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Book Review

The story of Dickens and the Victorian era

Biographer links novelist’s rise with his times

Charles Dickens (in an undated photo) was forced by his father’s profligacy to work in a factory when he was 12 until his mother found him a job as a junior clerk. Charles Dickens (in an undated photo) was forced by his father’s profligacy to work in a factory when he was 12 until his mother found him a job as a junior clerk. (File)
By Michael Patrick Brady
Globe Correspondent / November 12, 2011

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In “Becoming Dickens,’’ author Robert Douglas-Fairhurst charts the writer’s rise from debtor’s son to London literary sensation, and shows how the rapid cultural, economic, and technological changes of the time enabled his transformation. He also muses on the uncomfortably large role that chance plays in success, postulating that mere circumstance could have easily doomed Dickens to a life as a clerk or journalist, thus depriving the world of a great artist.

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BECOMING DICKENS:

The Invention of a Novelist

By Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

Belknap/Harvard University, 389 pp., illustrated, $29.95