Sometimes I read a book which makes me very jealous and leaves me thinking “Oh, if only I’d written that book!”
One such book was What Matters in Jane Austen? Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved by John Mullan. It is one of the best books ever written about the genius of Jane Austen’s fiction. But now, Professor Mullan has done it again, with The Artful Dickens: The Tricks and Ploys of the Great Novelist. I wish I’d written that book too. His prose is lucid and convincing, his knowledge of Dickens is phenomenal, and he made me see the great Boz’s works in new and fascinating ways.
Reading this book made me want to return to Dickens, as it is quite some years since I read his works. The very best way to experience Dickens is to listen to his books on audio – he wrote with the aim of his books being read aloud, and they are superb on audio when read by Martin Jarvis, Miriam Margolyes, Simon Callow or Juliet Stevenson. I think I might begin with Dombey and Son, which I last read as a student at the University of Edinburgh.
You may enjoy this video of John Mullan in conversation with Patrick Millikin of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore discussing this book.