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Dickensland

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Lee Jackson's Dickensland was an insightful, interesting and well-researched look into "Dickens' London" and the obsession of reverent fans in finding landscapes and locations from his novels. I find literary tourism fascinating, not exclusively to Dickens however his impact on London is a fact we cannot ignore; bringing fans on pilgrimages to see the Dickensian metropolis described in his acclaimed novels.

If you find literary tourism, specifically Dickensian-inspired tourism, then Lee Jackson's Dickensland should be on your bookshelf.

Thank you, NetGalley and Yale University Press for sending me an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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An interesting and enjoyable read about the history of literary tourism to Dickens’ London. From the buildings that Dickens lived and worked in, to locations written about within his books and also some of the films and television series. Full of interesting bits and pieces (for instance one of the earliest Dickens tourists was Louisa May Alcott), its well researched and detailed.

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This was an insightful, well researched and detailed look at the world during the time of Charles Dickens. Lee Jackson's writing style flowed and was easy to follow, being able to comprehend the new information and context building around the history we all 'know' about Victorian London.

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I enjoyed this history of Dickens-inspired tourism. It pointed towards 19th and early 20th Century sources that I was able to access through my libraries. While most sites described are long gone or unrecognizable, I'll still use Jackson's book to seek out Dickens references when I travel.

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I didn’t know what to expect with this book but what I found was a treasure trove of fascinating detail that I will remember - and quote to other people - for many years. Inspired.

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Dickensland is a really fascinating account of the relationship between the fictional world of Dickens's London and beyond and the real places. I found it particularly interesting as a Londoner and a past frequenter of Chigwell's Kings Head pub. The author cleverly outlines how, for all Dickens devotees, truth and fiction become blurred.
I particularly enjoyed the author's ideas on the differences in film directors' interpretations of London. Written with humour, this is a great book, and I thank the author, publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read it.

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As an ardent admirer of Charles Dickens and a keen explorer of literary history, I was eager to delve into “Dickensland: The Curious History of Dickens's London” by Lee Jackson, graciously provided to me as an advance copy by the publisher and NetGalley.

“Dickensland” is more than just a guide for literary tourists; it's a profound exploration into the cultural capital surrounding Charles Dickens and the evolution of tourism in Victorian London. While it doesn't offer step-by-step itineraries or practical travel tips, this meticulously researched exploration delves into the cultural capital surrounding Charles Dickens and the evolution of tourism in Victorian London, intricately weaving together the places immortalized in his novels with those manufactured for commercial purposes.

Beginning with Dickens's death, the book paints a vivid picture of the transformation of London, juxtaposing the remnants of Dickensian London with the evolving modern cityscape. Jackson adeptly illustrates how Dickensian tourism has sculpted a fantastical topography, akin to a magical fairyland or a thematic amusement park, as depicted on the book's cover.

While the book primarily focuses on the locales during Dickens's lifetime, it caters well to readers acquainted with his works and the influences shaping his writing. Jackson strikes a fine balance between scholarly insight and accessible prose, ensuring that the narrative remains engaging for both casual readers and seasoned Dickens aficionados alike.

One aspect that enhances the reading experience is the inclusion of a diverse array of illustrations, offering glimpses into the bygone era. However, I couldn't help but yearn for comparative visuals and maps showcasing the transformation of London over time, providing a deeper understanding of the city's evolution from Victorian splendour to contemporary hustle and bustle.

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I like Dickens, but this author really likes his stuff. It is an interesting look into the books and the time. But something about the way it was structured, was not super enjoyable. I was looking to read more of a historical understanding and this came off as a fan perspective of the novels. It was fine, but not really my thing.

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In exchange for an honest review, I obtained a copy of Dickensland by Lee Jackson, which I was fairly eager to read.

Although, I'm not the greatest of fans of Dickens, I thought, as an occasional resident of London, that this felt like a great read to see if I could pick up hints of Dickensian London and beyond.

Jackson does an admirable job throughout. He knows his Dickens, for sure. I think part of the problem is that the examples he cites all very much link to places that no longer exist. So, in terms of a guide, it's light on its feet, as an historical source, I felt it covered new ground. I think this book could perhaps be streamlined in terms of some of the wider information, which could be added to the notes and possibly more illustrations. I think it would be a book I would come back to in the future as each chapter is relatively self-contained, which is why it took a while to read.

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This isn’t a novel. It is a considered piece of scholarship that sometimes reads like an adventure story but at other moments gets caught up in more complex literary arguments.

It is a must read for anyone interested in the works of Charles Dickens, his life and heritage based on place and the times and locations he brought to life in his works.

I found the whole piece fascinating and quite absorbing but didn’t always agree with the ideas shared. Namely, how literary tourism has produced a series of properties and sites so imbued with references to Dickens fans, especially American cousins would flock to visit London to walk in the writer’s footsteps or visit The Old Curiosity Shop.

I followed the points being made; these were expanded on well and with clear examples but perhaps because of my own neutral stance I found the motivation to find such places within myself or the setting aside of logic to embrace a clear fake without sense or meaning.

However, this trade and tourism was real and it reflects the value place on this writer and the esteem in which he was held, and still remains a respected author to this day.

For me what Dickens relates is real in a historical sense. I do not need the streets of London preserved for all time. Similarly I do not need to visit Paris and see a bloody guillotine to believe in the French Revolution.

Beyond the historical commentary of his work is the text, dialogue and wonderful characters. These are what lives on and as the Lee Jackson writes are what makes Dickens so special. I thought his explanation of the use of illustrations, stage shows and films that enhance Dickens’ popularity and re-envisage his timeframe interesting. Indeed it is perhaps the TV adaptations that have focused my enjoyment and interest. I think we did Oliver Twist at school in English as well as reading passages for historical comment in British History.

