Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Last Dickens

Book: The Last Dickens
Author: Matthew Pearl
Like/Don't Like: Liked very much

This was a ridiculously fun book for me to read. Wait, I mean it was fun reading experience. The book itself wasn't exactly a disco party but it had such a good story that I couldn't help but smile like a loon whenever I picked it up.

The gist: when Charles Dickens died he was 6 parts into a 12 part serial called The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He was a bit of a superstar writer and people were devastated at his death and agitated over the fact that he had only made it through half of the story. There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not he had finished the novel but no proof has ever come up that he did. The story is a take on what could have happened. It sets his real-life publisher, James Osgood, on a fictional adventure around Boston and London looking for the rest of the manuscript before the rival publishing houses get their hands on it or make up the rest of the story, which, apparently, was common practice back in the day. There are Chinese pirates and opium dens and spies and slick business men and it's all centered around some fairly interesting historical facts.

I am usually pretty critical of historical fiction, mostly because people who write them tend to be big fat bores. The story generally suffers at the expense of too much information. There were some times in the story when I had had enough lecturing. Particularly the sections that flashbacked to Dicken's last tour of America. But those parts were rare and on the whole it was a nice blend of scholarly research and really good writing and I enjoyed the whole thing.

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