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Charles Dickens: A Life, By Claire Tomalin


Thanks to the panache of its narrative and the bite of its insight, this outstanding biography strips the cobwebs and kitsch from an "inimitable" spellbinder who "saw the world more vividly than other people, and reacted ... with laughter, horror, indignation – and sometimes sobs".

Tomalin paints Dickens as a divided, driven soul who juggled double lives.

As a benefactor of the poor, his "goodness and generosity" astonishes; as does his callousness towards his wife Catherine, and the exhausting subterfuge of his long affair with Ellen Ternan.

But Tomalin also celebrates the prodigious fiction with vivid, cliché-free acuity.