that I will now go and investigate the longer version.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Biography 16 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I was looking for a new Ackroyd to read when I stumbled across the only reader review of this magnificent biography - which gave a rating of one star!! I urge you not to take any notice of this curious judgement! 'Dickens' is one of the best biographies I have ever read, and a magnificent addition to Peter Ackroyd's magnificent bibliography. The writing style is wonderful, very reminiscent of Mr. Dickens himself, and the story of this great man's eventful life fascinates from beginning to end.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abridged Ackroyd 23 Aug 2011
By RR Waller TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
CAUTION - THERE ARE MANY ACKROYD BIOGRAPHIES OF DICKENS - AMAZON ALLOWS ONLY ONE REVIEW PER PRODUCT

Amazon's website structure allows only one review "per book" and Ackroyd's "Dickens" (to the software) is one book. (Not a criticism, just an observation on a curiosity. People reading reviews need to be aware that the reviews will appear on all books with this title and author but have been written on one of the many editions, some for children, some for adults, some "shorter" and others not.)

"DICKENS" - BBC, 1990 - cheap paperback, typical paperback paper, 600 pages

At 600 pages, I am reviewing the abridged edition, entitled "Dickens" published in 1990; the "original" was the basis for the very successful television series fronted by Peter Ackroyd.
I cannot think of two more suited and ideal companions - Peter Ackroyd and Charles Dickens. Both Londoners fascinated by London, writing most of their best work in the city with their subjects the city and its people. Dickens must be in the top few for having the most biographies written about him and it is to Ackroyd's credit that he manages to "come fresh" to the subject with new slants and information. It has two illustrated sections of his homes, the women in his life, some manuscripts and drawings and photographs of Dickens himself.
If you are looking for general information on Dickens this is ideal but, if your purpose is more specific, check his other biographies; this is the abridged version and there are longer with more detail but his is not to diminish Ackroyd's achievement.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens- A Biography of Note and Perception 15 April 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is the arch type biography, scholarly, brilliant research with a hint of mystery. It leaves room to develop your own thoughts but carries you along on a wave of enthusiasm and understanding for the great novelist of the early Victorian age.
The biography leaves you with a thirst for more, a need to explore the world , sights and sounds of the early Victorian city of London.
I frequently wondered about Dickens early life, its effect on his later development as a writer and considered the similarities with James Joyce who fell in love with his native Dublin but was so rarely there in his later life. He seemed to have a need to travel as appeared so apparent with Dickens.
This biography is one of the finest from a master of the genre. Buy it, read it and enjoy it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
everything ok
Published 28 days ago by solquest
5.0 out of 5 stars Ackroyd or Tomalin?
I read all 1083 pages of the Ackroyd biography in 1991, and I have just finished Claire Tomalin's excellent 417 pages. Both are excellent. Read more
Published 3 months ago by David Poyser
5.0 out of 5 stars The Inimitable in brief
I`m always suspicious when someone (usually a critic) says they read a book `in one sitting` as, with most books, that`s a physical impossiblility. Read more
Published 10 months ago by GlynLuke
3.0 out of 5 stars a ponderous tome
Peter Ackroyd quotes Dickens' own comment that 'trifles make the sum of life', and it's a thought he returns to a number of times. Read more
Published on 2 July 2012 by gille liath
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Brilliant'
Having been a Dickens fan since as along as I can remember, this book was purchased for me as a Christmas gift. Read more
Published on 15 Jan 2012 by blueeyedchick
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Biography?
I pose this title as a question, since I can't quite claim to have read all the others. But seriously, though, this is certainly the greatest biography I have ever read, and,... Read more
Published on 14 Nov 2011 by Keith M
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens - the greates
I love anything about Dickens and this book didn't disappoint. It was a detailed account of his life (with pictures)and times, told in an easy to read manner. Read more
Published on 2 Jun 2011 by E. A. Day
4.0 out of 5 stars Massively detailed, insightful and enjoyable
Exhaustive (and, at well over a thousand pages, sometimes exhausting) biography of possibly the greatest novelist of the 19th century. Read more
Published on 27 Feb 2011 by Jeremy Bevan
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Dickens
I started by reading the one-star review, and I sympathise with the writer, because I know how it feels when you feel that a book stinks. Only I didn't feel it here at all. Read more
Published on 27 Mar 2010 by John Davison
3.0 out of 5 stars What the dickens
OK, so I am only a little way into this book at the moment, but so far it seems to be that the writer spends a lot of time trying to fit parts of Dickens' early life into the books... Read more
Published on 11 Feb 2010 by Strollingby
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