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The Dickens Boy

A Novel


The award-winning author of modern classics such as Schindler’s List and the “complex and mesmerizing” (The Christian Science Monitor) Napoleon’s Last Island is at his triumphant best with this vibrant and engaging novel about the adventures of Charles Dickens’s son in the Australian Outback during the 1860s.

Edward Dickens, the tenth child of England’s most famous author Charles Dickens, has consistently let down his parents. Unable to apply himself at school and adrift in life, the teenaged boy is sent to Australia in the hopes that he can make something of himself—or at least fail out of the public eye. He soon finds himself in the remote Outback, surrounded by Aboriginals, colonials, ex-convicts, ex-soldiers, and very few women.

Even on the other side of the world, Edward encounters the same rabid veneration of his father that exists in England. But Edward has a secret: he has never read a single word of his father’s beloved writing. Determined to prove to his parents and more importantly, himself, that he can succeed in this vast and unfamiliar wilderness, Edward works hard at his new life amidst various livestock, bushrangers, shifty stock agents, and frontier battles.

By reimagining the tale of a fascinating yet little-known figure in history, this rollicking, high-spirited tale offers penetrating insights into Colonialism and the fate of Australia’s indigenous people, and a wonderfully intimate portrait of Charles Dickens, as seen through the eye of his exiled son.

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Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty-three novels since, most recently The Dickens BoyThe Book of Science and Antiquities, Crimes of the FatherNapoleon’s Last IslandShame and the Captives, and the New York Times bestselling The Daughters of Mars. He is also the author of Schindler’s List, which won the Booker Prize in 1982, The Chant of Jimmie BlacksmithGossip from the Forest, and Confederates, all of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He has also written several works of nonfiction, including his boyhood memoir Homebush BoyThe Commonwealth of Thieves, and Searching for Schindler. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney, Australia.

“An engrossing and transporting read.” —Financial Times

“[An] absorbing novel…Plorn himself is a joy” —The Times

“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.” —Scotsman

“The Dickens Boy…is energetic, even exuberant. It is in love with the abundance of life it negotiates.” —The Sydney Morning Herald


“An ingenious, hilarious novel…Keneally does what he does so well: he plucks people from the pages of history and gives them emotional lives” —The Australian

“A dashing, crisply written book.” —Saturday Paper

“Keneally is a master at weaving historical figures and events into compelling works of fiction and so he does with his new book.” —Brisbane News

“Rewarding terrain for a much-loved novelist.” —Gleaner

“[A] genial, wry recreation of [Edward Dickens'] time in remote New South Wales.” —Daily Mail