The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

Dickens is, quite simply, the Guv’nor. Pace, style, characters – all faultless. Some of his books go on a bit but not this one, his first. It was written for monthly publication so it is episodic. But the good thing about that is the regular narrative crescendos you get as the story unfolds. It also includes many digressions, as characters relate stories and anecdotes, notably one that goes into fascinating detail about Edinburgh topography and customs – well, fascinating if you live in Edinburgh, as I do.

Dickens’s well known disdain for law and politics is on full display and his account of a by-election is hilarious but acerbic at the same time. His descriptions of politicians’ pomposities and misguided motivations could have been written about the Leveson Inquiry here in the UK, which is currently examining the corrupt relationship between politicians and media owners. And you just know, when legal process enters the story, that ridicule and comic exaggeration is on the way.

I really enjoyed this book. Lots of great characters and, most of all, a brilliant asseveration (to use a Dickensian word if ever there was one) of the sheer joy to be had in human existence.

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