A Charles Dickens Devotional, edited by Jean Fischer – A Review & Giveaway!

A Charles Dickens Devotional, by Jean Fischer (2012)Guest review by Br. Paul Byrd, OP

Hidden like gems among the pages of [Dickens’] novels are numerous religious images and biblical references: in Great Expectations, Pip praying for the Lord to be merciful to Abel Magwitch, a sinner and formidable criminal; in Bleak House, the image of Christ ‘stooped down, writing with his finger in the dust when they brought the sinful woman to him’; in Little Dorrit, adoration of wealth described as ‘the camel in the needle’s eye, (introduction).

As if A Jane Austen Devotional were not enough, fans of 19th century British Christian piety have a chance to sit and meditate on some of the most memorable and beloved stories of English literature with Jean Fischer’s A Charles Dickens Devotional, a collection of over one hundred vivid and engaging passages from nearly every fictional tale Dickens composed, including the ever popular David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol, and Great Expectations along with the important, but perhaps lesser read masterpieces Bleak House, Dombey and Son, and Little Dorrit. And just as with the Austen devotional, each Dickens passage is paired with a short reflection and scripture quote meant to inspire meditation on a particular moral principle or virtue.

As Fischer writes, “[Dickens] was recognized as a nineteenth-century advocate for the poor and the oppressed,” (210)—the result, of course, of Dickens’ own experiences of poverty and child labor. Indeed, he often supported the underdogs of society in his stories—children, women, the poor—and exposed the structures of society that oppressed the weak and allowed the greedy to exploit others even as they maintained a “Christian” front. Like Jane Austen before him, Dickens knew the power of the pen in exposing hypocrisy and upholding the virtuous. Through a keen observation of human nature—the good and the bad—and through his excellent descriptions, Dickens brings to life characters that are themselves parables; none more so, perhaps, than Ebenezer Scrooge, the miser turned saint and hero of A Christmas Carol.

One of my favorite chapters in this devotional takes its passage from Dickens’ last and unfinished work The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Outside the New Testament, I do not think I have ever read a more scathing description of false philanthropy. How it cuts its subject to the quick and thus, as Fischer points out, challenges the reader to search his or her own conscience. Unfortunately, not all the meditations are equally strong, and I found one in particular that I thought was rather dangerous. In the chapter “Bad Company,” Fischer writes in her meditation “In this world, every day, we come in contact with both Christians and non-Christians. God does not forbid this, but rather He desires that we not get too close to unbelievers and risk being pulled into the enemy’s snare,” (77). I understand the best possible interpretation of that statement, but I still found it overly simplistic and unhelpful, especially in a time when it is becoming ever more important for Christians to dialogue with each other and non-Christians.

That said, this is a devotional, not a theological work, and so readers are expected to bring their own faith with them, using what they find in the book, if they can, and leaving what is unhelpful and uninspiring. If you are afraid that you will be lost in a sea of unfamiliar characters and plots, don’t be; Fischer’s book is designed for the Dickens expert and the lay reader alike. The Dickens framework is merely meant to spark contemplation. If it sparks your literary interest and leads you to read the novels, as well, so much the better. I am sure that fans of Austen and Dickens, will find much to enjoy in this helpful little book, so I give it four stars.

4 out of 5 Stars

A Grand Giveaway of A Charles Dickens Devotional

Publisher Thomas Nelson, Inc. has generously offered a giveaway contest of three copies of A Charles Dickens Devotional. To enter a chance to win one copy, leave a comment stating which quotes from Charles Dickens you think are inspiring, or which of  Charles Dickens’ characters would greatly benefit from this devotional, and why by 11:59pm PT, Wednesday, February 22, 2012. Winners to be announced on Thursday, February 23, 2012. Shipment to the US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

A Charles Dickens Devotional, edited by Jean Fischer
Thomas Nelson, Inc. (2012)
Hardcover (224) pages
ISBN: 978-1400319541
NOOK: ISBN: 978-1400319725
Kindle: ASIN: B005ENBBUQ

Br. Paul Byrd, OP is a solemnly professed friar of the Dominican Order of Preachers. Originally from Covington, KY, he earned his bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Thomas More College and his master’s degree in theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology. He is in the writing and publishing graduate program at DePaul University. He is the author of the Dominican Cooperator Blog

© 2007 – 2012 Br. Paul Byrd, OP, Austenprose

24 thoughts on “A Charles Dickens Devotional, edited by Jean Fischer – A Review & Giveaway!

