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Written for publication as a serial, The Pickwick Papers is a sequence of loosely-related adventures. The novel's main character, Mr. Samuel Pickwick, Esquire, is a kind and wealthy old gentleman, and the founder and perpetual president of the Pickwick Club. To extend his researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life, he suggests that he and three other "Pickwickians" (Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Tracy Tupman) should make journeys to remote places from London and report on their findings to the members of the club. Their travels throughout the English countryside provide the chief theme of the novel.
Its main literary value and appeal is formed by its numerous memorable characters. Each character in The Pickwick Papers, as in many other Dickens novels, is drawn comically, often with exaggerated personalities. Alfred Jingle provides an aura of comic villainy. His misadventures repeatedly land the Pickwickians in trouble. These include Jingle's elopement with the spinster, Aunt Rachael of Dingley Dell manor, misadventures with Dr. Slammer, and others.
"[T]he great example of everything that made Dickens great....[a] supreme masterpiece." (G. K. Chesterton)
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sand on 07-13-13
Silly, Corny, Delightful 'Dickens Lite'
Everyone seems to have a different impression of Charles Dickens, depending on how many of his 15 novels they've read (or movie and/or BBC adaptations they've watched).
I decided to listen to all of his novels chronologically, and, technically this is his first.
I say technically because, although all of his novels were serialized, subsequent ones become much more cohesive--written more like chapters of a continuing story/ modern novel-- rather than individual episodes with familiar characters.
In other words, if you think of a sitcom vs. an HBO series, Pickwick Papers is a sitcom, both in structure and depth. Over the chapters, the adventures and situations vary, but the core cast is consistent, with "guest" characters coming in and out. And as sometimes happens, one introduced character (Sam Weller) clicks so well he becomes not only a regular cast member, but also a clear fan favorite.
As with any sitcom, a continuing plot (or lack thereof) isn't the point--it's all about the characters and setting, and-- although Dickens will become fairly proficient at plotting later in his career--characters and settings will always be his natural wheelhouse and earliest claim to fame.
And that's why his stuff is such a pleasure to listen to---it was meant to be read aloud, and Simon Prebble is a total pro. His accents and character differentiation are pitch-perfect.
For me, the biggest draw here is the detailed glimpse into mid-19th century English life, albeit a comically idealized one. (Milk punch, curling papers, meat pies, harrowing carriage accidents...)
Either you're really into this stuff our you aren't, but if you are, I highly recommend you supplement your listening by downloading the digitized original print version (with illustrations) from Google Books or iBooks (it's free/public domain) so you can see the illustrations that inspired the stories.
30 of 30 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Peter on 07-01-11
A quite brilliant performance
I feel inadequately qualified to offer any critique on any of the writings of England's greatest novelist. The fact that they can be read &/or listened to and thoroughly enjoyed over 150 years after they were written is testimony itself to the quality of the work.
I must, however, pay tribute in this instance to quite brilliant narration by Simon Prebble.
It was truly superb throughout.
His diction & pronunciation is faultless and his impressive range of accents for the various characters who appear in this wonderful collection of tales was so brilliantly done that it there is never any confusion over who said what & to whom!
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
By Linda on 02-23-15
It was a very enjoyable listen. I have always intended to read dickens but have been put off by the length of the main novels and have only read some of the short stories. I'm very pleased that I am now able to listen to the books in unabridged version because not only are the stories good but I can also hear the beauty of Charles Dickens prose.i especially like the fact that all the loose ends were tied up in the last chapter.(something which I don't remember from the various adaptations I have heard).
2 of 2 people found this review helpful