The Turning Point: 1851—A Year That Changed Charles Dickens and the World

Knopf. Mar. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780525655947. $30. LIT
Douglas-Fairhurst (Becoming Dickens) returns to a familiar subject with a new lens. In this “slow biography” of Dickens, he takes the time to examine just one year in the life of the novelist—1851. Douglas-Fairhurst offers a detailed portrait of Victorian England and the Dickens household in 1851, the year Dickens begins writing Bleak House. From the remodeling of Dickens’s home and the dismantling of the Crystal Palace, to the publication of Melville’s Moby-Dick and Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, Douglas-Fairhurst supplies readers with a context for Dickens’s characters. He lays out the many foils for Dickens’s “dark exhibition,” exploring potential inspirations for Dickens’s only female narrator among the young women at Urania Cottage and documenting the grief Dickens experienced after the death of his father and eight-month-old daughter in the spring of 1851.
VERDICT This expansive blend of literary and historical research allows readers a close encounter with Dickens’s writing desk. A must-read for Dickens fans.
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