Alison Flood, The Guardian, 27 May 2011
And Carrie, vibrantly and cleverly and awkwardly brought to life by Dickens. I can still remember the scene where her English teacher has the class in hysterics with her overly dramatic recital of "Come into the Garden, Maud". I found when I came to study Tennyson at a later date that lines from the poem were mysteriously lodged in my head, and realised it came from Carrie's own recital: "I hate the dreadful hollow behind the little wood; / Its lips in the field above are dabbled with blood-red heath, / The red-ribb'd ledges drip with a silent horror of blood, / An Echo there, whatever is ask'd her, answers 'Death'." Are there many children's novels these days that introduce their readers to Tennyson, all without them even being aware of it? I doubt it.
They are the kind of children's books that, when you are reminded of them as an adult, you want to reread. But, having mislaid my ancient copies years ago, I've been stymied in my vague bookshop trawlings by their out-of-print-dom. Happy days, then, to learn that a new initiative from Bloomsbury is bringing them back into print, in ebook and print versions, together with a glorious-sounding pile of other adult Dickens novels which I haven't yet read but very much intend to (I also loved her Follyfoot children's books, but they've not yet fallen out of print).
The Bookman extends his warm thanks to Alison Flood for her piece on Monica Dickens.
During a visit to NZ in the early 1980's, as a guest of her publishers Wm.Heinemann, I met Monica and her American husband Roy Stratton, and spent a happy weekend looking after them. I was CEO/Publisher at Penguin Books NZ at the time and we were the publishers of her adult novels in paperback.
We became great friends and over the years I stayed with them on three occasions at their home on Cape Cod and then after Roy died in 1985 I visited Monica in Berkshire in the UK after she moved there. She died on Christmas day 1992.
She was a gracious and kind woman, a wonderful host, and of course an enormously talented writer both for adults and children. I was very fond of her and greatly admired her.
A couple of asides from among many happy memories I have of Monica.
All her adult books were published by William Heinemann and in those "good old days" the long-serving MD of Heinemann, Charles Pick, used to give all his major authors a one-off leather bound edition of each of their titles when they were published in hard cover. Monica, a prolific author, had almost 30 adult titles published and she was very proud of her shelf of leather bound editions.
On one occasion after she had picked me up in the early evening from Boston airport and we were driving home to Cape Cod she fell asleep at the wheel. Fortunately I was still largely awake ( I had just flown from NZ) and was able to grab the steering wheel and get us back on the road. She was mortified and made me promise I wouldn't tell Roy.
When she was in NZ on one of several visits she was asked by a journalist why she kept carrying out author tours, she replied "when you have a name like Dickens people assume you are dead so you have to keep showing that you are still very much alive".
Monica was very keen on lobster and on two occasions after she collected me from Boston Airport we went to the famous Boston fish market on the way home to buy fresh lobster for dinner.