22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
This is a marvelous reference tool, not only for any lover of Dickens and his works, but also for anyone interested in the world he lived in. As well as the material one would expect in a work of this kind, there are articles on 'politics and politicians', 'poetry and poets of the period', 'law and legal institutions', 'readership: literacy and the reading public', 'plagiarism' and so on. (Many of these are substantial entries covering several pages.) Obviously these are viewed through the lens of Dickens' life and work, but they are often interesting, stand alone pieces in themselves. This is not simply a book that one consults to answer a specific query, but one which is really interesting to browse in: I can honestly say that I have yet to come across a page which was anything less than interesting and informative. Any figure who was of any significance in the novelists life has an entry with biographical information and details of the connection with Dickens.
At the heart of the book, of course, are the sections on the work. Each novel heading contains the following entries: inception and composition; contracts, text and publishing history; illustrations; sources and context; plot character and theme; reception (this latter giving a list of the most significant critical writings to pursue). Criticism is a significant stand alone section, but there are further entries relating to critics whose views have been significant in shaping the shifting landscape of reception, so Orwell and Chesterton have individual entries. Features of Dickens' approach to fiction, such as the sometimes hotly debated issue of his characterisation, are reviewed at length with the range of critical responses thoroughly explored.
No work of this kind can tell the curious reader everything one might wish to know, but this volume gives much of it, and, perhaps its greatest virtue, helps to point one in the direction where more can be explored.
A superb book, full of lightly worn scholarship and a bargain: if you admire Dickens, do not hesitate!
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2011
I remember this book the first time it appeared, under a slightly different title, back in the late 1990s, and remember also being disappointed I wasn't able to get the first edition. However, I did snap up the (lightly revised) paperback edition with its splendid Pickwickian cover; I still have that copy and won't be parting with it - it remains one of the least dust-gathering books on my shelves.
But I couldn't resist the lure of this Anniversary reissue, and hats off to those good folk at OUP for bringing it back into the public domain once more - may it never go out of print again.
Dickens is 200 years old on the 7th of February 2012, folks (order your bunting now!), and The Oxford Companion to Charles Dickens does what it says on the cover - offer perfect companionship for the celebrations (both public and private) and beyond. This is no mere dry-as-dust A-Z of facts (though it is arranged alphabetically - anything else would be madness); rather it is a vast compendium of mini essays all about the great man: his life, work, times and seemingly virtually everything else that came into the orbit of the 'Sparkler of Albion'. To dip in at random, the entry on 'penny dreadfuls' rubs shoulders with 'pets belonging to Dickens'; 'dramatizations' is next to 'drink', while 'madness, lunacy and insanity' is followed by 'magic lanterns' - these entries and all the rest are eminently, compulsively, addictively readable.
The facts are there if you want them - Dickens Family Tree, Maps, Alphabetical List of Characters, Time Chart - mostly as appendices; otherwise the 600+ pages consist of this vast store-house of "collective memory", as one reviewer previously put it. A less 'academic' academic book you could hardly wish to find; we are lucky to have it; and as Simon Callow says in his new foreword, "it is very good to have it back."
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 April 2014
I would not reccomend this book to any lover of Dickens, there are far better volumes obtainable going back many years.
The Oxford Readers Companion to Trollope is so much better and easy to use and much more fit for purpose. I was very disappointed