magic circle

Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle by Heera Datta

Smashwords (e-book), 2014 

195 Pages

I was given a free copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.


Outside the Magic Circle is part fiction and part fact; less fiction and more fact.

Charles Dickens married Catherine Hogarth on 2nd April, 1836, when he was an upcoming writer and reporter. Soon after marriage, he tasted spectacular success with The Pickwick Papers and in ten years, was the foremost writer of his time.

Catherine was the mother of his ten children, his hostess; she accompanied him on his American tour.

Yet, twenty-one years after they wed, Charles Dickens very publicly separated from her, denouncing her as an unfit mother and wife. He removed her from his home, his life, and the lives of his children. He never saw her again, not even when their son, Walter, died at the age of twenty-three in faraway India.

His allegations about his wife and his unhappy marriage were works of fiction, as successful and enduring as the rest of his works. The real cause of the separation was an eighteen-year-old actress, Ellen Ternan, who later became his mistress.

On her deathbed, Catherine gave her daughter letters Charles had written to her and said, “Give these to the British Museum, that the world may know he loved me once.”

Outside the Magic Circle is a fictionalized account of Catherine’s life after she was plucked out of her familiar world and thrown to the wolves, as it were, by the exemplary Charles Dickens. It is told in her voice; sometimes reminiscing, at other times baffled, confused, hurt, and angry. It has her tears, her love, and her quest for the meaning of her life, and marriage. 


I stand alone in this monstrously huge mansion, Tavistock House. Charles acquired it seven years ago for our large family, and meant it to be our London home for the rest of our lives. Three floors, numerous bedrooms, a schoolroom so large that it was converted into a theatre; the house is now empty except for the servants, who are somewhere unseen, my son Charley, my mother, and me.


I really enjoyed Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle. I found the novel incredibly sad at times. My heart really went out of Catherine Dickens. Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle showed Charles Dickens in a whole new light. I’m not a huge Dickens fan but I’ve read a few things. My partner is a huge fan. I found his behaviour towards Catherine shocking. What a b****** he was. I find it staggering he was allowed to force Catherine out of his life and home after more than twenty years, keep her from her children and publish letters and declarations in papers about how unfit a mother she was and how she cared nothing for the children and mentally unstable. I’d have liked to punch him in the face. Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle made me feel very emotional. I cried a lot as I read. I didn’t realise what a horrible person Charles Dickens was. I found his relationship with Catherine’s sisters, Mary and Georgina very odd and a bit creepy to be honest. When Mary died he mourned like a grief-stricken lover. He behaved in a similar way over Georgina and I can’t believe she took his side against her own sister. Datta isn’t the best writer in the world or the worst. Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle isn’t a stunning work of literary perfection but it is a great, emotional read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.




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