David Copperfield: not just an 80’s magician with a mullet but, as I have now discovered, one of the greatest novels ever created by a human hand. Ever.
Eagle-eyed readers may note that David Copperfield is not Charles Dickens’s third novel. We did things slightly out of order this month in our Dickens readathon due to circumstances beyond our control (and too boring to go into), but – what a happy accident, because it meant we got to discover the utter wondrousness of this novel.
I am in love with this book. I love its characters – straight-backed, stern Betsy Trotwood, a model for all womankind; charismatic, complicated wrong’un Steerforth; strange, furious Rosa Dartle, whose scar becomes livid as she gets angry; slimy Uriah Heep, whose fingers leave snails’ trails when he reads a book; David’s nurse Peggotty, whose buttons pop from her dress as she hugs him. I love the novel’s richness, the way everything bursts from the page, as if even a book of this size can’t contain Dickens’s inventiveness. Yet it has a brain as well as a heart. The characters change, they contradict themselves, they do incredibly stupid and incredibly heroic things. The dialogue is perfect and the writing is so clever: the interplay between David looking back and David his younger self means you could almost describe him as a bit of an unreliable narrator (indeed, I am sure that, had I ever got round to reading David Copperfield at university rather than watching Cracker, I would have written an essay on this).
I had already started getting obsessed with Dickens, for example starting to describe everything I saw, read or heard as ‘So Dickensian’ (“look at that chimney sweep! How Dickensian!”). Now I know that Dickens and I are going to be friends for life. We are bezzies. Please, please read it, everybody!
Here’s why the others loved it so much:
‘Since I reached the final (six millionth) page of David Copperfield I've been reading this year's Booker Prize shortlist novels, and I keep thinking: 'Oh, come on! Be better! Be as good as David Copperfield!' Even allowing for Dickens' habit of moralising about fallen women, this is one of the best and most enjoyable books I've ever read. The humour is sharp and feels completely undated. The major characters, like Mr Micawber, Betsy Trotwood are legendary and have pubs named after them for good reasons. The minor characters are all strong enough to inhabit whole books of their own; I loved the kind hearted funeral director, Mr Omer, who is troubled by the fact that he can never find a non-sinister way to ask after the health of his old or sick neighbours. David C. himself is so hopeless, likeable and convincingly real, that I rooted for him from the first page. I got so emotionally wrapped up in it all that I cried at my desk one lunch time, reading the bit about the death of a lapdog. I'm embarrassed about that in retrospect. A genius book, and a very funny one. No one should let the thickness of the spine deter them from trying it.’ Becky Stocks
‘I absolutely loved David Copperfield from start to finish. David is such a well-rounded, true, sympathetic character, and his whole world is one I was so delighted to visit. Although it's 850 pages in the edition we read, it never felt like a labour to read and was a real page-turner. I laughed and cried at Dora's silliness, Micawber's compulsive letter-writing, the kindness of the whole Peggotty family and the goodness of Doctor Strong and Mr Dick. The crocodile book! The donkeys! Tommy Traddles! Even Uriah Heep (one of the literary world's most dreadful villains) is utterly believable, evincing, if not pity, then certainly an understanding of how he became the man he is. Now I just need to find out Mr Micawber's punch recipe.’ Sam Binnie
Louise Willder, Copywriter