Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Haunting of Charles Dickens (MG)

The Haunting of Charles Dickens. Lewis Buzbee. With illustrations by Greg Ruth. 2010. October 2010. Feiwel & Friends. 368 pages.

London. Mid-summer night nearly upon us. Meg Pickel stood, as she had every night for six months now, at the edge of her family's roof-garden, and stared into the City, towards the massive black dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Meg, our heroine, is searching for her missing brother, Orion, while Mr. Charles Dickens, our heroine's godfather, is "searching" for his next novel. Can they succeed if they work together? Read and see for yourself in The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee.

I really enjoyed reading Steinbeck's Ghost. So I was excited to see Lewis Buzbee's next novel. While Steinbeck's Ghost had a modern day hero "discovering" Steinbeck through his works, The Haunting of Charles Dickens goes beyond that. Meg knows Charles Dickens. Or she knows certain aspects of him at least. He is more than an author she loves and adores. He is her friend. Readers "meet" Charles Dickens--as envisioned by Lewis Buzbee. (I'm not convinced Buzbee's Dickens resembles the actual Charles Dickens, but that's another story. Readers meet a kid-friendly Dickens minus some of his flaws.) It's a book about social injustices.
"We're all haunted, my friends," Mr. Dickens practically sang. "By what we forget. Now that we are un-forgetting, we must cease to be haunted. We must act...We must find Orion, Campion," he said. "You and Julia and myself, and Meg--Meg most of all--we must find Orion!"
Her father stood awkwardly and moved away from Mr. Dickens, his back to him. Aunt Julia leaned forward, suspended. Mr. Dickens waited. Her father turned.
"Charles, don't be so melodramatic. This isn't one of your novels."
"Not yet it isn't!" (83)
To call this head-dress a hat would be a gross injustice to all hats. What the lady wore on her head seemed quite undecided; it could not choose whether it wanted to be a very small piece of architecture or a rather large piece of French pastry. It was a head-dress, Meg thought, of considerable ambition. Along with its ambition, and its height--which matched its ambition--were the golden ornaments that hung about it, hiding here and there in the massive structure like sparrows in a hedge. (182)
I thought there were times when the writing worked well--Buzbee's descriptions were a nice touch. But it's not a perfect novel. There were times the writing seemed forced--like it was trying too hard, if that makes sense. (I'm not sure the Beatles references exactly fit.) But. I enjoyed reading this imagined behind-the-scenes story of Our Mutual Friend. And I enjoyed the illustrations. So while I didn't love, love, love it, I did like it.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Shirley said...

Having just watched this YouTube introduction to The Haunting of Charles Dickens, I must say the PR is remarkable! Based on this video alone, it is a book I must read! Thank you for your review of the novel. I have to see if I love it or like it as you do.