Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World, by Simon Callow (HarperPress, 2012).
Simon Callow, ardent Dickensian, is a professional actor as well as a writer; Charles Dickens was an enthusiastic and talented amateur actor. It was therefore only a matter of time before Callow decided to write a book about Dickens that focused on the theatrical aspects of his life. He does a very creditable job of it, extending the theater metaphor to all areas of Dickens's life without forcing it or overdoing it. Dickens was, after all, a theatrical kind of person -- the love of entertaining was so deeply ingrained in him that he seemed to live all of life on a stage of his own.
Despite his great love and admiration for Dickens, Callow is actually rather hard on him at times, making harsh judgments about his actions, thoughts, and motives, especially in his personal life. He may have been trying to rein himself in from gushing over his idol. The odd thing is that toward the end of Dickens's life, when his personal life really would justify some harshness, Callow seems to ease off. Perhaps that's because this is the era when Dickens was most involved in the theater, and Callow was so busy focusing on this, and so enjoying all the theatrical details, that he didn't care much about the personal anymore!
Callow clearly knows his stuff when it comes to Dickens, but I did catch one small but important error: He claims that, in regard to religion, Dickens "revered" Christ but "denied his divinity." As has been argued elsewhere, this is far from the truth -- so far that one wonders if Callow let a little personal bias creep in here. Nonetheless, despite occasional flaws, this is overall an excellent book with a unique perspective that makes it well worth reading.
(Review copy courtesy of the publisher.)