The Pickwick Papers, Dickens's first novel, is a delightful romp through the pre-Reform Bill England of 1827. Samuel Pickwick and the rest of the Pickwickians are some of the most memorable of all Dickens's creations, and it is a joy to hear of their adventures in search of "interesting scenes and characters", and the repeated efforts of the quick-witted Sam Weller to rescue them all from disaster.
Public Domain (P)2012 Naxos AudioBooks
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The entertaining central conceit of Charles Dickens first novel, The Pickwick Papers (1836), is that that "immortal gentleman," Mr. Pickwick, an "extraordinary," "colossally minded," "truly great" "man of genius," is in fact a chubby, balding, bespectacled, pleasure-loving, middle-aged man whose good nature and naivete land him in a series of comical scrapes from which not even his streetwise and philosophic servant Sam Weller is always able to extract him unharmed. As a wealthy retired businessman, Mr. Pickwick's only occupation is traveling around England eating and drinking and investigating human nature with his three absurd friends and followers (the ersatz sportsman Mr. Winkle, the so-called poet Mr. Snodgrass, and the aged, rotund wannabe ladies man Mr. Tupman), ostensibly reporting their doings to the Pickwick Club in London, of which Mr. Pickwick is founder and president.
As Mr. Pickwick indulges in his hobby of studying the drama of life in different (at first ideally comfortable) settings and guises, as he falls into embarrassing fixes, and as he hears stories from the people with whom he converses, Dickens satirizes sports, reform religion, the legal system, political parties, stock brokers, dismal debtor's prisons, contentious husbands and wives, pretentious literary circles, foolish scholarly associations, and grotesque social pretensions. He also celebrates liberal, big-hearted, good-natured people like Pickwick and his countryside gentleman friend Mr. Wardle, romantic marriages, rustic and hospitable coach inns and simple and solid coachmen, and pleasurable festivals like Christmas. He even at one point includes a Christmas story featuring a Scrooge-like sexton in need of a good supernatural scare.
The novel is a picaresque series of set pieces tied together by a few recurring strands, like the ways in which the paths of the adventurer-"stroller"-actor-con-man Mr. Jingle and his servant/friend Job Trotter and of Pickwick and co. repeatedly cross each other, in which the legal suit of Bardell vs. Pickwick increasingly plagues the affable man, and in which Pickwick's disciples inconveniently fall in love. The novel is not a bildungsroman, for the fully mature Mr. Pickwick passes through his experiences largely unchanged. Instead, he acts as a catalyst for other people's changes, and as the novel progresses, especially in the last third, Mr. Pickwick's aspect as (as his servant Sam Weller puts it) an angel in tights and gaiters and spectacles comes to the fore.
Sam Weller is a great character: cockney, loyal, brave, strong, wise, and possessed of funny mannerisms: pronunciation of w as v and v as w, comical nicknames for people ("Vere does the mince-pies go, young opium eater?") and hilarious comparisons of present situations to exaggeratedly apt and usually violent prior cases (Wellerisms), as when he says, "Business first, pleasure afterwards, as King Richard the Third said wen he stabbed t'other king in the Tower, afore he smothered the babbies." Or 'Vich I call addin' insult to injury, as the parrot said ven they not only took him from his native land, but made him talk the English langwidge arterwards.' Or "Wery sorry to 'casion any personal inconwenience, ma'am, as the house-breaker said to the old lady when he put her on the fire."
David Timson gives an inspired reading of the novel, particularly with supporting characters like Sam Weller, his father, and the sleepy "fat boy" servant Joe. Every word he reads sounds just as Dickens must have intended it to be read. Although he greatly increases the pleasure of the novel, I did think (especially in the early going) that he lays on Dickens' comical cheek a bit thickly as the third person narrator.
In The Pickwick Papers appear many flashes of Dickens' particular genius that he fully develops in his later books: inventive, vivid, and rich descriptions; great lines worthy of re-reading and savoring; singular characters marked by human foibles, funny mannerisms, and strange names; imaginative set-pieces that linger in the mind; self-reflexive statements about novel writing; tear-jerking sentimentality; angry social conscience; open-minded view of class and culture; keen vision of human folly, villainy, and kindness; and so on. But often I found myself wandering during Dickens' extended riffs or interpolated tales (some of which don't absolutely need to be in the novel), and the overall story is not as compelling as those in his future books. Thus, fans of Charles Dickens should surely read/listen to The Pickwick Papers, but people new to his work should probably start with more classic books like David Copperfield and Great Expectations.
