My favourite time of the day is the ten minutes in the morning it takes me to drive to work. When I leave the house it is usually between 6.15 am and 6.30 am and it takes approximately ten minutes to reach my office in Enfield.
In that ten minutes, however, I am transported to another world courtesy of my mobile phone and the Audible app which allows me to listen to the novels of Charles Dickens.
It is not just the stories; it is not just Dickens’s use of words; it is not just his construction of sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books; the narration is also a huge factor in my enjoyment and transport me, however briefly, to another world.
A world of London in the mid 1800s, and the tough life for working class people, and the class system, and the idea of a good marriage being one made between money and blood.
The ability of the narrators such as Simon Callow, Martin Jarvis, Owen Teale, and other professional British actors to carry off the various accents of the characters is a vital factor in the overall audiobook experience.
To my mind Charles Dickens is the pre-eminent writer in the English language.
The first book of his that I read was “Bleak House”, Dickens’s great criticism of the legal profession.
It was tough going at first-tough because of the words he used, the length of his sentences, the length of his paragraphs, the length of the book’s chapters, and the doubt whether it was worth my time or not, whether there was a story in there at the end of it.
Boy, how there was a story. Each and every time. A story populated with such memorable characters.
I am tremendously glad, a few short years later, that I persisted.
Like cheese or Guinness or many of the finer things in life for which it is worthwhile to cultivate a taste, it may not be sweetly saccharine and digestible at the first attempt.
But the perseverance has been worth it and now I admit to having read many of his books more than once, and am also making my way through the audiobook versions.
Presently I am reading “Bleak House” for the second time, having also listened to the audio book, and am listening to “Dombey and Son”.
I believe that reading Dickens’s books has helped me greatly to improve my vocabulary, improve my writing in my day to day work as a solicitor, and assisted in the fight against the invasion of the use of trite, meaningless words from across the Atlantic-words such as “super” and “awesome” and “sick” and “amped”.
I also have great fun from time to time “speaking Dickens” to my wife by observing that she is once again “going into society” when she is going out to meet a friend or “improving my acquaintance” with someone when I myself am meeting someone or when I “lay to prodigiously” when I am describing how I polished off a meal or when I talk about “feeling all the glories of dissipation” after a rare overindulgence in alcohol.
The characters that populate his books, too, are a wonder to behold and tremendously memorable; characters such as Carker the manger in Dombey and son or Uriah Heep in David Copperfield or Fagin or the Artful Dodger or Master Bates or Bill Sykes or Nancy in Oliver Twist or Thomas Gradgrind and Josiah Bounderby in Hard Times or the various solicitors such as Mr. Tulkinghorn or Mr. Vholes in Bleak House or the wide range of saintly female characters such as Little Dorrit or Florence Dombey in Dombey & Son.
And the villains, the villians you have no difficulty hating with a passion so true to life and credible are they.
To make things even better many of Dickens’s books are considered to be “classics” which means they are available for free or a pittance on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.