Crowds hear all about what made Dickens laugh

TALK Claire Tomalin, and inset her new book on Dickens
TALK Claire Tomalin, and inset her new book on Dickens
Picture: Pierandrea Guarnieri

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AUDIENCE members got up close and personal with Charles Dickens at the latest Portsmouth BookFest event.

World-renowned biographer Claire Tomalin held a session in the Menuhin Theatre in Portsmouth Central Library, for visitors to get to know more about the human side of the Portsmouth-born writer.

NOVEL Claire Tomalin's new book on Dickens

NOVEL Claire Tomalin's new book on Dickens

She kicked off the evening by reading out a letter written by Dickens to one of his friends recalling a trip he made to Birmingham.

Dr Christopher Pittard, lecturer in English literature at the University of Portsmouth, then chaired a discussion with her about Dickens and her new biography of his life.

Colin Telford, co-owner of the Hayling Island Bookshop and one of the main organisers on the city’s second BookFest, was in the audience.

He said: ‘It was a great evening, which was light-hearted and very enjoyable.

‘Claire knows so much about Dickens and it was fantastic to learn a little bit more about him as a person, rather than just talking about his books.

‘I found out a lot about him that I didn’t know before and the influences in his life.

‘But the letter was particularly enjoyable because it showed a bit of his sense of humour.’

There were 120 people at the event on Saturday evening – a sell-out.

And after the discussion, including a question-and-answer session with the audience, the biographer stayed on to sign books.

Colin added: ‘Claire is a big name and she pulls in the crowds so it was not really surprising to see how many people were there.

‘But it was great to see how well the event was received.

‘Everyone kept saying they had a really good time – she is a great speaker and the venue was perfect.’

Future events at the BookFest include a discussion of a new work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and an historic journey through Elizabethan England with James Forrester.

See the Portsmouth Bookfest website for more information


There’s something for everyone at this year’s Portsmouth BookFest. For tickets call (023) 9268 8685.

· TODAY: Children’s writer Guy Bass, at Highlight, Gunwharf Quays. Starts 3.30pm. £5 entry.

· WEDNESDAY: Author DJ Kirkby, at Portsmouth Guildhall Cafe, Portsmouth. Starts 11am. Free entry.

· WEDNESDAY November 2: Best-seller Dee Williams, at Paulsgrove Library, Paulsgrove. Starts 3pm. £3 entry – which includes a cup of tea.

· WEDNESDAY November 2: Poetry reading with 10 poets at New Theatre Royal, Guildhall Walk. Starts 7.30pm. Tickets £5.