Charles Dickens had a hard childhood, with a bankrupt father, little schooling and a miserable time in a blacking factory sticking labels on tins of boot polish. This is reflected in his three great novels of personal development, "David Copperfield", "Great Expectations", and "Oliver Twist".
"David Copperfield" was Dickens' 'favourite child', and is a Bildungsroman with richly comic as well as deeply poignant moments. "Great Expectations" also traces the progress of a young man though life but, as a novel of the author's maturity, is expressed in subtler shades of nuance. "Oliver Twist" is more black-and-white than either, and highlights the incorruptibility of young Oliver as he battles with the evil of Fagin and Bill Sikes. The final story in this collection is the well-loved "A Christmas Carol", which is both a ghost story and a moral tale that has defined the pattern of Christmas celebrations from Victorian to modern times. These four books in one volume represent much of Dickens' finest writing.