The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens


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After one month in its pages, I have finished The Pickwick Papers. It is part of my 2019 Classic Novel Challenge, one of the longer ones on the list. I’m unable to critique writing by my favorite author. How can I nitpick the gripping prose, the humorous twists and turns, the delightful poetry?

I cannot criticize work by Charles Dickens, so instead I will continue wishing I could write like him.

If I were to write like Charles Dickens, I imagine I would focus on the characters. There are so many, and the author follows many of their storylines. This way, we can see him weaving an elaborate world. How could I follow so many characters at once? If I wanted to write like him, I would need to practice having an eye on each and every one of them.

There would be a past for every traitor, a flaw for every hero. I would make readers hesitate to judge anyone harshly. I would give even the most unlikeable characters their humanity. Dialogue would be a treat to read because of my attention to dialect, the nuances that separate one protagonist from the other.

With enough detail, the most fantastic main character will feel real.

I would use words to bring out the chasm between the wealthy and poor, the places no one wants to go and the places everyone wants to be. I would show readers the homeless and destitute, how they are forgotten but still human. Men, women, and children in factories and poorhouses would have their voices heard.

My prose would have to be so graceful that the words melt into poetry. I would paint pictures in which the walls, the carpet, the tea kettle all play a part. They would be like blended colors. With my art, readers would drink in the paragraph without complaining about its length. I would immerse them so that they don’t remember how long the book is; they are part of the story.

I cannot criticize Charles Dickens. I can only hope that one day I will write something with such immortality. His works can be heavy because of their length. These novels have many chapters because they were first published as serials. Oh, to go back in time! What a delightful thought: a world in which people all went to the news stand, looking for the next chapter of their favorite story.

Maybe one day, that trend will return to life. For now, I will read these stories and bask in their light.

I’ve found time to read historical fiction this year, modern works I haven’t included in my reading list because they’re not classics. I’m doing this for research: the novel I’m working on is historical fiction. There is no better way to know the time period than reading stories about it. However, the titles on the 2019 Classic Novel Challenge are priorities.

My next classic read will be My Antonia by Willa Cather.

I hope your springtime has been pleasant; what are you reading now?

Review: Never Never by Brianna R. Shrum


Readers have been enchanted by the tale of Peter Pan for generations, sympathizing with the boy who didn’t want to grow up and the children who went on an adventure with him. Having read the book twice, it was exciting to find Never Never at the bookstore–because it sheds more light on the legendary Neverland.

When it comes to villains in a story, there’s so much we don’t know. Why did this person turn bitter and hateful? Which events turned him into such a haunted soul?

Never Never painted such a beautiful and sad past for Captain Hook. The tables had turned when I closed the book—it was Pan I hated most.

James Hook is a boy who has only one dream: To be a pirate. In real life, though, he longs to become a man and make his father proud. These two desires make for a powerful character, given that he’s only a boy when the novel starts, preparing to head off to boarding school.

That’s when he meets Peter Pan who tells him about the place Neverland, where children don’t have to grow up. Even though he wants to be a man and make his father proud, he wants to see the pirates; he agrees to go with Peter to visit, trusting that he’ll be returned in time to go to Eton.

But Peter does not keep that promise; he forgets it instantaneously after their arrival at Neverland, also forgetting that James never wanted to become a Lost Boy. James followed him to Neverland as a visitor; now he’s trapped following the whims of a scatterbrained boy who turns out to be a dictator.

When James breaks Peter’s greatest rule and begins to grow up, he runs away to the pirate ship Spanish Main, where he’s received as captain without question. The Main was always his dream, one Peter somehow brought to Neverland.

The sweeping novel chronicles James’ struggle to adapt as pirate captain in a place he’s beginning to hate, because it belongs to Peter; everything works at Peter’s whim, including the weather. Neverdays seem to last a lifetime, and there are so many scenes which broke my heart; in the end we find the soul of a person we grew up seeing as villain.

Fans of Peter Pan, misunderstood characters, and book spin-offs will enjoy Never Never. It’ll make you angry, it’ll have you tearing up; most of all, you’ll sympathize with someone you despised as a child.

Things are not always what they seem. By the end of Never Never you’ll probably hate the Pan, too.