a tale of two cities

January – Charles Dickens Month: Dickens and Collins

7th February 2012 is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. To mark the occasion Amanda at Fig and Thistle is hosting January – Charles Dickens Month. As Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors, I couldn’t resist plunging into it.

Today’s post is about Dickens and CollinsCharles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, contemporaries, friends and authors whom I enjoy reading.

*These are my personal opinions. No offence is meant to anyone.*

Comparisons between Charles dickens and Wilkie Collins are inevitable. They were contemporaries and very close friends. As a big fan of Victorian Literature, I have read both with deep enthusiasm.

I personally feel that Collins was sometimes less sure about what he wanted to do. For example, in The Moonstone he came across as a bit  preachy. At times his social commentary overburdened his narrative and sometimes the light, entertaining side took over more completely. It’s like a play of shadow and light. On the other hand, when Collins set out to entertain, without trying to provide any social commentary, he was superb! I absolutely adore his The Queen of Hearts!

Dickens seemed much more confident about how he wanted to deal with the issues important to him (child labour, the condition of prisons, the judiciary system etc, etc,) and how and when to entertain.  For example, his Great Expectations, where the sadness of Pip’s situation is enlivened by a few interludes such as the scenes at Mr. Wopsle’s great aunt’s school and Mr. Wemmick’s division of his personal and professional life. But one side never overshadowed the other.

With Dickens the characters are such a big part of the plots that long after the book is over one remembers their personalities. How can I forget Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities or even someone like Mrs Lirriper from Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings? Some of  Collins’s characters are memorable (Count Fosco from The Woman in White comes to mind) but many seem kind of undermined by the main story. I often forget the names of the male and female lead of  The Moonstone.

For me, Dickens is superior of the two at least in these two aspects.


January – Charles Dickens Month: My Favourites

7th February 2012 is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. To mark the occasion Amanda at Fig and Thistle is hosting January – Charles Dickens Month. As Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors, I couldn’t resist plunging into it.

Today’s post is about My Favourite books by Charles Dickens.








A Tale of Two Cities and The Pickwick Papers are two of my earliest Charles Dickens reads. And these two remain my all time favourites. A Tale of Two Cities I have read quite a few times. With each read I discover something new, a new layer of meaning that I had missed on my previous reads. The Pickwick Papers I have read only once. I laughed so hard at the funny parts and the more poignant parts moved me. But the length of The Pickwick Papers has prevented me from re-reading it. The thought of carrying it around is what daunts me the most. One of these days I will get back to it.

Great Expectations I have learned to love more with time. The first time I read it I liked it but didn’t understand all of it. But with re-reads I discovered how deep the book is. Pip’s journey took a new meaning for me; Miss Havisham became one of the most interesting characters and Estella one of the strangest literary heroines I have ever met on the pages of a book.

Hard Times is a much maligned book for no apparent reason. I liked it when I read it in 2010. It is very short and one of the most unusual works of Dickens. It does not have the humour of the rest of Dickens’s books but it is special in its own way.


I have also enjoyed some of Dickens’s more obscure works like Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings, Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy and A House To Let. These were first published in Christmas editions of Dickens’s All the Year Round and Household Words magazines. I loved the general light heartedness of Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings and Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy. A House To Let is a collaborative effort by Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell and Adelaide Anne Procter so it’s not a pure Charles Dickens creation but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Booking Through Thursday: Interview, Part 2

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks several questions. Let’s get started:

1. What’s your favourite time of day to read?

Ans: When I travel to and fro from my workplace.

2. Do you read during breakfast? (Assuming you eat breakfast.)

Ans: No. I do eat breakfast but I am usually (barely) half awake at the time.

3. What’s your favourite breakfast food? (Noting that breakfast foods can be eaten any time of day.)

Ans: Toast and egg white.

4. How many hours a day would you say you read?

Ans: Anywhere from two to six hours.

5. Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago?

Ans: I definitely read less. 10 years ago, I would devour entire books without batting an eyelid but now it takes me about a week to finish one book.

6. Do you consider yourself a speed reader?

Ans: I used to be. Now, occasionally I do regain my old speed but most of the time I feel too distracted by other things to speed read anymore.

7. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Ans: I wish I could read people’s minds. Understanding people is so hard at times!

8. Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go?

