Dickens from the Start, No. 1

So, I've been thinking: the bicentenary of Charles Dickens' birth is next year, on the 7th February, and I'd really, really like to do something to commemorate it on this blog, Dickens being awesome and all. Also, I really wish I'd read more of his books by now than I have. 

Having mulled this over for a few weeks (can you see where I might be going with this?), the answer suddenly became clear - the best way to commemorate Dickens, or any writer, is to read, comment on and discuss his work, so that's what I'm going to do! I'm going to read Dickens from start to finish and talk about it on this blog, charting the changes in his political thinking, his writing style and personal life along the way. 

It shall be known as Dickens from the Start.

Here is the detail of the task:

  1. I am going to read all of Dickens' books that are classed as novels by the Dickens Fellowship, therefore excluding his short stories, non-fiction, poetry and plays, with the exception of 'A Christmas Carol', which earns a place amongst his longer tomes thanks to its ubiquitous and enduring popularity. This means I have 16 books to read - 14 classic novels, 'A Christmas Carol' and the incomplete 'Mystery of Edwin Drood'. 
  2. I am  going to read them all by the 13th August 2013, which is the day that the new statue of Charles Dickens will be unveiled as part of the International Dickens Fellowship Conference in Portsmouth next year. It is the first statue of Dickens to ever be erected in the UK and I like the idea of it being in Portsmouth, which is the city of his birth (and not too far from me). 
  3. I will read only paperback editions, as cheaper editions seem more in keeping with his egalitarian vision of literature and life. I will also, as far as possible, read one copy from each publisher to have Dickens' books in print, excluding those that are particularly expensive, obscure or difficult to obtain. The only book I already have in my possession is the Penguin Classics 2005 edition of 'Oliver Twist, so that's Penguin Classics out, but the rest of them are up for grabs.
  4. I will, as one might expect, talk about each book on this blog as I read them, linking them all with the 'Dickens from the Start' tag.
So, I guess that's it! I would love it if other people wanted to join in too. By my estimation, there are 324 days left until the 13th August 2012, which gives us an average of 20.25 days per book, (presuming they're all the same length, which they aren't) which I'm sure you'll agree seems eminently do-able! Or at least suitably daunting to be worth having a crack at.

I want to finish my current book ('The Woman in White' by Wilkie Collins, which actually has quite a strong Dickens link) and then I will begin. 'Pickwick Papers' will be first, at a totally non-intimidating 784 pages. Easy.

Wish me luck! I'll report back once I've made a start.
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