top of page
  • Writer's pictureAnna Karras

Book Review - Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius

Did he really do that? Did Nick Hornby actually write an entire book comparing the life and work of beloved novelist Charles Dickens with some pop star from the 1980s? Or by the same measure, one might ask, did Nick Hornby really write a book comparing the brilliant and prolific songwriter and record producer Prince with some guy who wrote books 150 years ago?

He sure did.

And what a book this is. Whether you lean towards the former or latter camp above you will be sure to learn

something you didn’t know about both Charles Dickens and Prince Rogers Nelson and what it means to be a creative genius. There are some interesting comparisons drawn—both men lived to 57 years old, and both had so much creativity pouring forth that they could hardly contain the amount of work they produced. And while there are obvious differences (race, class, nationality, and creative medium just to name a few) the similarities are rather startling when you compare them.

For instance, did you know that Dickens wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby simultaneously? That’s two books of over 800 pages each and he kept the myriad cast of characters and diverging plot lines straight in his head. By means of comparison, Prince released nearly forty albums of music in his between 1978 and 2015 and there are hundreds of songs in his vault still waiting to be discovered. He could play dozens of instruments with virtuosic ability.

Already proven to be a clever wit and storyteller, Hornby dives into this comparison with humor and obvious

affection for both Dickens and Prince. His examination of their lives, their work, and their love spin into an unlikely mix of Victorian England and the late twentieth-century American rock scene. And still, the similarities are hard to deny. Both men came from impoverished beginnings, both men were superstars in their day.

Whether you have a taste for either one or the other, (or neither or both!) this examination of these two men is a fascinating journey. From early commercial success to the untimely death of each, Hornby makes illuminating connections in this slim volume. The most important thing is that real creative genius is something that is elusive, rare, and compelling when it does surface. Exploring these two together is a charming and delightful way to spend an afternoon.

Dickens may not be your thing. Prince may not be your taste. That’s okay. Learning about their contributions to the creative canon is worth your time. It might be a little unorthodox, but then so were they.


∞ Author's Profile

Famous for his novels High Fidelity and About a Boy (both adapted into feature films), Nick Hornby is obsessed with music and literature. He is the author of six novels and his memoir Fever Pitch. British by birth, Hornby lives in London with his wife and has three sons.


bottom of page