Thursday, October 22, 2020

Book Review: The Gospel in Dickens

About the Book:

Wish you had time to re-read and enjoy that daunting stack of Charles Dickens novels?

Take heart: Dickens enthusiast Gina Dalfonzo has done the heavy lifting for you. In short, readable excerpts she presents the essence of the great novelist’s prodigious output, teasing out dozens of the most memorable scenes to reveal the Christian vision and values that suffuse all his work.

Dickens can certainly entertain, but his legacy endures because of his power to stir consciences with the humanity of his characters and their predicaments. While he could be ruthless in his characterization of greed, injustice, and religious hypocrisy, again and again the hope of redemption shines through.

In spite of – or perhaps because of – his own failings, Dickens never stopped exploring the themes of sin, guilt, repentance, redemption, and restoration found in the gospel. In some passages the Christian elements are explicit, in others implicit, but, as Dickens himself said, they all reflect his understanding of and reverence for the gospel.

The Gospel in Dickens includes selections from Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, Martin Chuzzlewit, Dombey and Son, Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, Our Mutual Friend, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Sketches by Boz – with a cast of unforgettable characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge, Sydney Carton, Jenny Wren, Fagin, Pip, Joe Gargery, Mr. Bumble, Miss Havisham, Betsey Trotwood, and Madame Defarge.

Read an excerpt from The Gospel in Dickens on the publisher's website.

My Thoughts:

The Gospel in Dickens commences with a foreword by Karen Swallow Prior (whose works I love). Next, editor Gina Dalfonzo introduces the compilation as well as some of Dickens’ history. The selections immediately follow and are sorted into three categories: (1) Sin and Its Victims, (2) Repentance and Grace, (3) The Righteous Life.  More entries are devoted to Sin and Its Victims than the other categories and it sometimes felt heavy. When needed, I skipped around to the other sections for something more hopeful.

The Gospel in Dickens inspired me to check out a Charles Dickens biography and some of his works from my local library. While each reading selection is prefaced by a paragraph or two that explains the background of the selection, I sometimes felt a bit lost because I have not read his works recently. The book is best suited for Christian readers who have already enjoyed the works of Charles Dickens.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

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