The turmoil and tragedy of London’s underclass, illustrated in an 1874 engraving, informed much of Dickens’s writing and inspires The Baker’s Tale. Quint Lox Limited
The turmoil and tragedy of London’s underclass, illustrated in an 1874 engraving, informed much of Dickens’s writing and inspires The Baker’s Tale. Quint Lox Limited

Book review: Thomas Hauser’s The Baker’s Tale is a joyous story that channels the legacy of Dickens



In April 1868, Charles Dickens was travelling to England by sea after a lengthy reading tour of America. As he made that journey, his thoughts turned to 1836, the year that – as a result of the serialised appearance of The Pickwick Papers – did so much to establish his reputation and that offered Dickens an experience that he would still regard as formative when he looked back on it 30 years later.

“In the winter of 1836”, he wrote as he crossed the Atlantic, “I held an infant in my arms. The child, a girl eight months of age, was living under the most deplorable conditions that existed in London at that time. Since then, I have often wondered what happened to the child.”

This recollection – so typical of Dickens in its obsession with suffering, injustice, its fascination with untold stories – provides the basis for the narrative we are offered in Thomas Hauser's latest novel, The Baker's Tale: Ruby Spriggs and the Legacy of Charles Dickens.

This is not the first time that Hauser, who has now published 47 works of fiction and non-fiction (on subjects as diverse as boxing, Beethoven and the legacy of Chernobyl), has turned to Dickens: his novel of 2014, The Final Recollections of Charles Dickens, told the story of Dickens's dying days in a powerfully reimagined version of Victorian London. Yet where this work placed Dickens at the heart of its story ("I am Dickens", says the narrator on its opening page), The Baker's Tale affords him a less central presence.

Here, in a manner that is taut, brisk, atmospheric, seductive, Hauser tells the story of the orphaned Ruby Spriggs (a version of the infant Dickens held in his arms in 1836) and her escape from poverty in 19th-century London. When we meet her she is 3 years old and in the care of her benevolent uncle, Christopher Spriggs. Together they lead a desperate and itinerant life, until one day they find themselves the beneficiaries of the kindness of a stranger. Their saviour is a baker named Antonio, who was himself once the beneficiary of a philanthropic stranger by the name of Octavius Joy, an honest man of considerable means, and the closest thing in the book to a version of Dickens (on occasion Hauser has him speak Dickens’s phrases, as if they are his own).

Between them, Octavius and Antonio secure for Ruby and Christopher a home (and for Christopher, employment) at the bakery of the recently bereaved Marie Wells. In the course of their lives there, we follow Ruby and Christopher as they are lifted out of poverty, begin to find a place in the world, and eventually learn to read: the civilising and liberating nature of reading is one of this book’s – and one of Dickens’s – great themes. By the time she is 16, Ruby has acquired sufficient education to teach at one of Octavius’s centres for learning, which he has established (again one thinks of Dickens himself) with the purpose of educating the very poor. At this stage of the book, in one of its many painful, direct and moving scenes, Christopher dies.

The rest of the novel covers Ruby’s falling in love with a young and handsome man named Edwin Chatfield, who works in the coal industry, hates his employer, loves reading and longs to teach – an ambition that, thanks to a chance (and beautifully comic) encounter with Octavius Joy, he is able to realise. It is in the course of teaching that he meets Ruby, and the two of them cement their relationship by reading together the works of Dickens. For a time they are happy, then enter a malevolent and avaricious coal baron to ensure that the path of young love is not uninterestingly smooth.

There are moments at which Hauser's telling of this story sags; and his prose often lacks precision. But this novel contains so much pure narrative pleasure, and so much to enjoy in the form of Dickensian arcana, themes and motifs, as to make such criticisms feel unimportant. The Baker's Tale is a book to be read quickly and indulgently, and in thrall to the joys of story. It is a wonderfully diverting achievement.

Matthew Adams is a London-­based reviewer who writes for the TLS, the Spectator and the Literary Review.

THE SPECS

Engine: 3.5-litre supercharged V6

Power: 416hp at 7,000rpm

Torque: 410Nm at 3,500rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Fuel consumption: 10.2 l/100km

Price: Dh375,000 

On sale: now 

The biog

Age: 35

Inspiration: Wife and kids 

Favourite book: Changes all the time but my new favourite is Thinking, Fast and Slow  by Daniel Kahneman

Best Travel Destination: Bora Bora , French Polynesia 

Favourite run: Jabel Hafeet, I also enjoy running the 30km loop in Al Wathba cycling track

The specs

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 680hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 800Nm at 2,750-6,000rpm
Transmission: Rear-mounted eight-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 13.6L/100km
On sale: Orderbook open; deliveries start end of year
Price: From Dh970,000