This is a beautifully crafted book. Well thought through and with such an in depth reference works with end notes regarding the many sources and quotes. An extensive bibliography and what many world forget a valued index.

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Dickensland
The Curious History of Dickens's London
by Lee Jackson
Pub Date 26 Sep 2023
Yale University Press
Biographies & Memoirs| History| Reference


Netgalley and Yale University Press sent me a copy of Dickensland to review:


Discover how tourists have reimagined and reinvented Dickens's London for more than 150 years:


The landmarks, streets, and alleys of Charles Dickens's London have been popular tourist spots ever since his death. People were obsessed with finding the "Dickensland" locations that featured in his novels during the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. But his fans lived in a city that was undergoing rapid redevelopment, where literary shrines weren't sacred anymore. In the century that followed, Dickens' sites were demolished, relocated, and reimagined.


Lee Jackson explores Dickensian tourism both in real Victorian London and in a fictional city shaped by fandom, tourism, and heritage entrepreneurs. In this book, Jackson explores key literary pilgrimage sites and their relationship to Dickens and his work, revealing hidden, reinvented, and even faked locations. The curious history of Dickensland includes vanishing coaching inns, submerged riverside stairs, hidden burial grounds, and apocryphal shops.


I give Dickensland five out of five stats!


Happy Reading!

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Amazing book. I enjoyed the writing a lot. The style flowed well. It was a compelling book and I look forward to reading more from the author.

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If you're interested in learning about the history of London and its landmarks this is the book for you. It offers the brief history of places and monuments that formed Dickens' life and writing. However from a narrative standpoint it's lacking. It's just feels like a tourist guide at times. Still interesting though.

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Many thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I grew up on Dickens, my Mum was a huge fan, and as a child I was always transported to the atmospheric back street of London when she read Little Dorrit or A Christmas Carol aloud to me. As an adult I have been lucky enough to visit London many times, and take part in a few local history walking tours which have included locations used in Dickens writings. Sadly some of these places no longer exist, but you can still get that feel for the places and characters throughout the old city.

This book is really interested and written well. It takes you on a journey to Dicken's London since the authors death. People to this day, still travel far and wide to visit the places steeped in history. Some of which have now disappeared as London has been re-modernised a lot thought the years, others have moved and some are totally made up works of fiction. Either created by Dickens on people who have profited over the years from his success by running tours.

This book is a must for all fans of Dickens himself, London, The classics or just history in general. There are a lot of references to his books and it is written in Dickens time, rather than ours, so it would help if you have read some of them as not to spoil the stories for you.

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Dickensland by Lee Jackson offers an intriguing delve into the historical evolution of Dickensian tourism over 150 years. The book is rich in detail and obviously well-researched, but it doesn't have an engaging narrative, so I think it's best suited for someone who has more of an interest in Dickens than I do. The author paints a vivid picture of Charles Dickens's London and the evolving landscape as tourists sought out the landmarks immortalized in his novels, but I found myself wishing it was more inviting. So many obscure details and a focus on the minutiae was overwhelming even for someone like me who has read all of the referenced works by Dickens.

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This is a detailed guide through the physical, creative and metaphorical spaces of Dickensian London.

The author takes us nicely through various Dickens’ novels and how real life spaces feature in the novels. We also learn how people decided to ‘fake it’ and try to sell buildings as being based on places in Dickens. Once we’ve moved on from the real life places, we get to see the fictional spaces in musicals like Lionel Bart’s Oliver.

All in all this is a a descriptive, well researched book that fans of Dickens will love.

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As a fan of Dickens and also London this book appealed to me. It’s very in depth and does bring Dickens London to life. A very in depth read, a bit more detailed than I expected so not a book to dip in and out of. However if you are a fan of Dickens it would be an interesting read.

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This was a slower read for me, but in a good way- Jackson is obviously passionate about his subject, and there is so much to absorb.
In terms of literary tourism, I am much more familiar with the world of Jane Austen. I spent quite a bit of time in Bath tracing her time there, I find it fascinating when you can place yourself in an author’s world. However, Dickens and his world is not quite as familiar. Many of my undergraduate coursework was done on nineteenth century Britain, but I loved diving into Dickens’ London specifically.
Setting played such a large part in Dickens’ novels but a lot of that flies past us modern readers. The London that you will read about does feel unfamiliar to anyone who has spent time in modern London, but it really does help flesh out his works and let us in on quite a different period in London’s history.

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Okay, let's put it this way: I'm not of British nationality, and I don't live in London. I am familiar, of course, with Dickens' works, at least the major ones, and when I requested a copy of this book, I genuinely believed that I could do a good service to the publishing house and the (Italian) readers of my historical outreach blog ,by finding many little gems to share inspired by the most important Dickensian novels. Maybe even "A Christmas Carol," who knows: given the time of year, I had high expectations for some curious themed articles.

In practice, I reached the end of the book realizing that, in my opinion, this volume can be truly appreciated only by those who have a very in-depth knowledge of Dickensian literature (and preferably of the city of London). The author focuses on anecdotes, novels, and stories that are not so popular abroad; much of this book is dedicated to what I, as a foreigner, would call "minor Dickens." Unfortunately, I realize that I am not in a position to appreciate it 100%, nor can I feel confident to suggest it to my audience.

The work is certainly impeccable; however, I believe it expresses itself best in front of a narrower audience than I initially thought.

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Lee Jackson has done a great job with Dickensland. It goes down to details in how we can reconstruct the scenery and locations of Dickens's great works. Its not a simple matter of saying what was there. Jackson goes to great lengths to show how things have changed and what we would expect to find in such places at the time Dickens was writing. I think this book is very readable and a must read for history buffs and Dickens's fans.

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