Oct 22, 2009

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl

Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens is one of a number of books about Charles Dickens' last, albeit unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  But what sets this novel apart from its compatriots is Pearl's ability to build suspense and extrapolate from historical events to create a palpable underbelly of the publishing world.  

"A man stretched out on a crusty, ragged couch granted them admission into a corridor, after which they ascended a narrow stairs where every board groaned at their steps; perhaps out of despair, perhaps to warn the inhabitants."  (Page 199 of hardcover)

Charles Dickens' final, incomplete novel--he only completed six installments--caused a great deal of controversy as to whether the author indeed had not finished the manuscript, which in those days were released in installments.  Pearl mimics this method by breaking up the narration in separate installments from the Boston publishing house, Dickens' American tour, Dickens' son Frank in India at the height of the opium trade, and in England as Dickens' American publisher Mr. Osgood with his bookkeeper Rebecca Sand search for the lost installments and the true end of Dickens' final novel.

"At the top of the stick was an exotic and ugly golden idol, the head of a beast, a horn rising from the top, terrible mouth agape, sparks of fire shooting from its outstretched tongue.  It was mesmerizing to behold.  Not just because of its shining ugliness, but also because it was such a contrast to the stranger's own mouth, mostly hidden under an ear-to-ear mustache.  The man's lips barely managed to pry open his mouth when he spoke."  (Page 8 of hardcover)

Pearl includes an examination of the historical accuracies in the novel and which characters were pure fiction or modified historical figures.  One part mystery, one part historical fiction, and one part crime novel, The Last Dickens weaves a complex and detailed story that holds readers rapt attention from beginning to end.

While the chapters involving Frank Dickens' time in India uncovering an opium trade are not as prominent as some of the other narratives, it is intricately connected to the main story.  However, some readers could find these chapters frustrating because of the gap between those chapters, which could either leave readers frustrated that the tale of Frank Dickens is dropped or anxious for its conclusion.  Most readers are likely to err on the side of anxiety, wanting to know more.

"There are many reasons murder is not always found out, and they are not always for cunning.  The reason might be the fatigue among those who have been deadened on the inside."  (Page 264 of hardcover)

Osgood is not easily swayed when he is hot on the trail of the missing installments and the end of Dickens' novel, and as each layer of the mystery is peeled back for the reader, the dark, cutthroat publishing industry is revealed.  Bookaneers are the bottom feeders of the publishing industry, waiting on the docks for the latest installments from the Old World, while publishing giants from New York, like Harper, are eager to acquire these installments by any means necessary and at the expense of their competitors.

The Last Dickens is not just about an unfinished novel or the dark side of publishing.  It also takes a look at human conviction in the face of adversity and how perseverance and a moral compass can yield surprising results.  Pearl is a mystery master, and The Last Dickens will not disappoint its readers.

If you missed Matthew Pearl's guest post, check it out.  I want to thank Matthew Pearl, Random House and TLC Book Tours for providing me a free copy of The Last Dickens for review.

Click on the title links for my Amazon Affiliate purchasing pages.  

For an additional treat, check out this YouTube video:

For the giveaway for U.S. and Canada residents:  ***Just got word I have 2 copies available***

1.  Leave a comment on this post.
2.  Blog, Tweet, or Spread the Word for an additional entry.
3.  If you follow, get a third entry.

Deadline is Oct. 29, 2009 at 11:59 PM EST


She said...

I tried reading The Dante Club but could just not get into it! I'm glad it seemed like it worked out for you though! :)

Veens said...

I have read great reviews about this one!
The book sounds really good, as usual great review!

Julie P. said...

I have seen so many great reviews of this book -- I'm definitely interested.

Anna said...

This sounds fascinating, and you've already told me how much you were enjoying it. I'd love to be entered. I follow, of course, and I'm adding the giveaway to my sidebar right now.

Diary of an Eccentric

Diane said...

This sounds like a book I would like; great review.

bermudaonion said...

I've been fascinated with Dickens and his unfinished work ever since I read Drood. I'm so glad to see this is good. No need to enter me.

Kaye said...

Glad you enjoyed the book. It sounds like a really good one. Please enter me in the drawing.


Linda said...

Sounds very interesting. Please enter my name in the drawing.

And, I follow through Google Reader.

Ti said...

Don't enter me as I was on the tour too but I love that you included the video. I had not seen this one.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful review...please count me in...thanks.

karen k

Janel said...

Sounds like a great mix of historical fiction and mystery. It sounds very interesting.

I am a follower :)


holdenj said...

What a great review. It has sure piqued my interest! Dickens himself may have approved of such an adventuresome tale!
Thanks for the chance to win.

Pam said...

I really want to read this! It sounds great and I do like myself some Dickens...

I'm a follower

melacan at hotmaild to com

Belle said...

This looks like such a good read. I'm not usually drawn to historical fiction, but I like historical fiction when it comes with a nice dose of suspense or mystery.

Bridget said...

Hi! Just posted about this on Win A Book, Serena. No need to enter me, as always.

~Jennifer~ said...

I'd love to read this.

jennsicurella at verizon dot net

I am a follower

Jo-Jo said...

This sounds like an awesome book and would love a chance to read it Serena.

I'm also a follower.

joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Katy said...

This is a great review. I was on the fence about reading this, and now I'm a bit more favorably disposed to it. :)

I'm a follower, and am tweeting the giveaway @afewmorepages. :)

a real librarian said...

Sounds like a great one!! Thanks for the chance to win!!


Carol said...

Historical fiction, Dickens, and mystery- those are the elements of a book I'd like to read. Please enter me in the giveaway.


Gwendolyn B. said...

I so want to read this book! Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Gwendolyn B. said...

I follow!

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

MoziEsmé said...

Count me in - I'd love to read this!

Haleyknitz said...

enter me please! sounds awesome.
+1 posted at twitter.com/haleymathiot
+1 posted at http://haleymathiot.blogspot.com/2009/10/contests.html
+1 follower

haleymathiot at yahoo.com

Gwendolyn B. said...

Blog post at: http://aseaofbooks.blogspot.com/2009/10/giveaways-from-around-blogs.html

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I know I am not part of this giveaway as most giveaways are localised. But I came to this blog through A Sea of Books blog.

Debbie Rodgers said...

I would really love to read this book: I've owned The Mystery of Edwin Drood for nearly 30 years. These would make a great set.

Debbie Rodgers said...

I follow - and I forgot to leave my e-mail address in my previous comment
tatamagouche AT netbundle DOT ca

Susan said...

I'd love to win this one - sounds very intricate and I like books like that.

susanaudrey316 -at- gmail -dot- com

Susan said...

And I'm a new follower! :)

susanaudrey316 -at- gmail -dot- com

Jemima said...

I would love a chance to win this. I have not yet read anything by Matthew Pearl though I have wanted to for ages.


Kerry said...

Would love to be entered! Thanks!

MarionG said...

Hi Yes this sounds like a great book. Would love to read it. Please count me in. Cheers. polo-puppy-fluffy AT hotmail *dot* com

Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

I would love to win this one! Thanks for hosting this giveaway! :) I also just signed up to be a follower.

HistFicChick AT gmail DOT com

Amy said...

This is an author I very much want to read! And this books sounds fascinating!

Thank you for this giveaway!


Amy said...

I'm a follower of your blog!


Sandra K321 said...

I enjoy reading historical fiction and would love to read this book.

Sandra K321 said...

I just subscribed to your blog via Google. It looks like you have a lot of good reviews.

Jo-Jo said...

I blogged about your contest here.
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com