We're compiling our favourite Dickens across the in house team for a celebratory spread in the next issue. And there's the dilemma for me because every one I've ever read - and I've managed most of them at least once - are the best when I'm reading it.
I don't know how he does it because the sheer length of so many of his sentences are enough to feel like a brick wall. No matter, Sheila won't be gainsaid and one has to be singled out so I'm going to go for Nicholas Nickleby. Why? Because not only has it gripped me three times as a book but I've seen it performed twice, both times over two nights in order to accommodate the plotline (and even then much had to be left out).
I daren't think how long ago the first time was, but if memory serves, it was part of the Royal Shakespeare's repertoire at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. (Could easily be wrong on that.)
Then about four years ago, the Chichester Festival Theatre staged it and it all came flooding back. I'm not suggesting I have Alzheimer's for a moment but my memory for a plot is not getting better (and it was never good!). So seeing the story unfold and feeling the same emotions about Ralph Nickleby and the gradual realisation of Smike's provenance had me enraptured all over again. If I wasn't committed to reading so much new stuff I'd dive back in all over again. In fact, perhaps I will, anyway.
And if you haven't read it - or any Dickens, because so many people were put off him in school - then give yourself a treat.