Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Final Recollections of Charles Dickens

The Final Recollections of Charles Dickens is a fun little novel (coming in at only 157 pages) disguised as a Charles Dickens autobiography.  The book, set in 1870 London, is narrated entirely in the voice of 58-year-old Charles Dickens who is feeling older than his years and wants to reveal one final episode of his life before it is too late to ever do so– indeed, Dickens would die in June of that very year.

The incident revealed here by Dickens occurred in 1835 shortly after he proposed marriage to his future wife, Catherine.  When the upwardly mobile Dickens becomes acquainted with Geoffrey Wingate, one of London’s most successful and prominent financial advisors, he also meets the man’s stunningly beautiful wife, Amanda.  Amanda is so beautiful, in fact, that her memory will haunt Dickens for the rest of his life.  His own marriage is an unhappy one, and for decades after he has lost contact with the beautiful Amanda, Dickens fantasizes about what might have been if he had only met her before Geoffrey Wingate made her his wife.

While doing research in preparation for an article featuring Geoffrey Wingate, Dickens learns that there is more to the Wingates than meets the eye.  He begins to suspect that Geoffrey Wingate may be little more than a common criminal and that his wife is hiding a sordid past of her own.  But it is only after interviewing a former prostitute whose face has been brutally mutilated, that Dickens recognizes the degree of evilness he is dealing with in the person of Geoffrey Wingate.  Now, in more personal danger than even he imagines, Dickens has to decide what to do about his suspicions.

Thomas Hauser
By blending facts from the real life of Charles Dickens with his fictionalized, hands-on investigation of one of London’s bad guys, Thomas Hauser has created a fun ride through the very streets of London that Dickens portrayed in his own novels.  Hauser has, in fact, so wonderfully captured the Dickens voice readers have grown familiar with from those nineteenth century novels that it is easy for readers to forget that they are not reading something written by Mr. Dickens himself.  If a nineteenth-century man in his early twenties can still be said to be coming of age, what Hauser has written here is in reality a coming-of-age novel featuring Charles Dickens.  And it is a good one.