Company profile

Company name: Hakbah
Started: 2018
Founder: Naif AbuSaida
Based: Saudi Arabia
Sector: FinTech
Current number of staff: 22
Initial investment: $200,000
Investment stage: pre-Series A
Investors: Global Ventures and Aditum Investment Management

The Old Slave and the Mastiff

Patrick Chamoiseau

Translated from the French and Creole by Linda Coverdale

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

SPECS

Engine: 4-litre V8 twin-turbo
Power: 630hp
Torque: 850Nm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
Price: From Dh599,000
On sale: Now

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Ad Astra

Director: James Gray

Stars: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones

Five out of five stars 

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

First Person
Richard Flanagan
Chatto & Windus 

PREMIER LEAGUE FIXTURES

All times UAE (+4 GMT)

Saturday
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur (3.30pm)
Burnley v Huddersfield Town (7pm)
Everton v Bournemouth (7pm)
Manchester City v Crystal Palace (7pm)
Southampton v Manchester United (7pm)
Stoke City v Chelsea (7pm)
Swansea City v Watford (7pm)
Leicester City v Liverpool (8.30pm)

Sunday
Brighton and Hove Albion v Newcastle United (7pm)

Monday
Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion (11pm)

How to avoid getting scammed
  • Never click on links provided via app or SMS, even if they seem to come from authorised senders at first glance
  • Always double-check the authenticity of websites
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for all your working and personal services
  • Only use official links published by the respective entity
  • Double-check the web addresses to reduce exposure to fake sites created with domain names containing spelling errors
SPEC SHEET: SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FOLD 4

Main display: 7.6" QXGA+ Dynamic Amoled 2X, 2176 x 1812, 21.6:18, 374ppi, HDR10+, up to 120Hz

Cover display: 6.2" HD+ Dynamic Amoled 2X, 2316 x 904, 23.1:9, 402ppi, up to 120Hz

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, 4nm, octa-core; Adreno 730 GPU

Memory: 12GB

Capacity: 256/512GB / 1TB

Platform: Android 12, One UI 4.1.1

Main camera: Triple 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2) + 50MP wide (f/1.8) + 10MP telephoto (f/2.4), dual OIS, 3x optical zoom, 30x Space Zoom, portrait, super slo-mo

Video: 8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, full-HD@30/60fps, HD@30fps; slo-mo@60/240/960fps; HDR10+

Cover camera: 10MP (f/2.2)

Inner front camera: Under-display 4MP (f/1.8)

Battery: 4400mAh, 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, reverse wireless charging, 'all-day' life

Connectivity: 5G; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC (Samsung Pay)

I/O: USB-C

Cards: Nano-SIM + eSIM; 2 nano-SIMs + eSIM; 2 nano-SIMs

Colours: Graygreen, phantom black, beige, burgundy (online exclusive)

In the box: Fold 4, USB-C-to-USB-C cable

Price: Dh6,799 / Dh7,249 / Dh8,149

SPECS: Polestar 3

Engine: Long-range dual motor with 400V battery
Power: 360kW / 483bhp
Torque: 840Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 628km
0-100km/h: 4.7sec
Top speed: 210kph
Price: From Dh360,000
On sale: September

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Company profile

Name: WallyGPT
Started: 2014
Founders: Saeid and Sami Hejazi
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Investment raised: $7.1 million
Number of staff: 20
Investment stage: Pre-seed round

TECH SPECS: APPLE WATCH SE (second generation)

Display: 40mm, 324 x 394; 44mm, 368 x 448; Retina LTPO OLED, up to 1000 nits; Ion-X glass

Processor: Apple S8, W3 wireless

Capacity: 32GB

Memory: 1GB

Platform: watchOS 9

Health metrics: 2nd-gen heart rate sensor, workouts, fall/crash detection; emergency SOS, international emergency calling

Connectivity: GPS/GPS + cellular; Wi-Fi, LTE, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC (Apple Pay)

Durability: Water resistant up to 50m

Battery: 269mAh Li-ion, up to 18h, wireless charging

Cards: eSIM

Finishes: Aluminium; midnight, silver, starlight

In the box: Watch SE, magnetic-to-USB-C charging cable, band/loop

Price: Starts at Dh999 (40mm) / 1,119 (44mm)

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

The Transfiguration

Director: Michael O’Shea

Starring: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine

Three stars

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

UAE cricketers abroad

Sid Jhurani is not the first cricketer from the UAE to go to the UK to try his luck.

Rameez Shahzad Played alongside Ben Stokes and Liam Plunkett in Durham while he was studying there. He also played club cricket as an overseas professional, but his time in the UK stunted his UAE career. The batsman went a decade without playing for the national team.

Yodhin Punja The seam bowler was named in the UAE’s extended World Cup squad in 2015 despite being just 15 at the time. He made his senior UAE debut aged 16, and subsequently took up a scholarship at Claremont High School in the south of England.