“The Life and Lies of Charles Dickens” 
by Helena Kelly

A review by Eddy Coulson

How often do you get to read a book, not a novel, that criticises one of your literary heroes. A book, the writing of which, is almost musical in its style? Couple that with the exemplary effort that has obviously been put into its research and production. I'd say not very often. Helena Kelly has written an excellent book about the claims and common knowledge of Dickens that we have been fed over the near 200 years since we read what Dickens wanted us to believe were reflections or truths based upon his life that his friend and biographer, John Forster, presented to the world in the first few years after Dickens died and that have been the largely uncriticised account of the life of Charles Dickens. John Forster was either a dupe or was in on the knowledge that the suggested accounts of the biography of Dickens were over exaggerated. That Dickens, in all his vanity and puffed up style, was an image manipulator. A little exaggeration of this and a little elimination of that. Obfuscation was his style when it came to uncomfortable facts; yes facts, concerning the written accounts of the life of Charles Dickens.


“The Life and Lies of Charles Dickens” by Helena Kelly is not a book that I would swallow whole without saying just a minute here or you can't be serious. It is certainly not a criticism of the character of Dickens. Indeed Helena states that fiction can be more exciting when lies show the genius of Dickens. There are gaping holes in the accepted account of his life but, who cares when the plot is so emotive, the archetypes so powerful. As we uncover more of Dickens lies, we uncover even more complexity and skill in his writing and given accounts. "There is truly remarkable craftsmanship in his weaving together of truth and fiction, personal memory and literary tropes, outrageous sentimentality and cold blooded commercialism."


I would urge people to read this book. I hope you enjoy its opinions and facts as much as I did.

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