Michael Slater's The Great Charles Dickens Scandal is one of those books that tries to be both academic and popular and falls somewhere between the two. The Dickens scandal, as scholars and biographers now agree, is Dickens' love affair with the actress Ellen Ternan. It is thought he rented a house for her and it is possible they had a child together.
More shocking to me is Dickens' treatment of his wife of many years, the mother of his 10 children. Telling her she was fat and unattractive and they had nothing in common, he reqested that she leave him, giving her a modest income. Remaining with Dickens as housekeeper and possibly more was his wife's sister, Georgina. Mrs Dickens left quietly and never made a public statement about her husband, displaying much more dignity and good sense than Dickens.
This book is a study of the gradual release of information -- letters, diaries, interviews, journal articles -- that enables the modern scholar to put together the story of this scandal. Slater is an emeritus professor of London University with a great many fine books in his bibliography. Which is what makes this book, published by Yale University Press a bit puzzling. There should have been pages of footnotes for such an academic work. There are none. But the book is dry and detailed and unappealing to the casual reader.
So if you are interested in Dickens or in the scandal that he created in his last years you are better off reading the recent biography by Claire Tomalin, Charles Dickens: A Life (2012).