“The Inimitable” Charles Dickens: Jane Smiley on the British Novelist’s Many Sides and Enduring Appeal

Jane Smiley
Jane Smiley

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) has been widely regarded as one of the greatest British writers of the 19th century. His novels, including A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cities, portray the often-grim existence of ordinary people in the Victorian era—the depiction he based on his own childhood hardships.

Hailed as one of America's greatest living writers, Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, as well as five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults.

Q: Penguin’s Lives series paired “celebrated writers with famous individuals who have shaped our thinking.” Why were you paired with Charles Dickens?

A: They sent me information about the proposed series, and I suggested Dickens as an influential author.

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