p. 383 (HC with notes from the Author)
The Last Dickens unravels three tales - Dickens' last visit to America, James Osgood and Rebecca Sands visit to England, and Frank Dickens' stint in law enforcement. James Osgood sets out to find the other half of Charles Dickens' last novel: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Osgood's company are Mr. Dickens' American publishers and they need to put this book out in order to stay afloat. James Osgood travels to England to trace Dickens' last steps and find out where the rest of the manuscript is hidden before anyone else can get their hands on it.
Although I found The Last Dickens entertaining I felt like I was attempting to keep too many balls afloat. The story bounces back and forth between three time periods and your mind is constantly trying to make connections between them.
Charles Dickens' visit to America is the strongest story line. Pearl gives enough information about Charles Dickens, coupled with common knowledge, to make a solid character. In the same tale, Tom Branagan's and James Osgood's characters are also fully realized. This was the part of the book I enjoyed the most. The mystery of the stranger who was stalking Dickens and the descriptions of the shows Dickens would put on for theatre patrons were intriguing and fast-moving. I felt the character of "Boston" was also three-dimensional and I could "see" the places Pearl described.
My least favorite part involved Frank Dickens in India. Mason and Turner seemed to be the stereotypical good cop/bad cop. This part seemed no more than a vehicle to describe how opium is sanctioned and travels from India to other parts of the world. It felt forced and I didn't feel it was well-developed.
Osgood's visit to England, accompanied by Rebecca Sands, left him a little less like the character I felt I knew. His travels to the opium den and his willingness to be taken in by Datchery rang false. They didn't sit well with the Osgood we knew from Dickens' travels to America. However, I enjoyed how Pearl wove the tale of Edward Trood into The Mystery of Edwin Drood. That little part of history lifted this part of the book.
The Last Dickens is good mix of history and mystery. The tone of the novel is dark and accurately reflects the time period it portrays. Overall, I liked the book but felt it could have been tighter in some places. That said, I might need to read more Charles Dickens to fully appreciate what Pearl has created.
About the Author
Matthew Pearl is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow, and The Last Dickens. His books have been New York Times bestsellers and international bestsellers translated into more than 30 languages. His nonfiction writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and Slate.com. He has been heard on shows including NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Weekend Edition Sunday," and his books have been featured on Good Morning America and CBS Sunday Morning.
Matthew Pearl grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School. He is the editor of the Modern Library editions of Dante’s Inferno (translated by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow) and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales. He has also taught literature and creative writing at Harvard University and Emerson College, and has been a Visiting Lecturer in law and literature at Harvard Law School. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Pearl Around the Internets
TLC Book Tour Schedule (thru October 22, 2009)LibraryThing Chat (Oct 5 - Oct 16, 2009)
Matthew Pearl website
Random House Matthew Pearl author page
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