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David Copperfield (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 28, 2004
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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So, yes. It is over a thousand pages and you will be reading it for a while. Some reviewers have suggested that the flaws they see in the novel are a consequence of it being written serially - but who would want to read a novel this long that didn't have several different rises and falls in action? I wouldn't want to wait until page 900 for all the different plot points to come to fruition.
The Kindle version of this novel is very readable - I'm sure there were a couple of typos, but nothing that I can remember. Overall, I highly recommend this book.
David Copperfield chronicles the life, from birth to mid-life, of the title character, and is told in first person from Copperfield's point of view. Many elements of Copperfield's life parallel Dickens' own. Child labor, debtors prisons, and endeavors in law, journalism, and writing all have their origins in Dickens' own experience. Other than optimism, Copperfield is largely shaped by the circumstances he finds himself in and the characters he encounters.
Dickens does a great job of providing fully-formed secondary characters. Attention is paid to the personality and motivation of virtually everyone Copperfield meets, down to waiters, landlords, and coachmen. My three favorite characters in the novel are Mr. Micawber, Betsey Trotwood, and Uriah Heep. Copperfield lives for a time with Mr. Micawber as a boy, and the pair form a strong connection. Mr. Micawber is characterized by pecuniary difficulties, a taste for the verbose, and faith that something will, in short, turn up. He's amusing whenever he turns up. David's great-aunt Betsey Trotwood is a feisty, strong-willed, no-nonsense woman who is, in fact, quite caring towards those who earn her good graces. Uriah Heep is a despicable clerk, who hides his schemes and ambitions in a cloak of humbleness and subservience. My skin crawled whenever he appeared on scene. In addition to memorable characters, Dickens' crafts some fantastic language in this novel. The dialogue, in particular, is quite good, and many a line will stick with me.
The main downside to the story is that there's no central thread to the narrative. While the novel is largely a coming of age story like Dickens' Great Expectation, it lacks any particular goal. Pip strives to become a gentleman and earn Estella's love in Great Expectations, but there's no similar target in Copperfield's mind. He moves from challenge to challenge well enough, but never seems to have any particular direction of his own. While this, most probably, is closer to real life than Pip's goals, it makes for a somewhat meandering novel.
I listened to Blackstone Audio's 2012 production of David Copperfield, narrated by Ralph Cosham. Cosham is a favorite narrator of mine, and he does an excellent job here. The novel contains a very large cast of characters, and Cosham manages to make them all sound distinct and memorable. From the despicably conniving and humble Uriah Heep to the solid and seafaring Mr. Peggotty to the adorable and silly Dora, you know as soon as Cosham starts speaking which character you're listening to. Cosham also does a great job of using timing and volume to set a scene. The hands down best example of this is a scene towards the end of the novel featuring Mr. Micawber and Uriah Heep, which is one of my favorite scenes of the novel, in no small part because of Cosham's performance. The unabridged recording runs approximately 34 hours.
Dickens' David Copperfield is an excellent novel. The lack of central theme holds it back some, but the many interesting and amusing characters and the memorable dialogue makes it worth reading for anyone looking to give Dickens a go. I highly recommend Cosham's performance of the novel to audiobook fans.
Note: I received a complimentary review copy of this audiobook from the publisher.