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The Pickwick Papers was Dickens's first novel. Retired businessman and confirmed bachelor, Mr Samuel Pickwick esquire, embarks on a journey through the English countryside accompanied by three fellow "Pickwickians", Mr Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass and Mr Winkle. It is a joy to hear of their misadventures in search of stories and characters of interest and the repeated efforts of the quick-witted Sam Weller (Mr. Pickwicks manservant) to rescue them all from disaster. With a host of unlikely and wonderful characters this masterpiece of comic writing is still to this day one of literatures most beloved works.
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I've tried listening to The Pickwick Papers read by two different narrators and couldn't stand either of them, so I was thrilled to discover Tadhg Hynes's narration. All of his audiobooks are wonderful, and this one is no different. Tadhg's lively expression is perfect for Dickens' works. An absolute pleasure to listen to! I don't remember the last time I've laughed so much while listening to a book!
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Don't judge Dickens by this book; reader is tops
If you are not familiar with Charles Dickens' books or not (yet) a Dickens fan, do not form your impression based on this book. It is not bad, it is entertaining in its way, but there really isn't much substance to the plot (if you can even call it a plot). It is basically a recounting of episodes of Mr. Pickwick's encounters while making some outings with several friends and protégés. The most likeable character is his servant Sam. (There is a bit of Sancho Panza there.). Dickens puts in a segment of social commentary when managing to have Pickwick opt to go into debtors' prison rather than pay damages for which he was wrongfully found to owe. But the social commentary on debtors' prison, though important and earnest, is out of character with the rest of the story, which has no depth at all. What keeps the book entertaining is Dickens' use of language - rich, descriptive, and witty. It is this here that you see his writing talent, but in this early work you do not yet get a good sample of what makes Dickens considered such a great writer. So, I'd suggest start with Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, for example, and after you reach an appreciation of Dickens that you'd be willing to forgive a less developed work, you can entertain yourself with it.
The narrator, Tadgh Hynes, is absolutely delightful. I heard him read a book from Librivox and was enchanted, so when I had to choose from several narrators of Pickwick Papers, I jumped at the option of choosing Tadgh Hynes. His accents and voices don't cease to delight and astound. His own accent is a charmer, with a lilting sing-song that is so pleasant that he could read me the phone book and I'd find it a treat to listen. It is because of his reading that the "overall" is 5 stars.
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