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  1. The book trailer for this Charles Dickens Devotional is lovely…
    Two of my favorite quotes by Charles Dickens are `
    1.) Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never
    tires, and a touch that never hurts. (great rule to live by).
    2.) “A heart well worth winning, and well won. A heart that, once won, goes through fire and water for the winner, and never changes, and is never daunted.”
    I would reading this book and passing it on to family and friends!
    Many thanks, Cindi


  2. “A word in earnest is as good as a speech.”-Bleak House

    I have found that simple words, expressions, phrases, often spoken by children, have far more impact and profundity than a prepared eloquent speech.

    This looks like a great book, along with the Jane Austen Devotional, too.


  3. “Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”

    “My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.”

    “The two commonest mistakes in judgement … are, the confounding of shyness with arrogance – a very common mistake indeed – and the not understanding that an obstinate nature exists in a perpetual struggle with itself.” – Dombey & Son

    I LOVE Charles Dickens! Thank you so much for this giveaway


  4. Having recently re-read A Tale of Two Cities, my thoughts center on Sydney Carton, who might benefit from the devotional, and also perhaps his final words might find a place in the book itself. Thanks for the giveaway.


  5. To my utter shame I have never read a Charles Dickens novel. I know, I know! Every Christmas I sit out A Christmas Carol to read but for some reason or another I never get to it. This devotional would be a great introduction to Dickens and maybe spark an interest to start one of his beloved novels. Thanks for the giveaway!=)


  6. A well-done review. I understand what you said about the importance of Christians and non-Christians dialoguing together, but here’s what the Bible says on these matters:

    II Thessalonians 3:13-15

    But as for you, brethern, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

    I Corinthians 15:33

    Do not be deceived. Evil company corrupts good habits. Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

    Jesus himself kept company with the non-righteous, but then it wasn’t until after he died and rose again that it became possible for people to become the righteousness of God when they accept him as Lord. Now that we can do that, it’s important to keep ourselves in the will of God. I’m not trying to dispute doctrine here, but I believe the Bible and do not follow any kind of political correctness. (I John 1:7 says, “Walk in the light as He is in the light…”) Our connection with non-Christians should be letting our light shine, not getting dragged down into false doctrine, deception, and compromise. These are perilous times. We need to stay close to the Lord and not apologize for that, uncompromisingly and boldy.


  7. I love the quote “The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.” Thanks for this opportunity!



  8. “Please Sir, I want some more” – Oliver Twist is the quote I find myself using most and Beadle could most certainly use a devotional! This sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the giveaway!


  9. “A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”

    “An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”

    “‘Tis love that makes the world go round.”

    “Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself completely; in great aims and in small I have always thoroughly been in earnest.”

    “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.”

    Dickens was a genius. Thank you for reminding us of it– and for hosting this giveaway. I’d love to win!!


  10. These are two of my personal favourites…”Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
    …and because I am a cat lover ,this is a quote I have as one of my quotes on Facebook “What greater gift than the love of a cat?”
    The man was a great literary genius !
    Thank you for a chance to enter this giveaway and that it’s open to Canadian residents :)


  11. My favorite quote is “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year”. The devotional would make a special addition to my library. Thank you for the giveaway.


  12. “Fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine.”


  13. “Take nothing on its looks, take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.- Great Expectations


  14. Great trailer. Would love to win and read this book. Read a couple of his books in school. Will have to check barnes & noble for some ebooks to catch up and re-read some books.


  15. When I was a child, I owned a little book called The Life of Our Lord by Charles Dickens; he wrote the book to teach his own children the story of the Gospel. My little book is long gone, but I would love to have this Charles Dickens devotional. Dickens created so many characters who would benefit from reading this devotional, but I will choose the Marquis de St. Evremonde from A Tale of Two Cities.


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