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Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World Hardcover – 2 Feb 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000744530X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007445301
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 3.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 531,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

‘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.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Simon Callow is well known as an actor but deserves to be even better known as a writer. His insights and interpretations. Into the man and the writer are shrewd and witty. Callow the actor turned writer is a mirror image of Dickens the writer turned actor. But I'm sure Mr Callow is aware of the neatness.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Magnificent book
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By Kev Partner VINE VOICE on 2 Mar. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Unlike other reviewers, I knew next to nothing about Dickens before reading this book. I was immediately caught up with Callow's excitement and passion for the man but, more than anything else, with the remarkable man that Dickens was.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I cannot recommend Simon Callow's book highly enough. I wanted a history of Dickens to fill out my understanding of the man and his life, hopefully to add depth and enjoyment of my reading of his books. Mr Callow breathes life and vibrancy into Dicken's life. The book flows quickly and effortlessly. You feel you are there with Dickens, feeling every experience with him. There maybe more in depth and technical histories, but none more accessible!
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By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Mar. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Callow has written a superbly readable and affectionate account of the great man's life, viewing it from the perspective of how Dickens' love for the world of the theatre influenced his life and work. Interspersed generously with Dickens' own words, taken from his correspondence with friends, we get a real feel for his massive personality, his sense of fun, his unstoppable energy and, yes, his occasional pomposity too.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book that Charles Dickens would have loved to read because it possesses in Simon Callows' narrative style all of the energy, passion, enthusiasm, and joy that Dickens found when interacting with others, especially his closest friends who included John Forster, Thomas Carlyle, and William Makepeace Thackeray. If his personal and professional lives were viewed as a stage, it was far less pleasant because he could not - despite massive effort - accommodate all the draining demands from family members (notably his parents and especially his father) as his fame and wealth grew.

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.
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