Catherine Woodman's Reviews > David Copperfield

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
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Sep 07, 12

it was amazing

My second son is taking a class in British Literature, and I am reading the books along side of him. I have not had the best reading year of the last decade this year, and of the 12 books they are reading, I have read exactly zero of them, despite the fact that they are all old enough to be off patent (so 70+ years from publication), and available free of charge on the Kindle. It's a sign.
David Copperfield is the book we start off with. I have read a half dozen or more Dickens (can you really count 'A Christmas Carol' as one? If so I might be closer to ten books) and I have owned the complete Dickens oeuvre for two decades, so not a bad place to start the semester--a guy I already know and like. Dickens named this the favorite of all his works and several other heavy hitters agree with him. Henry James remembered hearing it aloud by his mother. Dostoyevsky took it to a Siberian prison camp. Franz Kafka called his first novel an imitation of it. James Joyce paid it reverence through parody in Ulysses. Virginia Woolf, who otherwise betrayed little regard for Dickens, confessed the durability of this one novel, for it belongs, she said, to "the memories and myths of life". The book was also Sigmund Freud's favourite novel. Charlotte Bronte referred to the novel in a letter to William Smith Williams on 13 September 1849, noting that "I have read David Copperfield; it seems to me very good—admirable in some parts. You said it had affinity to Jane Eyre: it has—now and then—only what an advantage has Dickens in his varied knowledge of men and things!".
It is damn good--they are all right about that. It is felt to be the most autobiographical of Dicken's work (although not strictly so), and to my ear, it is the one that has the best outcome for the largest number of characters (although not everyone gets out alive, and there are several very unsavory characters in the mix). Dickens is a great story teller, an author whose novels have a broad sweeping scope and the ability to keep the reader interested over the course of a character's lifetime, which in Dicken's England is bound to have a lot of ups and downs. David is born without a father, his mother is young and niave, which serves neither of them well, and he does acquire an evil step father at an early age. He has a few significant set backs as a child and is left an orphan at a young age, but overall he fares pretty well, and this is among the most uplifting of Dickens tales. Fantastic!
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David This was also Tolstoy's favourite novel.


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