Book #22

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield is the story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy & impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr Murdstone; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora; & the magnificently impecunious Micawber, one of literature’s great comic creations.

It has taken me four weeks to read this novel, which is a personal worst. I didn't slog; I didn't drag my heels; I just made sure I was taking my time to enjoy this masterpiece of detail, of characterisation, and of slow burning plot ticking its way through Copperfield's minefield peppered life. Dickens' favourite: and I can see why.

His writing is so rich and lavish here. Everything is explored in depth; the setting, the atmosphere, the world, and most importantly, the characters; all so deep, and given to us whole on a plate of tragedy. Their fears, their history, their entirely delectable flaws, shape them completely and give us a wonderful insight into their behaviour that it's almost (almost) easy to predict how they'll react next. A constant, overwhelming awe filled me each time I considered how he'd managed this using first-person narrative, and also when I realised how much Dickens loved each of his characters.

It's easy to dream your way through some of the more eloquent passages with minimum plot, however Dickens has a habit of introducing a subtle hint of foreshadowing, or a new character who seems incredibly minor, only to smack you with them again 100 pages later.

Nineteenth century societal customs are a firm favourite of mine, and Dickens never disappoints in his commentary. Both rich and poor are represented broadly, and the differences are stark. The people are almost (as is Dickens) caricatures of those from that era, but this takes nothing away for me.

An emotional journey, rocking us into a sense of importance in loving those important to us, Dickens gives us love, heartache, and loss in equal measures, not only in relevance to romantic attachments, but also in family, and in those we consider family.

This is a total powerhouse of literature, and I'm only sorry my own words don't have the strength to convey how completely wonderful it is. I'll leave you with some words from the author himself, and admit my feelings match his own:

Like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.