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Visting Charles Dickens

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Despite holding an English Literature degree, I’ve never really connected with any classic literature. The exception to that rule is Charles Dickens. I can’t quite explain what it is about his writing that whisks me off to another world, or why I find myself so fascinated with his life outside of writing, but it’s the way I’ve been wired ever since I studied Great Expectations in High School for exams.

Recently I took a visit to London for some theatre shows and, of course, I had to take a stop by the Charles Dickens museum at 48 Doughty Street. In 1837-1839, Charles Dickens used this house as a base as his popularity with his writing began to soar. During his time there, he wrote well-known works such as Oliver Twist.

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For £9.50, guests get to explore the various rooms that Dickens, his family, and his servants occupied. While likely biased, I found it well worth the money as you’re given a free guide that gives information and there are plenty of plaques around giving out a plethora of knowledge, a lot of which I didn’t have prior.  I was able to see the reading table Dickens used in his public performances, the desk he wrote some of his books at, the copyright contracts with his authors, what his books looked like in serial form, and some of the belongings from his main residence in Kent.

It was overwhelming to climb the stairs knowing that one of my favourite authors once lived and breathed here and I felt incredibly close to him. It was as if the years were rolling away and I was alongside him in the 1800s, in the hustle and bustle of a middle-class home.

I find these aspects of history so mind-blowing: that we have record, to an extent, of people who lived hundreds of years before we were born and these traces in the present day showed that they once existed. That, even though they have long since left the world, their memories and stories can live on forever; as long as people keep sharing them.

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Posted in discussion

Why I Love Book Acknowledgements

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Back in the day, before the internet, (yes I am that old) the only way I could learn more about those people behind the books was through acknowledgements. I didn’t even know what my favourite authors looked like, so it was a chance to peek behind the curtain in some way.

Book acknowledgements are stories in themselves. A name that could mean nothing to me, means everything to someone else. Did they sit there over coffee with the author who groaned endlessly about a chapter that didn’t work? Have they been life-long friends? Maybe they’re another writer who understands the plight of creating a new world. As social media has developed and expanded, readers can now interact with their beloved creators on a daily basis. We feel closer as we see their friendships play out in the virtual world (take Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera and Angie Thomas, for example). Those names littered in the acknowledgment are often familiar now, but it doesn’t make them any less magical.

When a close friend of mine, K.M.Robinson, released her debut book Golden, I was overjoyed to read it after hearing about it for so long. At the time of writing this (I say that because she is a machine and could have written five more by the time this is posted), she has sixteen books out in the world. As I reached the inevitable end, I turned to the acknowledgements and froze when I saw not just my name, but a whole paragraph dedicated just to little old me. I will be grateful for this for the rest of my life.

My favourite thing about it is that it’s a collection of inside jokes. To anyone else, this is jut nonsense;  a weird footnote in a list of thank yous. But to me, it is everything.

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