Magesh Nandagopal
SELECTED STORIES by Charles Dickens Rupa, New Delhi, 2014, 145 pp., 140
November 2014, volume 38, No 11

Selected Stories By Charles Dickens contains eight of the master’s stories. Primarily known for his novels dealing with the industrial revolution and child labour, this collection reveals what range Dickens had and reminds one (after reading and forgetting his prose in school/college) what a terrific storyteller he is. These stories widely vary in length (shortest being four pages, a couple running to thirty pages), deal with an array of subjects and genres—supernatural, thriller, tragic-poetic, social drama etc. And most importantly, they are all, without exception, entertaining, and some of them are unputdownable page-turners.

The pleasure factor is amplified when you have read a couple of stories. By then, one is already used to the slightly stilted, elaborate prose style, and is more in tune/receptive to the storytelling. Most stories have a shape-shifting quality to them—there are switchbacks and U-turns along the way and one is left guessing till the end (in one case until the last sentence is uttered) about where it is leading. And his detailing is exquisite. For example, in ‘Hunted Down’ an insurance evaluator mistrusts a person he encounters primarily because the person has center-partitioned hair. The insurance evaluator admonishes, chides himself on this prejudice, over-harsh judgment.

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