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
This book morphed a couple times in my brain. It started off a bit uneven, filled with vignettes and sketches that seemed to anticipate the later genius of Dickens and even presented several shadows of future books and stories. After 100 pages I figured I would have another 700 pages of various Pickwick club digressions. There would be interesting characters (Sam Weller, Alfred Jingle, etc).
The narrative started to bog down, however, during the next couple hundred pages. The book had little velocity and the digressions seemed to have stalled, but then something happened. Dickens absolutely found his genius. It is interesting to behold a great author find his voice. I'm not just talking about any author or any voice. It is amazing to see Dickens find that genius balance between characters, plot, social commentary/satire, and humor. It was like watching a bird hatch, a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. More than the story, which ended very well, the book is worth the effort for what it shows about Dickens. This isn't the first Dickens I'd read, but after you've read a bunch of Dickens, I'd definitely read this just to soak in Dickens growth and his views on friendship, marriage, lawyers, and debt.
This is a wonderful introduction to Dickens. It's sort of a collection of separate stories, each very funny and detailed. They tie together wonderfully through the character of Pickwick.
Lovable, endearing, joyous.
Dickens' marvelous stream of inventive genius.
I have listened to another audible version of Pickwick Papers--in addition to reading it when I was young. But David Timson's performance is simply incomparable. I am thankful to have it, and look forward to listening to it again.
Yes--but it would require me to go without sleep for several days.
I don't normally write reviews, but I was so shocked by the first review to be posted that I felt I had to respond. To condemn Charles Dickens on the charges of racism and sexism displays a sad failure to understand the purpose of great literature, which is to open our minds to the full richness of life, and certainly not to re-enforce our current notions of political correctness. Few books display the richness of life more radiantly than The Pickwick Papers and I urge anyone who wants to enjoy a romp through early nineteenth England to download David Timson's enthralling version of Dickens first masterpiece. It is cheaper than a trip to England, and a lot more fun.
Audible has given me the chance to fall in love with Dickens. I have now listened to all the great novels, my favorites being Our Mutual Friend and David Copperfield, but I have loved them all. I hesitated to download The Pickwick Papers, fearing that it would be too silly and tarnish my admiration for his wit and wisdom. But I didn't have many more Dickens titles left, and I love David Timson as a narrator, so I took a chance. It took me a long time to settle into the book -- indeed there are many silly characters and events and many digressions, and it took a while for Dickens to develop those characters that I always fall in love with -- the truly good people who are kind and generous in a selfish and often grim world. Dickens tries out lots of themes that dominate his later, great, novels -- ghost stories (including a Christmas tale), debtor's prison, the legal profession (scoundrels almost all), alcoholism, tight-fisted businessmen who treat their progeny badly, political battles, the gullability and venality of humankind, and so much more. There are some truly joyous moments and characters -- the wedding banquet followed by the Christmas eve celebration was marvelous, Sam Weller (Veller) and his hysterical father, and of course Mr. Pickwick himself. Stick with the early chapters and you'll be well-rewarded.
This of all Dickens' novels is perfectly suited to the audiobook format. With its picaresque, episodic style, it can be consumed in reasonably-sized bites without fear of losing the thread of a complicated plot. Dickens' framing device of an editor presenting a series of recollections by Pickwick club members, with occasional editorial interpolations, is abandoned fairly early in favour of a straight narrative style, to this listener's mild relief. David Timson strikes the perfect light comic tone for the narrator and creates the huge gallery of characters with unfailing invention and variety. Woven into the narrative of the main characters are tales told by incidental raconteurs from all walks of Victorian life - lawyers, actors, vicars, travelling adventurers, and landed gentry. The language is full of Victorian delights - characters asking each other to "Have the goodness to ...", endlessly fussing about what is "respectable", calling each other "My dear sir...", and all the while getting through snuff by the boxful, particularly my favourite, the diminutive lawyer Mr Perker. Timson's greatest comic heights come in the arguments between Sam Weller and his irascible father, with their idiosyncratic dialects that must read very oddly on the page but sparkle with humour in Timson's sure hands. Thirty-two hours have never passed so pleasantly.
Though I always enjoy Dicken's novels, The Pickwick Papers was not an all-time favorite. For the first while I was confused and thought the tale was somewhat pointless. However, David Timson's marvelous narration made every minute of listening worth while. I don't believe I've ever heard a reader so adept at capturing a variety of Dickension characters and moods with precise accuracy and no overdone dramatics. Thanks to Timson, I was able to forgive the first hour or so of confusion and get on with really enjoying this collection of tales that comprise a somewhat plotless novel. Highly entertaining, laugh-out-loud humor, beautiful description, and profound insights that sill apply today.
Funny, thoughtful, timeless.
The wonderfully realized Dickensian characters.
