David Copperfield

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


David Copperfield

by Charles Dickens
★★★★★

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

What a great first line! So don’t judge me, I was under the impression that this particular Dickens novel was about a missionary in Africa. I had avoided it for years because Dickens talking about missionary work sounded incredibly dull to me. That was David LIVINGSTONE, not Copperfield and he was a real missionary, not a character.

Anyway, misconceptions aside, this novel is a great example of what Dickens does best. He writes about a young man, orphaned and surrounded by dozens of colorful characters as he tries to make his way in the world. My favorite part of this particular Dickens’ tapestry is the varied people he brings into his protagonists’ life. They’re never boring and tend to have fantastic names.

There’s the eccentric aunt, Betsey Trotwood, who is convinced Copperfield’s mother is going to have a girl. Then David is born and she’s so disappointed she leaves the house immediately and never talks to her again. There’s Mr. and Mrs. Macawber, a curious pair who are devoted to each other, despite the mister’s tendency to get them into debt.

Copperfield’s step-father, Mr. Murdstone and his sister are an obviously sinister pair, while Steerforth, David’s schoolmate, just makes you a bit uneasy at first. Peggotty is David’s servant and dear friend and her courtship is hilarious.

Without giving anything away, I would add that I didn’t love the character of Dora. You meet her about half way through the book and she’s the equivalent of a dizzy blonde. No offense to blondes out there, but you know what I mean. I just found her incredibly annoying. On the flip side we have Agnes, Copperfield’s close friend. She’s clever and kind and I loved her.

This book feels a bit light-hearted at first, but it takes a darker turn as the characters are forced to deal with some horrible things. Apparently Leo Tolstoy once said that chapter 55, The Tempest, “is the standard by which the world's great fiction should be judged,” high praise from Mr. War and Peace himself.

There are also some wonderfully funny parts in the books, with lines like…

“He was always doing something or another to annoy me, or I felt as if he were, which is the same thing.”

One section gives a detailed account of David Copperfield getting wasted with his friends. It’s not something you ever think you’ll stumble upon while reading classic literature and because of that it’s even more delightful when you do.

After a few rocky years, I think I can officially say I’m a big fan of Dickens’ work. I haven’t loved everything he’s written, but the deeper I go into his lesser known works, the more I enjoy them. I think the key, for me at least, is to pace myself. His books are too similar to each other to read in a binge. If I read only one a year instead, I find myself eagerly anticipating the next one.

Well done Dickens and thanks for not writing about missionaries.

15 comments:

bibliophilica said...

Mr.Copperfield, I presume? :-)
I love your story about your misconception, that's great!

I've read and loved a lot of Dicken's novels over the years but have somehow never made it to this one (other than reading the Classics Illustrated Comic Book version as a child, which doesn't quite count).

Some day, I will get to this one...
-Jay

Sandy Nawrot said...

OK, well at least you've READ Dickens, misconceptions be damned! I've never even read him, and I know I should be shamed. I've got this one and Great Expectations loaded on my Kindle, I just need to get to them.

Kristi said...

I'm planning on reading David Copperfield this summer, so it's nice to hear you enjoyed it. I agree--that is a great first line. Too funny that you had in your mind that he was a missionary. That would make for a dull book.

Sandy Nawrot said...

By the way, I hope you are safe and warm inside. I saw that Indy has about a foot of ice on top of it...

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

Great review. I haven't read this one yet, but I've heard a lot of good things about it. The last paragraph of your post got me thinking, though. I recently finished reading Great Expectations, and I'm participating in an Oliver Twist read-a-long this February. I might suffer from Dickens overload...

Alexandra said...

Dickens and his heroines… he should have tried a bit harder. I do like, however, Stella in Great Expectations.

Avid Reader said...

Jay - Exactly! That's what I thought.

Sandy - Great Expectations is a wonderful one to start with. You heard right about Indy, it's awful here. I keep hearing sirens every few minutes as police cars and ambulances head to accidents. Luckily I'm not out driving in it, the roads are like glass!

Kristi - I can't wait to hear what you think.

Darlyn - I feel that way about a lot of authors. I think that reading too much of any particular author makes me appreciate their work less.

Alexandra - Stella defies the mold.

Kristen M. said...

This is probably my favorite Dickens. I've read it three or four times. It's a shame that Dickens didn't give it a flashier title! If you haven't seen the BBC version with Daniel Radcliffe and Maggie Smith, it's well worth a watch.

Heather said...

Oh, how I wished I enjoyed Dickens that much. Of course, I've only read Great Expectations, which I sort of liked. Everything else I've tried has bored me to tears! I guess I'm just more of a Wilkie Collins girl. Hopefully, some day, Dickens and I will be able to get along.

Becky (Page Turners) said...

I really really want to enjoy Dickens, but I can't, no matter how hard I try. This year I think I might give Oliver Twist a go - that might help me change my mind.

Im pleased that you enjoy him

Shelley said...

This is one of my favorites--I think I'm due for a reread. I think I find comfort in the similarities in his plots. I also love to discover what larger-than-life character his going to introduce next. And as far as Dora goes, I think I was more irritated with David for being such an idiot when it comes to her.

Brenna said...

I've yet to read any Dickens. ANY! He's one of those authors I've been putting off because of what I hear about the loooong descriptions and heavy prose. Still, I know I should read something, and your review pushed me a little more. Thanks :)

Avid Reader said...

Kristen - I just watched that BBC version of the book this weekend. So good!

Heather - Collins is wonderful too. I think sometimes you just have to be in the right mood for certain authors.

Becky - I have some authors like that. I have to admit though, I really couldn't stand Oliver Twist. He was just too good and everything around him was against him. I just couldn't connect with that book.

Shelley - That's a gerat point about Dora. It wasn't really her fault, I just expected a more intelligent decision from Copperfield.

Brenna - I would start small, he is really wordy. Great Expectations would be a good place to begin.

Joseph said...

I just reread DC and I loved it even more the second time. I still rank it behind A Tale of Two Cities, but the gap is not nearly so great. Truly a masterpiece. My review: http://100greatestnovelsofalltimequest.blogspot.com/2015/06/david-copperfield-by-charles-dickens-50.html

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Joseph - I think I might have to reread it soon. I can't wait to see what I'll notice the second time around.