All the youthful vigor and exuberance of Charles Dickens is on display in his first two novels. Dickens was only 25 years old upon the completion of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers (1837), and 27 when he finished his second, Oliver Twist (1839). It is in these early novels that we first encounter the energy of his humor, satire, and keen observational powers. Within 10 years, Dickens would be regarded as the literary genius of the Victorian Age. But it all started with these two novels.
The Pickwick Papers is a comic tour de force, its centerpiece being the Pickwickians who travel about London and the surrounding countryside investigating various peculiarities. The amusing characters and hilarious incidents have become literary staples.
Oliver Twist reflects much that is autobiographical in Dickens' life experience. The novel is notable for the authors' realistic portrayal of criminals and their brutal, sordid lives, as well as for exposing the cruel treatment of the many orphans in London in the mid-19th century. In many ways, this tale was the signature depiction of London by Dickens that has become world famous, and which would be the template for the remainder of his long career.
Listeners should be aware that The Pickwick Papers runs 33 hours and 42 minutes, at which point Oliver Twist begins and continues for an additional 17 hours and 31 minutes.