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The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (commonly known as The Pickwick Papers) is the first novel by Charles Dickens. The book became the first real publishing phenomenon, with bootleg copies, theatrical performances, Sam Weller joke books and other merchandise.
Written for publication as a serial, The Pickwick Papers is a sequence of loosely-related adventures. The novel's main character, Mr. Samuel Pickwick, Esquire, is a kind and wealthy old gentleman, and the founder and perpetual president of the Pickwick Club. To extend his researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life, he suggests that he and three other "Pickwickians" (Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Tracy Tupman) should make journeys to remote places from London and report on their findings to the members of the club. Their travels throughout the English countryside provide the chief theme of the novel.
Its main literary value and appeal is formed by its numerous memorable characters. Each character in The Pickwick Papers, as in many other Dickens novels, is drawn comically, often with exaggerated personalities. Alfred Jingle provides an aura of comic villainy. His misadventures repeatedly land the Pickwickians in trouble. These include Jingle's elopement with the spinster, Aunt Rachael of Dingley Dell manor, misadventures with Dr. Slammer, and others.
Everyone seems to have a different impression of Charles Dickens, depending on how many of his 15 novels they've read (or movie and/or BBC adaptations they've watched).
I decided to listen to all of his novels chronologically, and, technically this is his first.
I say technically because, although all of his novels were serialized, subsequent ones become much more cohesive--written more like chapters of a continuing story/ modern novel-- rather than individual episodes with familiar characters.
In other words, if you think of a sitcom vs. an HBO series, Pickwick Papers is a sitcom, both in structure and depth. Over the chapters, the adventures and situations vary, but the core cast is consistent, with "guest" characters coming in and out. And as sometimes happens, one introduced character (Sam Weller) clicks so well he becomes not only a regular cast member, but also a clear fan favorite.
As with any sitcom, a continuing plot (or lack thereof) isn't the point--it's all about the characters and setting, and-- although Dickens will become fairly proficient at plotting later in his career--characters and settings will always be his natural wheelhouse and earliest claim to fame.
And that's why his stuff is such a pleasure to listen to---it was meant to be read aloud, and Simon Prebble is a total pro. His accents and character differentiation are pitch-perfect.
For me, the biggest draw here is the detailed glimpse into mid-19th century English life, albeit a comically idealized one. (Milk punch, curling papers, meat pies, harrowing carriage accidents...)
Either you're really into this stuff our you aren't, but if you are, I highly recommend you supplement your listening by downloading the digitized original print version (with illustrations) from Google Books or iBooks (it's free/public domain) so you can see the illustrations that inspired the stories.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
This reader (Prebble) is a master at dickens voices! He is wonderful to listen to.
The Pickwick Papers is a fun read, not a dark story-line such as Tale of Two Cities
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
If you are unfamiliar with the writings of Charles Dickens this is a good novel to start with as it is one of his happier ones.
It does touch on one of the social ills of the age, the debtors' prisons and that part is informative and thought provoking, but mostly the story is far less serious.
The humour is both satirical and gentle, the various cxharacters intriguing and often recognisable! The plot is typically complex, but although the story is lengthy it can be listened to gradually with easy breaks.
To those who already love Dickens writing I believe you will find Simon Prebble the narrator is masterful and a joy to listen to. His treatment of the many different characters made them easy to distinguish and readily believable. My own particular favourites, Sam and Tony Weller, came across exactly as I "vould" have imagined and his dear gentle Mr Pickwick was wonderful.
Cannot recommend this highly enough.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
The pompous, verbose tone with which The Pickwick Papers begins is characteristically Dickens, though the entire book is not quite so dense, as the beginning is deliberately written in the oratory style of the pompous personages depicted therein.
The Pickwick Papers was Charles Dickens' first novel. I wouldn't recommend it as someone's first Dickens novel to read, as it's evident if you've read a few others that he was already a brilliant writer, but he was still perfecting his style. Also, The Pickwick Papers, like many of his books, was originally published in serialized form, but since this was his first effort, there isn't a really a main plot. Rather, it's a long series of adventures featuring Samuel Pickwick, Esquire, and his friends and foes, all wealthy London gentemen who want to get out and see a bit more of the world (i.e., parts of England within a coach ride from London). So from one chapter to the next we read the humorous adventures of Mr. Winkle, Mr. Smiggers, Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Trotter, Dr. Slammer, and so on. Sometimes entire chapters are devoted to a character telling an unrelated story, ranging from anecdotes about bygone relatives to ghost stories and Christmas tales, clearly "filler" material while Dickens decided what to do next with his Pickwickian characters.
