The story traces the life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity. David is born in Blunderstone, Suffolk, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, in 1820, six months after the death of his father. David spends his early years with his mother and their housekeeper, Peggotty. When he is seven years old his mother marries Edward Murdstone. David is given good reason to dislike his stepfather and has similar feelings for Murdstone's sister Jane, who moves into the house soon afterwards. Murdstone attempts to thrash David for falling behind in his studies. David bites him and soon afterwards is sent away to a boarding school, Salem House, with a ruthless headmaster, Mr. Creakle. There he befriends James Steerforth and Tommy Traddles.
Well, after at least of month of effort, I finally finished David Copperfield (just in time, too, given the start of cycling season, which has put a rather sizeable dent in my available reading time), and I must say, it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long long time. Of course, this probably shouldn’t be surprising, Dickens being considered one of the greatest English language authors… ever, really. But, given my general aversion to “classics” (despite my constant effort to read them), the language often being difficult to digest, and the comprehension of the subject matter often reliant on knowledge about the period the work was written in, I was skeptical. Victorian period pieces? How enjoyable a read could that possibly be?
Turns out, very enjoyable! Dickens is considered a great master of characterization, and I never really understood what that meant until I read this book. Unlike most books, where my drive to read is fueled by a desire to find out “what happens next”, aided by little breadcrumbs the author sprinkles along the way, when reading David Copperfield, I found it was the characters I cared about. Would Mr. Micawber ever sort out his financial woes? Would Uriah Heep’s hold on Mr. Wickfield be loosed, and would he get his comeuppance? Would Traddles finally get married? Would Mr. Dick finally exorcise King Charles I from his mind? It really was a unique reading experience, sad and serious at times, uproariously funny at others (every time I read the closing on one of Mr. Micawber’s letters, I quite literally laughed out loud).
So, if you can handle a slightly more challenging read (the language isn’t difficult, just different in style), I’d suggest checking out David Copperfield. Meanwhile, I can now dig into Nicholas Nickleby… expect another review in, say, three months time.
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