12,172 book reviews and counting...

The Dickens Boy Reviews

The Dickens Boy by Thomas Keneally

The Dickens Boy

Thomas Keneally

3.56 out of 5

5 reviews

Imprint: Sceptre
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 3 Sep 2020
ISBN: 9781529345070

By the author of Schindler's Ark and master storyteller, Thomas Keneally, a vibrant novel about Charles Dickens' son and his adventures in the Australian Outback.

4 stars out of 5
Nick Rennison
20 Sep 2020

"Now in his mid-eighties, Keneally continues to create immensely readable fiction that reimagines the history of his native Australia"

The Dickens Boyfocuses on Edward Dickens, the youngest son of Charles, dispatched to a sheep station in New South Wales to make his fortune. Desperate to prove his worth, the teenage Edward is haunted by his father’s fame even on the other side of the world. Meandering in its plot, Keneally’s narrative follows his sympathetic protagonist as he struggles with first love, outback rivalries and a flamboyant bushranger who informs him of his father’s death.


4 stars out of 5
Antonia Senior
11 Sep 2020

"In this absorbing novel by Thomas Keneally we follow an imagined version of his first years in the colony."

There is not much in the way of plot — we watch Plorn grow up in the outback — but Plorn himself is a joy: alternatively meek and bumptious, and rather ordinary. Every time someone new appears he endures their veneration of his father. Introduced to two stockmen who deify Charles Dickens at length and gawp at the progeny of the great man, Plorn despairs. “ ‘Please,’ I called out. ‘I’m just me.’ ” The Dickens Boy is the enjoyable, novel-length version of that plaintive cry.

4 stars out of 5
Allan Massie
11 Sep 2020

"Thomas Keneally has created an evocative picture both of 19th centurylife in the Outback and of the enigmatic novelist"

I confess that when I read the title and realized that the novel was written in the persona of young Plorn, I had an unworthy suspicion that Keneally wanted to write about the experience of a young English boy hurled at the age of 16 into the Outback and varied society of early colonial Australia, and happened on the choice of Dickens’ son as perhaps no more than a peg, good for publicity. Happily the suspicion was almost at once dispelled. ... In truth, Keneally has brought off a notable double: a delightful and continuously interesting portrayal of mid-19th century life in the rolling sheep pastures of New South Wales and an acute and persuasive examination of the mystery that Charles Dickens still presents, and of the enduring fascination he exerts over us today. 


2 stars out of 5
A.N. Wilson
5 Sep 2020

"Thomas Keneally takes us on a rather plodding journey"

In scene after scene, Plorn encounters an Australian who makes some allusion to the novels of Dickens, and he conceals from them the fact that he has not read one. The repeated allusions to (and occasional dreams about) Charles Dickens, his circle, and the England Plorn has left behind only serve to emphasise the aching boringness, by contrast, of Victorian Australia. Likewise, every time someone mentions Little Nell or Lizzie Hexham, you wish you were reading a novel by the ‘guv’nor’ rather than this dreary stuff.

3 stars out of 5
28 Aug 2020

"an engrossing and transporting read"

In the novel we get a lot of information about Australian sheep-farming practices in the 19th century (after a weirdly gruesome scene where a lamb gets castrated, it was perhaps more than I wanted to know) and all that detail comes at the expense of pace. Keneally is also guilty of some awkward-sounding Victorianese — when one of Plorn’s male bosses gets drunk and kisses him firmly on the mouth, Plorn recoils. “Oh Christ, Dickens! You are not of that disposition,” he says, later muttering: “I wish I could annul the last thirty seconds.” Nevertheless, the rich world that is evoked makes The Dickens Boy an engrossing and transporting read.