A Dickensian celebration in Dubai
“The most important thing in life is to stop saying, ‘I wish’ and start saying, ‘I will’. Consider nothing impossible, then treat possibilities as probabilities." - David Copperfield
It was a pleasant surprise to learn that I had won an online competition. An opportunity to meet the great, great, great granddaughter of noted author Charles Dickens. Lucinda Dickens Hawksley was present in Dubai on 7th February for a special celebration, the birthday of Charles Dickens. He would have been 210 years old in 2022. The event held by the Emirates Literature Festival was a mix of book lovers and intrigued fans, some of whom were dressed as various literary characters. The organisers held an intimate reading of the novel, 'Miss Havisham's Wedding,' however in true UAE style, the ending was changed and made happier for the other wise unwed protagonist. All of the guests were treated to a three course dinner which ended with, yes you guessed it, wedding cake. Of course a savory bite was also added as customary in olden days to ensure one does not spoil one's teeth with the taste of something sweet.
It was an evening quite unlike many others. Miss Havisham strolled around the ballroom that we were seated in and mingled with guests yet all the time conscious that she was in character. We were happy to shower her with petals of confetti as she made her way to cut her enormous wedding cake.
Hawksley is on her first trip to the UAE and believed that it would have been a place that would have delighted her great, great, great granddad who often described quaint places in his celebrated novels. She herself is a biographer, author, lecturer and travel writer. With more than 20 books published she says she was always drawn towards writing more than anything else.
During the Q and A, I asked Ms. Hawksley about the transition of a novel converted to film and if she feels the essence of characterisation, so epically described by Charles Dickens is compromised. She mentioned that if the person making the film puts enough passion in to the project, then this can be averted. She also said that a series depiction rather than a film can do more justice to a full length novel. Throughout the evening she regaled the audience with anecdotes from her childhood where she was taken with her siblings to watch renditions of 'Oliver' by her grandmother. She also discussed the highs and lows of Charles Dickens life. When quizzed about making Dickens relatable to a new generation she said one must entice them with the plot.
Truly came full circle for me as the very first novel that had an impact as a young child, was Oliver Twist.