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Dickens and Christmas (Hardback)

Social History Biographies

By Lucinda Hawksley
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 202
ISBN: 9781526712264
Published: 3rd October 2017

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Dickens and Christmas is an exploration of the 19th-century phenomenon that became the Christmas we know and love today – and of the writer who changed, forever, the ways in which it is celebrated. Charles Dickens was born in an age of great social change. He survived childhood poverty to become the most adored and influential man of his time. Throughout his life, he campaigned tirelessly for better social conditions, including by his most famous work, A Christmas Carol. He wrote this novella specifically to “strike a sledgehammer blow on behalf of the poor man’s child”, and it began the Victorians’ obsession with Christmas.

This new book, written by one of his direct descendants, explores not only Dickens’s most famous work, but also his all-too-often overlooked other Christmas novellas. It takes the readers through the seasonal short stories he wrote, for both adults and children, includes much-loved festive excerpts from his novels, uses contemporary newspaper clippings, and looks at Christmas writings by Dickens’ contemporaries. To give an even more personal insight, readers can discover how the Dickens family itself celebrated Christmas, through the eyes of Dickens’s unfinished autobiography, family letters, and his children’s memoirs.

In Victorian Britain, the celebration of Christmas lasted for 12 days, ending on 6 January, or Twelfth Night. Through Dickens and Christmas, readers will come to know what it would have been like to celebrate Christmas in 1812, the year in which Dickens was born. They will journey through the Christmases Dickens enjoyed as a child and a young adult, through to the ways in which he and his family celebrated the festive season at the height of his fame. It also explores the ways in which his works have gone on to influence how the festive season is celebrated around the globe.

Now we couldn't celebrate Christmas without Charles Dickens, could we? Lucinda Hawksley, a direct descendant of Charles and Catherine Dickens, thankfully thinks not and has penned this timely exploration of the 19th-century phenomenon that became the Christmas we know and love today - and her 3x great-grandfather's influence on how it is celebrated across the globe.

Family Tree, January 2018

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I knew I was going to love this book before I even started reading. And I wasn't disappointed.

This book is a wonderful mix of information about Dickens' life, Christmas traditions in his lifetime, and impressions of the holiday from his personal writings and novels. It also includes snippets from newspaper articles from the time, biographical information from family letters and his daughter's book. Everything from Twelfth Night cakes to house parties. :) I understand much more about how Dickens' rough childhood, his life experiences and his anger at how the poor were treated colored his writing, but yet made him love the Christmas season. And he made others love it, too.

Wonderful book!! Well-written, interesting and enjoyable to read! I loved how the book didn't focus only on A Christmas Carol but also included his Christmas stories and mentions of the holiday season from his other books as well. Quotes from his personal correspondence, diaries and family writings were wonderful to read. I didn't realize his daughter wrote a biography of her father in the late 1800s. I need to find a copy of that book, or a scan online, and read it. :)

I read an advance copy for this review, but I will be buying a copy for my keeper shelf. Beautiful book!

NetGalley, reviewed by Julie Wyant

I enjoyed reading about how the family celebrated Christmas and how Christmas celebrations changed over the years, but it was also sad how Dickens' bright youthfulness turned sour and his family life collapsed. The book is liberally illustrated with period etchings and woodcuts.

NetGalley, reviewed by Linda Young

Hawksley tells Dickens's story in calm prose, and doesn’t spare him from examination. His childhood poverty, his perpetual money problems (most of them created by his large family), his marital problems, are all examined. I found it a very interesting look into his life. I also liked that the author related how the celebration of Christmas was changing, due both to the Industrial Revolution and Prince Albert’s bringing German customs over to England. Hawksley weaves all the strands together well.

NetGalley, reviewed by Laurie Brown

It's packed full of interesting information about Charles Dickens. The history and traditions of the time are brought to life through writings and letters and quotes. We not only get an insight into the times and history but also into the man himself (his social reform leanings) and how his writings (especially the Christmas ones) had a profound effect on how the nation thought about Christmas. This was just a fascinating and educational read and a perfect gift for any Charles Dickens fan. Two thumbs up from yours truly.

NetGalley, reviewed by Eve Recinella

Absolutely lovely; impeccable in its research, and wonderfully warming to read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Kirsty H

The author is a descendant of Charles Dickens which lends a special touch. This all culminated in telling a life story of an iconic British author and his impact on Christmas celebrations in England and around the world.

NetGalley, reviewed by Joanne Manuel

As a longtime lover of both Dickens and Christmas, there couldn't have been a better book than this tailor-made to my interests! I love the framework of the evolution of Christmas through Dickens own personal Christmases - from childhood through to his last. I already had a good background knowledge of Dickens as a person, so the family dynamics the author delves into (Mamie Dicken's writings, Dicken's letters to friends) weren't new, but will add an interesting context for people who haven't read into that story before.

A side effect of finishing this book was finding myself getting REALLY excited for this coming Christmas - all the historical info about Twelfth Cakes and decorations and games and food really made me start to anticipate my own celebrations this year! I think it would be interesting to try out some of the older English traditions discussed in this book, and have already started putting the feelers out for more books on the subject!

NetGalley, reviewed by Alison Gilchrist

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Hawksley draws from writings by family members, letters, and the Christmas texts to create a vivid portrait of Dickens as family man, writer, and social reformer.

NetGalley, reviewed by Nancy A. Bekofske

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found Dickens at Christmas to both be entertaining and educational.

NetGalley, reviewed by Michelle Kidwell

The book boasts some nice illustrations and the author deserves credit for drawing attention to Dickens’s social critique which can too easily be lost in modern-day renderings of Scrooge’s personal redemption.

NetGalley, reviewed by John Plowright

About Lucinda Hawksley

Lucinda Hawksley is an author, broadcaster and public speaker. She has written more than twenty books, including critically acclaimed biographies, art history, social history, the history of London and travel writing. This is her third book about her great great great grandfather, Charles Dickens. Lucinda has appeared on television and radio around the globe. She is a Patron of the Charles Dickens Museum in London.

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