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Charles Dickens's first published book, "Sketches by Boz" (1836) heralded an exciting new voice in English literature. This richly varied collection of observation, fancy and fiction shows the London he knew so intimately at its best and worst - its streets, theatres, inns, pawnshops, law courts, prisons, omnibuses and the river Thames - in honest and visionary descriptions of everyday life and people. Through pen portraits that often anticipate characters from his great novels, we see the condemned man in his prison cell, garrulous matrons, vulgar young clerks and Scrooge-like bachelors, while Dickens's powers for social critique are never far from the surface, in unflinching depictions of the vast metropolis's forgotten citizens, from child workers to prostitutes. A startling mixture of humour and pathos, these Sketches reveal London as wonderful terrain for an extraordinary young writer. "Sketches" is a remarkable achievement, and looks towards Dickens's giant novels in its profusion of characters, its glimpses of surreal modernity and its limitless fund of pathos and comic invention.
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ISBN-10:  0140433457
ISBN-13:  978-0140433456
Author:  Charles Dickens
Publisher:  Penguin Classics
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review by . June 02, 2011
Part of the rating of "what a classic" I'm assigning to Boz goes to its place in the canon.  Started before his famous novels, as newspaper columns that were his first published work, uncredited and unpaid at first, the sketches in original format, editing, rewriting, reordering, and republishing in volume format extended almost through Dickens' entire career.  That they flashed so much talent so early (he wasn't unpaid and uncredited for long) is not so surprising …
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Sketches by Boz (Penguin Classics)
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