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Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World Hardcover – 2 Feb 2012
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‘This is the book we have long been waiting for and only Simon Callow could have written it. The theatre was central to Dickens’s life, and it needed a skilled biographer to do justice to the subject. Simon Callow rises superbly to the challenge and the result is a marvellous book that really deepens and enriches our understanding and enjoyment of Dickens.’ Michael Slater
‘A comprehensive biography as enthralling as one of his own performances … A great achievement.’
Catherine Peters, Literary Review
‘Callow . . . writes with great authority and elegant insouciance, which makes this "biography with a twist" very entertaining.’ Independent on Sunday
‘By his enthusiasm for his subject, Callow has ensure that his book is a worthy addition to the Dickens studies.’ Sunday Express
‘vivid and exuberant… This book, with its fresh angles and out-of-the-way sources, is the harvest of [Callow’s] dedication [to impersonating Dickens on stage]… His book is a celebration, jubilant, vigorous, imaginative, and, as Dickens might have said, an all-round sizzler.’ John Carey, Sunday Times
‘Callow writes well about the “multiphrenia” or myriad-mindedness that [Dickens’s] acting unleashed’ The Observer
About the Author
Simon Callow is an actor, director and writer. He has appeared in many films, including the hugely popular Four Weddings and a Funeral. Callow’s books include Being an Actor, Shooting the Actor, a highly acclaimed biography of Charles Laughton, a biographical trilogy of Orson Welles (of which the first two parts have now been published) and Love is Where it Falls, an account of his friendship with the great play agent, Peggy Ramsay.
Top Customer Reviews
Like most people, I only knew Dickens from his works - having studied a couple at school (A Tale of Two Cities making quite an impact) and, of course, from the innumerable TV adaptions. The genius of Simon Callow's book is that it helps the reader to understand how those stories came about and, above all, how he came up with his remarkable characters.
This is not an exercise in hero worshipping - Callow doesn't shy away from including, in some detail, Dickens's flaws but the overriding impression is of a fierce tornado of unquenchable energy that, in the end, burned out in service of his public.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give is that this book has left me fascinated by Dickens and also in awe of him - not only as an author but also as a force of nature. Much like Callow himself.
The only negative is that I was slightly annoyed to find that the Kindle price is actually greater than that of the hardback. The bonus, however, was that I was able to use the built in dictionary to illuminate some of the more obscure words used by Callow and Dickens himself.
Callow doesn't shirk from telling us about the less flattering aspects of Dickens' life - his appalling treatment of his wife, for instance, and the occasional bullying of his poor publishers. But he also reminds us of the social campaigning and the generosity to family, friends and colleagues. The account is a linear one, so we find out what Dickens was involved in at the time of writing each of his novels and get a feel for the inspiration for each one.
Callow concentrates in considerable depth on Dickens the showman - the many theatrical performances he wrote for, played in and directed in his early life; and then the tremendous and punishing public readings of his own works which came to dominate so much of his later years. Here was an author who gave generously of himself to his adoring public and who thrived on the adulation he was shown in return.
I've been in love with Dickens the writer for most of my life and now having read this sparkling biography I have fallen in love with Dickens the man! If I tell you that I cried when Dickens died (not an altogether unexpected plot development) then it will give you some idea of how much of the humanity of the man Callow has managed to reveal.Read more ›
Callow examines all this with exquisite precision and sensitive care but what I find most valuable in this book is his focus on the theatrical elements and implications of how Dickens lived as well as wrote and even performed. He was a keen observer of human nature, constantly roaming the streets of London at all hours of the day and night. He also delighted in roaming the streets of foreign cities and towns, as well as the hills and meadows, whenever and wherever traveling. He had a keen eye for significant details, many of which he worked into his works of fiction and non-fiction. Dickens was indeed an eager and active citizen of what is correctly characterized as "the Great Theatre of the World." He was a great storyteller with an insatiable curiosity, to be sure, but also an eager and gifted "player" onstage or off.
There is one central theme in so much of what he personally experienced, then spoke and wrote about: life's injustices. For example, when he was eleven years old, his parents agreed to let him work in a shoe polish factory for ten hours a day, six days a week.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Haven't finished it yet, but it's very readable. Maybe he goes into a bit too much detail sometimes. Very theatrical style of writing. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Ann Austin
Gave me a whole new understanding of Dickens as a writer and a man, particularly the way his life was inextricably bound up with theatre, and his astonishing energy and life-force. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Steve Roche
Its all here - the full basics of Charles Dickens life, and the amazing energy he had and his incredibly full and varied life. Read morePublished 21 months ago by mintymoor
Simon Callow's book on Dickens is hard to read. It's as dense as a London fog. Shame because I love Dickens and Callow.
Nothing here that I haven't come across elsewhere. Read more
There have been countless biographies written about Charles Dickens since his death, and many of these make interesting reading. Read morePublished on 17 July 2014 by M. Dowden
For an actor (and a very good one at that) Simon Callow (no, not that one!) writes extremely well.
What marks this out from previous biographies of Charles Dickens, is... Read more