He depicted each character distinctly.
I loved it for its sympathetic view of human foibles. I have listened twice and will listen again in the future.
This is a feel good book for when you want something that is intelligent and well written, but not dark and sad.
Fabulous stories and so beautifully read. One of Dickens very best.
Mr. pickwick, of course
Could not choose, he was the best reader I have heard. All the characters came to life. i could not wait to go to the gym or ride my bike so I could get back to hear him. It was just like listening to a play.
Way too long for a single sitting, but totally engrossing
I will look for more books read by David Timson, i wrote his name down on my notes to help me remember when I was halfway thru this reading.
A very enjoyable book. There are lots of characters and the narrator does very well to make them clear. I typically listen when driving and keeping up with minor characters was difficult, If you like comedy and institutional comedy (1800's style) then you should like this book. It was much different then Dickens later books, as the evil characters were mocked to some degree in this book.
It is not my favorite Dickens, but as it is his first Dickensian's need to read it.
"Excellent except for East Anglian accents"
This is an excellent reading. I was not familiar with the story but now it is one of my firm Dickens favourites. However (and isn't there always an however?) as good as David Timson is at reading it and bringing the characters beautifully to life, the accents of the characters in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich is the usual "mummerset". Please, when narrators are preparing to read, can they not at least listen to a genuine accent?
East Anglians speak with flat vowels and no rolled Rs.
"Dickens at his most picaresque"
The Pickwick Papers have some of the richest prose and most tangential narratives of any of Dickens' work. As a consequence the stories have been neglected by Film makers who seek the simpler character and story arcs of 'Great Expectations' and the like. This audiobook is an excellent evocation of the novel in it's full charming complexity. Even more than his other novels this book was designed for serialization and so the audio is great for dipping in and out of.
"An upbeat romp"
This was one of Dicken's earliest publications, originally serialised for a sporting magazine. Personally I prefer his earlier works as they are more cheerful, and the Pickwick Papers is no exception. Wonderful characters include big hearted and eternally adventurous Mr Pickwick, his faithful sharp-witted servant Sam Weller and Mr Winkle, ineptly aspiring sportsman not averse to a white lie or two. The large cast of characters can be confusing in book form, but in audio format with a fabulous reader like David Timson you can simply sit back and enjoy the ride. Very entertaining.
"Always brings a smile"
This is my second time listening to the Pickwick Papers and somehow I enjoyed it even more than the first, noticing little things I missed the first time.
I found myself laughing aloud at times and almost always smiling. This is one of my favourite books of all time, the tales of the Pickwickians are a real delight.
David Timson does a wonderful job narrating, so much so that I had forgotten it was spoken by only one reader, his characters each feel very much individual and full of life!
I heartily recommend this title and look forward to my next listen.
A classic tale, well narrated. Full of Dickensian humour and typically rich characterisation. A long but light-heated read that I will listen to again. Recommended.
"The funniest book ever"
I'm a real fan of Dickens and I have to say that this has just become my favourite book of all time.
The book details a comical caper around England undertaken by Mr Pickwick and his friends. The scrapes and situations they get into are hysterical and kept me laughing from start to finish. The narrator was really easy on the ear, and you could tell which character was talking by the different voices and accents he used.
For anyone who thinks Dickens is dated or boring, give this a go. It's very entertaining; Dickens' novels were the "soap operas" of his time, and this one really takes the prize.
"Mr Pickwick and the Members of his club"
Yes, with no reservations.
This group of characters careering about the country are having a rip-roaring time and it is easy to get caught up in their adventures
Sam Weller without doubt.
A Rollicking Tale
A line from Great Expectations "What larks Pip!" could apply equally well with a slight change to "What larks Pick!"
"The Masters first book bought vividly to life."
The book is long and episodic, but NEVER dull. I first read it when I was a young boy, (I'm now 56) and I have read it many times since. This Audio version, read by the wonderful David Timson, brings not only Dickens world, but also his many characters to life. I have no doubt that I will be listening to this title again.
The book is populated by some of Dicken's greatest creations. From Jolly Mr Pickwick himself, to the amiable Mr Wardle, and the unutterable bounder Mr Jingle and many others. But my favourite has to be Pickwicks servant Sam Weller, for his home -spun philosophy, and fund of story's, to his ability to get Mr Pickwick out of the many scrapes he finds himself in.
I have listened to other Dickens books read by David Timson, and ALL of them are terrific. He doesn't so much read them, He gives a PERFORMANCE
The Christmas at Dingly Dell is always a delight to read. It always makes me want to be there. With David Timson's narration You can almost feel the heat from the roaring fire, and hear the laughter from the guests.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.