Ans: Yes. I carry two. So that in case I finish one I have a ‘back up’ book.

9. What KIND of book?

Ans: Any kind really. I prefer lighter books as they are easier to carry. Chunkier books are for home reading.

10. How old were you when you got your first library card?

Ans: Ten, I think.

11. What’s the oldest book you have in your collection? (Oldest physical copy? Longest in the collection? Oldest copyright?)

Ans: Oldest physical copies are I think 1965-66 editions of my dad’s books which are now in my possession. Longest in the collection I think is my copy of A Tale of Two Cities (if I disregard all of my childhood books that is). Oldest copyright? I have no idea!

12. Do you read in bed?

Ans: yes. I love to read in bed!

13. Do you write in your books?

Ans: No. Even if I do, I do it neatly with a pencil. Doodling or writing in books is a major no-no for me.

14. If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be?

Ans: Read whatever you feel like. Don’t listen to anyone else’s opinion about what ‘you’ should be reading.

15. What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask? (Actually, leave the answer to this one in the comments on this post, huh? So I can find them when I need inspiration!)

Ans: Oh boy! I can’t think of any. I am no good in things like this. 🙂

Great questions! Loved participating.

January – Charles Dickens Month: My First Charles Dickens

7th February 2012 is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. To mark the occasion Amanda at Fig and Thistle is hosting January – Charles Dickens Month. As Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors, I couldn’t resist plunging into it.

Today’s post is about My First Charles Dickens book and how I came into the world of Charles Dickens.

It was my birthday. I was now ten years old. As the birthday girl, I got to have a treat. I could buy any book I wanted. I was pretty excited. But then trips to the bookstore always were (and still are) exciting for a bookworm like me. I wanted Wuthering Heights but my mother wouldn’t let me have it. So, I picked A Tale of Two Cities instead. I had no idea what the book was about but I knew who Charles Dickens was and I wanted to read his more ‘grown up’ books.

I breathlessly finished the book and mostly failed to grasp what was going on. All I knew was that I had fallen in love with the prose. I knew this was something special. Thus began my life long love for the prose of Charles Dickens.

Since then I have re-read A Tale of Two Cities several times. I have understood it far better with time and have grown to deeply love and appreciate it. Sydney Carton has become my all time favourite tragic hero. Each time I find another layer of meaning within it. Even after all this time A Tale of Two Cities remains as fresh as ever. My first Charles Dickens remains close to my heart.

Five Best Books: Unconventional Heroes

In this week’s 5 Best Books we are asked to list our Five Best Books: Unconventional Heroes. Now, I for one love unconventional heroes. People who are not what they seem, who are insignificant in the eyes of the world but try to live their lives with dignity or become heroes inspite of adverse situations are heroes in my book.

.1.   Charles Chipping from Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton – Mr. Chips is a mild mannered, very average man but he more than once rises to the occasion and shows courage. I especially love the scene where he reads aloud a list of the school’s alumni who have fallen in the battlefield. In spite of objections from everyone, he includes the name of a former master who died while fighting for the opposing side. He chooses to remember the man as a friend and not as an enemy; he decides to remember the friendship they once had.

2.  Severus Snape from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling – Even if Cassandra hadn’t mentioned him in her post, I still would have put him on my list. Ever since the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something unusual about the man. Of course, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, proved what a complex character Severus Snape was.  If ever there was an unconventional hero, Snape is the one.

3.  David, the policeman from A Kiss for Cinderella by J. M. Barrie – The character of the policeman is so unlike a romantic hero. He is an unimaginative, unromantic man. He couldn’t possibly understand ‘Cinderella’s imaginary world. But all the same he sympathizes with her and even ends up saving her life. His love for the poor, plain looking, possibly unbalanced ‘Cinderella’ makes him one of my top unconventional heroes.

4.    Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – A deeply unhappy alcoholic of a dubious character, Sydney Carton ends up overshadowing the more conventional hero Charles Darnay.

5.  Mr Harley Quin from The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie – One of the more unusual and underrated creations of Agatha Christie, Mr. Quin, is a friend of lovers, an otherworldly presence. He comes and leaves without any explanation, appears at the edge of a cliff or in an empty train compartment. He never does anything concrete but helps everyone in a most subtle way. A strangely unconventional hero, in my opinion.