Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 1, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation: From Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, to …

O what a lovely starter book for #6Degrees this month, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol tra-la-la-la la, la-la-la!

I love Charles Dickens’ novels.  Unlike most people, I didn’t begin with A Christmas Carol or The Pickwick Papers, I began at age ten with A Child’s History of England, set as an eye exercise for me by an ophthalmologist who had specified that I had to read something with small print for 15 minutes every day.  My parents had the complete Odhams set in their distinctive red boards with an impossibly small font (size 8 or 9, I think), so that’s what I read!

(This edition also included under the title Christmas Stories, a rather un-Christmassy collection comprising

  • The Seven Poor Travellers
  • The Holly Tree
  • The Wreck of the Golden Mary
  • The Perils of Certain English Prisoners
  • The Haunted House
  • A Message from the Sea
  • Tom Tiddler’s Ground
  • Somebody’s Luggage
  • Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings and Mrs Lirriper’s Legacy
  • Doctor Marigold’s Prescriptions, and
  • Mugby Junction.

This collection did not include A Christmas Carol which has its own volume padded out with ‘Reprinted Pieces’.)

Anyway I went on to read all 14 titles of the Dickens we had, —culminating in the final year of my B.A. with choosing Dickens as the author for my major essay, which meant I read them all twice over that year.  Once over the Christmas holidays beforehand, then steadily during the year as well.  That was a marathon… comparable with my marathon reading of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake last year, which I read, chapter-by-chapter, recording my (mis)adventures over 19 posts, beginning in March and finishing in December.  It is the longest time I have ever taken to read just one book.  (And no, I don’t pretend to understand it, and feel deeply suspicious of anyone who claims to do so).

Of course, I read other things while reading FW because a book like that needs to be balanced by other less demanding reading.  I’m having the same issue with my current book which is the 1000 page trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter, set in fourteenth-century Norway, by Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset.  I have just finished Book Two (phew!) and am surviving because I’m reading other things as well.  I’ve just finished Pip Smith’s Voss-shortlisted Half Wild (my review on its way is here).

Now, I don’t want to misrepresent Half Wild as being about a transgender person because it’s about more than that, but it is one of the growing number of books which either explore gender identity or include LGBTQIA identity in the characterisation.  So I have included Half Wild amongst my Gay/Lit LGBTQIA books category, where its closest relation is Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.  That was written from an entirely different angle, but Pip Smith explores some of the same ideas about gender discrimination in Orlando in her novel, when —in an altogether different place and time—her character finds that a man can earn a living wage while a woman can’t.

That reminds me of Mr Hogarth’s Will (1865)by Catherine Helen Spence.  It’s a brilliant novel which exposed with heart-breaking clarity how even when women were educated to take their place among men in satisfying, appropriately paid employment, there were numerous other barriers to prevent it.  That will certainly be among my best books of 2018 because I am always talking about it, whenever I get the chance.

So that’s my #6Degrees: from one 19th century story with a moral to another!

Thanks to Kate at Books are my Favourite and Best for hosting, and to Sue at Whispering Gums for the reminder!

Image credit: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Photographer: Heritage Auctions, Inc. Dallas, Texas – http://historical.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No=683&Lot_No=57424&type=&ic=, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4581655

 


Responses

  1. An intriguing chain Lisa – and one that reminds me that I really should read the Spence.

    Interestingly A Christmas Carol was about my third Dickens. My first, Great expectations put me off him for a while, though my second, A tale of two cities, recovered the situation. It took me three goes, though, and as many decades to finally like Great expectations. Now, I think it’s a great book.

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    • I think you would love the Spence. I want to read more of her work, especially now that I’ve got her Ever Yours, C H Spence, which is her autobiography, her diary and some letters…
      The flaw, IMO in Great Expectations, is Estella, who is a tiresome and not very credible character. For me the interest is in how Pip loses his way when his social mobility unravels him from his relationships.

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      • Yes, I think it was Estella which tripped me up each time.

        I remember Janine posting on Ever yours last year I think? I’ve mentioned Spence several times on my blog, but have still yet to read her. Mea culpa.

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        • Yes, Janine has reviewed it. Which is why I wanted to read it too:)

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    • Our reactions to those Dickens novels is so different …. I just can’t get into Tale of Two Cities at all. i’ve tried three times to read it but can never finish it. Great Expectations though is a treasured favourite

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      • My mother didn’t like Dickens at all. I do think he’s a love-it-or-hate-it author, and maybe more so these days when readers have less familiarity with a C19th styles of writing?

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        • He is indeed – I’m told by some readers that they just didn’t get him when they were young but as they became more mature he made more sense

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          • Yes, I think younger readers whose reading has mostly been contemporary writing would struggle a bit with any kind of C19th writing. But once it becomes familiar,C19th British writing is mostly great.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Finnegan’s Wake, I haven’t read it, bit I went with Aunt to the National Theatre and listened to it in a one woman show, without any preparation or forethought, which is probably the best way to do it. It was like an intense language immersion, that over the course of the evening gradually began to make some kind of sense, unforgettable.

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    • Absolutely that’s the way to do it. I had an audio recording of it in a gorgeously playful Irish accent that I played over and over during the morning commute….

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      • Yes it must be listened to, the body language and facial intensity of the actress also helped, she made it something between an intense solo dance and sport, mentally and physically exhausting!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You made me remember my own experience of reading Kristin Lavransdatter in the middle of winter a couple of years ago. I had a time limit to push me on with my journey through it as I was determined to fit it into my month of Nordic reading. I was going to suggest you wait till January with the last volume – and then realised that of course you’re currently heading into summer!

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    • LOL Shoshi, indeed we are heading that way, it was 30 deg yesterday!
      But yes, all that snow, and the descriptions of moving around in it, and having to rug up just to set foot outside. Norway is *off* my bucket list except maybe for a day or two in summer, and then of course *sigh* it would be full of tourists…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. nice chain! Here is mine: https://wordsandpeace.com/2018/12/01/six-degrees-of-separation-christmas-in-monte-cristo/

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  5. I admire your reading projects – I have a short attention span for big reads, despite best intentions.

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    • But you’re studying! The short-attention-span trash I read while I was studying (which I did for ten years part-time after I’d finished my first degree) was so forgettable I can’t even remember the titles or authors, much less what the books were about.

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  6. That is a unique pathway to discovering Dickens. Even if it did not work as an eye exercise there were other bonuses.

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    • Oh, it did work as an eye exercise. I threw away my glasses when I was 16, and got by without them altogether until I needed reading glasses about ten years ago and even now I only need them for reading and driving. Pretty good for the four-year-old the English doctors had said would soon be completely blind…

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  7. I’m exhausted just thinking about reading a 1,000 page book. But then I was also in awe when you tackled Finnegan’s Wake with such determination….

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    • LOL I’m exhausted too, with the Undset. I know I ‘should’ love it because she’s the first female Nobel etc, but I don’t. The trouble is, now that I’m sucked in, I still have to read to the end to see what happens to her luckless heroine…

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      • I’ve come to the conclusion that I will not struggle with any book I am not enjoying. I have too little time left on this planet to spend it not in enjoyment

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        • And mostly, I’m with you there. But now that I’ve re-read Book 1, Undset’s writing is becoming clearer to me. She has such a wealth of characters that it can be a bit overwhelming, and the religiosity in Bk 2 is a pain, but Book 1 is actually much better than I thought first time round.

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          • You certainly have determination and will power

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  8. Reblogged this on LIVING THE DREAM.

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