Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle

Title: Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic CircleCatherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle
Author: Heera Datta
ASIN: B00JLGRX7W
Number of Pages: 195
Price [INR] : 390
Genre: Fiction (ebook)

Charles Dickens married Catherine Hogarth on 2nd April, 1836, when he was an upcoming writer and reporter. Soon after marriage, he tasted spectacular success with The Pickwick Papers and in ten years, was the foremost writer of his time.
Catherine was the mother of his ten children, his hostess, she accompanied him on his American tour.

Yet, twenty-one years after they wed, Charles Dickens very publicly separated from her, denouncing her as an unfit mother and wife. He removed her from his home, his life, and the lives of his children. He never saw her again, not even when their son, Walter, died at the age of twenty-three in faraway India.

His allegations about his wife and his unhappy marriage were works of fiction, as successful and enduring as the rest of his works. The real cause of the separation was an eighteen-year-old actress, Ellen Ternan, who later became his mistress.

On her deathbed, Catherine gave her daughter letters Charles had written to her and said, “Give these to the British Museum, that the world may know he loved me once.”

Outside the Magic Circle is a fictionalized account of Catherine’s life after she was plucked out of her familiar world and thrown to the wolves, as it were, by the exemplary Charles Dickens. It is told in her voice; sometimes reminiscing, at other times baffled, confused, hurt, angry. It has her tears, her love, and her quest for the meaning of her life, and marriage.

Charles Dickens! I remember reading so many of his books during school days. Through humour and satire he gave a glimpse of the society during the Victorian period. I had never read and/or known anything about his personal life till I read Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle.

Charles married Catherine in 1836 and they had 10 children. After twenty-one years of marriage, Charles forced Catherine to separate from him and their children and called it a separation by mutual consent.

In personal life, Charles came across as a very controlling, persuasive, tyrant, stubborn man who liked everything in the house exactly the way he wanted, he even liked to go over the menu of the next meal. He could be insensitive, brutal and disparaging towards Catherine and the children in front of friends. Of course, his admonishments, ill humour and mockery was all cleverly couched in pleasant words. All this gradually chipped away the confidence of not only Catherine but even the children. He was very loving and caring too and loved his family, would keep them in splits with his jocularity.

Catherine loved him with all her heart and was proud to be his wife despite being publicly dumped, maligned, removed from her home and separated from her children, the youngest being only six years old, for no fault of hers. She came across as a very strong woman.

I enjoyed reading this very different book which gave insights about this great writer’s real life. The author has done a comprehensive research in writing this book. As this book is ‘part fiction and part fact; less fiction and more fact’, the fiction part is very believable. I felt that the story could have been a little more crisp. Towards the end it really became stretchy and felt as if it was just getting repetitive. The dialogues sometimes felt too stiff and formal, but may be that was the language used in that period!

Needless to say, that after reading this book, I am keen to read Charles Dickens’ works once again, to read him in new light. And really glad that the author Heera Datta shared the other side of a legend through this book and gave a voice to Catherine too.

An interesting read.

Rating : 3.75 Stars

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16 thoughts on “Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle

  1. I think fame and power does this to people. Enid Blyton has a similar history of abusing her husband. I think, for readers, it’s better not to explore the personal lives of these great authors and just enjoy their works. Because once we get to know the person up close, we might start hating their works. Might, not Will 🙂

    Destination Infinity
    Destination Infinity recently posted…Why do Parents send their Children Abroad?My Profile

    • Yes, fame and power does get into people’s head. I had read about Enid being a bad mother sometimes ago but was not aware of her relationship with her husband!
      No, I wouldn’t hate their works even if I know that they were not so great in personal lives. But it does give a lot to ponder on. They created a totally different world in their books which was far from their reality. So, that’s being pretty imaginative and a commendable feat rather!

  2. This does sound pretty interesting. I never knew about this side of Dickens. But since this is part fiction, you never know, how much actually is true!
    Another book in the same genre of part-reality-part-fiction, that’s really gripping is, I was Amelia Earheart. Brilliantly written !

    • This book is ‘part fiction and part fact; less fiction and more fact’.
      The author in one our chats shared that she has done a lot of research and has included most of the facts that had been unearthed and built scenes around them. And then I read about Catherine and personal life of Charles some more on the internet and it all corroborated with the story in this book!
      Thanks for sharing about Amelia Earheart, will check it out 🙂

    • Agree, this would make for a great movie. I read that Catherine Dickens was the subject of the sixty minute BBC Two documentary ‘Mrs Dickens’ Family Christmas’, broadcast on 30 December 2011 and performed and presented by Sue Perkins, and which looked at the marriage of Charles Dickens through the eyes of Catherine.

    • I know what you mean, LuAnn! What he did to Catherine and his children is simply inexcusable. But isn’t it amazing that how a man can create two different worlds inside his own head!!

  3. How are you finishing all these books so quickly! I was just thinking that I missed your Metamorphing review and already the next one is up 🙂
    I have to agree with one of the comments above though – I’m not sure I could read this book. It is heartbreaking to read of certain events that took place in the past that were totally unjust and have to watch a person suffer for crimes they did not commit.
    Roshan R recently posted…If Ebola struck India: Don’t panic but don’t be ignorant eitherMy Profile

    • Oh, I am quick reader! And if the book is interesting, I can finish it in 3-4 hours. It is only the dull and drab ones that take me forever to finish! 😀
      I had never read a book which was ‘part fiction and part fact; less fiction and more fact’, prior to this, so I was curious to explore it. And yes, what Charles did to his family was uncalled for, but I am glad that Catherine got a voice through this book.

    • Yes, reality is far stranger than fiction!
      It must be really nightmarish for Catherine to be thrown out of home without her children and for no fault of hers! 😐

  4. When i read the title i was wondering if she was related to Dickens 🙂

    most creators like artists and writers are eccentric. i recently re read his book “oliver twist” when my son had written a critical analysis of the book for his school work and i found from his analysis “Oliver twist” could be a role model for young teens.

    Regardless of his personal life, some of his books are classics. We had his pickwick papers during our school days and great expectations during
    college.

    All said and done, if his treatment towards his wife is true, his character is definitely condemnable.

    Thank you shilpa for this review. This was news for me.
    asha balakrishnan recently posted…Movie ride at Universal Studios:)My Profile

    • Agree with you! Oliver Twist, A Tale of 2 Cities, Great Expectations, Christmas Carols, Pickwick Papers… they are all classics and so famous. But how different he was in real life! 😐

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