Free books are a ‘great way into Dickens’ world’

EXPERT Christopher Pittard, outside Charles Dickens' birthplace, with a copy of Bleak House.  Picture: Allan Hutchings (121672-669)
EXPERT Christopher Pittard, outside Charles Dickens' birthplace, with a copy of Bleak House. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121672-669)

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THE novels of Charles Dickens and his contemporaries run into hundreds of pages – a daunting prospect for many young readers.

But our offer of beautifully illustrated re-tellings of classic stories by authors with a Portsmouth connection has been given the thumbs-up by a leading Dickens expert.

Dr Christopher Pittard, a senior lecturer in English literature at the University of Portsmouth, is impressed with the abridged versions – the first of which, A Tale of Two Cities, we will be giving away for FREE with The News on Saturday.

Delving into Bleak House, the author of Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction, said: ‘This is a great way into Dickens for younger readers and also for readers who don’t have the confidence to take on one of the originals.

‘What is particularly appealing about it is how it focuses on plot and narrative.

‘People who are a bit scared of the novels tend to think what they are getting is 800 pages or so of social commentary of what it was like in Victorian England.

‘They can overlook the fact that there’s a plot. Bleak House is also a love story and a mystery story.’

Dr Pittard hopes the books will lead more people to discover the originals by Dickens, Conan Doyle and HG Wells.

He said: ‘Dickens needs to be read. The world in which we are living today is still quite Victorian in many ways – the postal service, the police force, the way we vote are all inventions of the 19th century.

‘And a lot of problems Dickens talks about – poverty, how we treat the disabled, crime – are still with us.

‘Dickens is also important to read because it is from him we get modern fiction, of the kind we read and see on TV.

Bleak House features the first detective in European literature – Inspector Bucket. Dickens creates the modern crime story.’

The free book launches a series of 15 books (£2.99 each), to mark a special year that celebrates Dickens’ bicentenary and The News’ literacy campaign Read All About It in his honour.