The Pickwick Papers are mostly a series of humorous misadventures, with a bit of satire, that give some insight into the mores of Victorian society. You can also see Dickens working on a few prototypes that will show up in later novels - for example, there is a very Scrooge-like morality tale, and a goblin story that resembles his other Christmas tales. You also see his social consciousness already manifesting itself. After Mr Pickwick is sued for "breach of promise" (supposedly extending an offer of marriage which he then reneged on), the trial is described in humorous fashion, starring the character who would become a fan favorite in Dickens' day, Sam Weller, Mr. Pickwick's Cockney manservant. The jury rules against Pickwick, and he tells off the crooked attorneys for the plaintiff.
Standing on principle (but without much sense), Mr. Pickwick does end up going to debtor's prison, which is described in grimly realistic detail. Mr. Pickwick, a wealthy gentleman, is able to make himself somewhat more comfortable there with his ability to bribe the jailers and prisoners, but he learns just how horrible life is for the downtrodden members of society who don't have other options.
Aside from this episode, though, most of the book is quite light-hearted.
I have been a Dickens fan for years, and I have never not enjoyed one of his books, but The Pickwick Papers isn't my favorite. Being his first novel, it doesn't have as much of the brilliance of prose that characterize his later books, and being a big collection of serialized adventures, it goes on and on with only a few recurring storylines. Recommended for Dickens fans, but I can only give it 3 stars as it's fairly mediocre in comparison to his other works.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I selected The Pickwick Papers because Simon Prebble was born to narrate audiobooks, and he does not disappoint. He brings every character to life by creating the perfect voice, accent, cadence, and intonation.
The Pickwick Papers is a long book, nearly 31 hours' listening time, and was written for serialization. The story is pure fluff, mildly amusing and mostly pleasant. The book offers several continuing characters and plot threads, and the story floats along a gentle stream. For me, it never generated a high level of interest. Probably the original serialization format had a lot to do with its success. Taken all in one piece as an audiobook, the novel and the characters became tiresome, like sucking on confectioners sugar, and I chose to opt for something else.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
The Pickwick Papers is an enchanting book, a real joy. That joy is manifested in the work of Simon Prebble who I daresay is the the most gifted narrator I have ever encountered. His pacing, voicing, and good-humored rendition is wonderful. I also listened to his narration of "Great Expectations", which was equally good. If you plan to listen to Dickens, try for a Simon Prebble narration. You will not regret it.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Love this book!!! This is my third listen. Terrific reader, and the adventures, trials and tribulations of the Pickwickians, never fails to bring a smile and often a bit of sympathy for these babes in the woods looking to find out more about the world! Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers was a joy to read! Mr. Pickwick is such a kind, generous character that you'll love. I will admit that the story can get a little long and a little slow in some places, but overall it is an enjoyable read. Mr. Prebble is a wonderful narrator - he really brings out the characters' personalities. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the classics or Charles Dickens.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I am a confirmed Dickens lover thanks to audible.com. This is the 5th Dickens novel I've listened to and it was such fun. Rediculous and silly as Dickens often is, I just came to love these characters. It doesn't have the tragedy as Oliver Twist or Bleak House (both of which I enjoyed also). I will definitely listen to it again. The recording and narration was good also, nothing distracting.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Now I am not a Dickens scholar, at all. I love every Dickens audible book I have heard. Great entertainment by a great author. But Pickwick Papers is the first audible book of Dickens I didn't finish. Just wasn't interesting. It is a collection of short stories, as far as I got which was probably 4-5 hours. It is Dickens at his finest demonstrating against the British gentry that he is so well known for.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I feel inadequately qualified to offer any critique on any of the writings of England's greatest novelist. The fact that they can be read &/or listened to and thoroughly enjoyed over 150 years after they were written is testimony itself to the quality of the work.
I must, however, pay tribute in this instance to quite brilliant narration by Simon Prebble.
It was truly superb throughout.
His diction & pronunciation is faultless and his impressive range of accents for the various characters who appear in this wonderful collection of tales was so brilliantly done that it there is never any confusion over who said what & to whom!
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
It was a very enjoyable listen. I have always intended to read dickens but have been put off by the length of the main novels and have only read some of the short stories. I'm very pleased that I am now able to listen to the books in unabridged version because not only are the stories good but I can also hear the beauty of Charles Dickens prose.i especially like the fact that all the loose ends were tied up in the last chapter.(something which I don't remember from the various adaptations I have heard).
1 of 1 people found this review helpful