Books of the year 2011: D J Taylor

Becoming Dickens: the Invention of a Novelist - Robert Douglas-Fairhurst


Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's Becoming Dickens: the Invention of a Novelist (Harvard University Press, £20) is quite possibly the best piece of Dickens criticism since John Carey's The Violent Effigy - a series of minute investigations into the way Dickens projected elements of his early life into the fiction that followed it, full of arresting historical detail and sharp-eyed deductions. A second slab of prime Victoriana was As Good As God, As Clever As the Devil (Atlantic Books, £22), Rodney Bolt's reimagining of the life of Mary Benson, wife to Queen Victoria's favourite archbishop, mother of the diarist A C Benson and the novelist E F, and another of those mercurial Victorian women, crying out for recognition in her own right.

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