David Copperfield – Introduction and Notes by Dr Adrienne Gavin, Canterbury Christ Church University College Illustrations by Hablot K. Browne (Phiz) Dickens wrote of David Copperfield: ‘Of all my books I like this the best’. Millions of readers in almost every language on earth have subsequently come to share the author’s own enthusiasm for this greatly loved classic, possibly because of its autobiographical form.
Following the life of David through many sufferings and great adversity, the reader will also find many light-hearted moments in the company of a host of English fiction’s greatest stars including Mr Micawber, Traddles, Uriah Heep, Creakle, Betsy Trotwood, and the Peggoty family.
Book Review by Michele
May have been Dickens’ personal favorite, but it wasn’t his best
I’ve been on a Dickens “kick” lately, so thought I would try David Copperfield; I read a condensed version as a child and hadn’t ever re-read it since.
Having made it through this longest of Dickens’ works (at least, the longest I’ve read so far) my conclusion is that this is evidence that bigger/longer doesn’t mean better. According to Wikipedia this book was Dickens’ personal favorite (no doubt because of the strong autobiographical elements) but in my opinion it is definitely not his best. It ranks better than Dickens’ worst (Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorritt) but not nearly as good as his best (A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations).
The main problem with David Copperfield? It is waaaay too long. It is the most thoughtful and contemplative of Charles Dickens’ books, but at the same time it drags on interminably. Rather than have one main compelling story line, with conflict, climax, etc. that drives the narrative, David Copperfield has numerous storylines, each with their own conflict and climax, so that the reader is left weary and glazed-eyed. Rather than stuff all of them into this one overlong book, Dickens would have done better to break this book up into several books.
All that being said, David Copperfield does contain some of Dickens’ most quirky, interesting and unforgettable characters. Even Dora ended up being one of my favorites, if only because she is that rarest of Dickens’ characters, one who actually grows and changes (or perhaps in this case she didn’t so much change, as reveal a different side of her character as the story progressed). At any event, I started out feeling neutral about her, then didn’t like her, then admired her greatly.
If you’re a Dickens fan then by all means read this. If you’re not particularly a Dickens fan, or new to Dickens, then don’t start with David Copperfield; it will wear you out and probably turn you off to Dickens entirely. Start with one of his more compelling books (those I listed above among my favorites).
I actually listened to two different audio versions of this; the first one I was unable to finish before it had to be returned to the library (and couldn’t be renewed). So I purchased a second version in order to finish. In comparing the two (this version produced by Blackstone Audio vs. the version produced by Recorded Books narrated by Patrick Tull which doesn’t seem to exist on Amazon) I like the narrator of the Blackstone Audio version slightly better. His characterizations are nearly as colorful as the narrator of the Recorded Books version, but he doesn’t make everyone sound quite so old (particularly David Copperfield).
I will definitely listen to this again, if for no other reason than to catch the parts I missed the first time around due to my attention wandering.
The most perfect of all the Dickens novels. –Virginia Woolf – From the Trade Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
‘I really think I have done it ingeniously and with a very complicated interweaving of truth and fiction.’ So wrote Dickens of David Copperfield (1850), the novel he called his ‘favourite child’. Through his hero Dickens draws openly on his own life, as David Copperfield recalls his experiences from childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist.
Rosa Dartle, Dora, Steerforth and Uriah Heep are among the characters who focus the hero’s sexual and emotional drives, and Mr Micawber, a portrait of Dickens’s own father, evokes the mixture of love, nostalgia and guilt that, put together, make this Dickens’s most quoted and best-loved novel.
Originally published: November 1850
Pages: 624 (first book edition)
Page count: 624 (first book edition)
Genres: Novel, Fiction, Bildungsroman, Künstlerroman