Saturday, March 9, 2013

Big, Big, Big, Big Book # 1: David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

David CopperfieldDavid CopperfieldWhether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

The Result: Success! David Copperfield (by my standards) took me a while to read, but I enjoyed this Dickens novel. Though I still like Jane Austen much better. "David Copperfield is the story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr. Murdstone; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora; and the magnificently impecunious Micawber, one of literature’s great comic creations. In David Copperfield—the novel he described as his “favorite child”—Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of his most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure." 

David Copperfield is definitely filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. Dickens can be so slyly funny in a verbose sort of way; but of course, so many really sad things happen to poor David. I wasn't in tears, but close to it. He's a bright boy, and he doesn't deserve all the misfortunes that befall him. I'm not going to reveal anything, but it's pretty easy to guess what happens to him. 

Dickens is renowned for his character portraits, and I have to say, they were really good. I particularly liked the portrayal of the horrible Mr. Murdstone, David's stepfather. He's so amazingly drawn, and I hated him fiercely, which is obviously what the reader is supposed to do. Here's a passage that I liked from pretty early on: "In short, I was not a favorite there with anybody, not even with myself; for those who did like me could not show it, and those who did not, showed it so plainly that I had a sensitive consciousness of always appearing constrained, boorish, and dull." (pg. 129). Overwritten? Yes. Clever? Also a yes. I realize that passage didn't pertain particularly to Mr. Murdstone, but it kind of illustrates David's conditions at home. 

One cannot write a review of any Dickens novel without commenting on his excessively over-written writing. Yes, it's off-putting at first, but I found myself getting absorbed in David's story about 100 pages in. You can't blame the poor guy really; he was paid by the word, so he squeezed as many of them as he could into his novels (at least, that's the story). Still, in a less over-written fashion, David Copperfield probably could have been told in about 400 or 500 pages. Of course, that would kind of destroy the whole "style" of the book.

Charles Dickens is nowhere near as great as Jane Austen in my opinion, but I still find myself enjoying him. The first Dickens novel I ever read was Oliver third grade. And no, it was not abridged. I probably absorbed about 1% of it, but I remember liking it. I'll have to reread it sometime. I enjoyed Great Expectations and The Old Curiosity Shop, and loved A Tale of Two Cities (seeing the movie may have helped). 

David Copperfield was not my favorite Dickens, and it was very long-winded, but I did enjoy it, actually more than I thought I would. Sometimes Dickens's sly writing can be so great. Like when David falls in love with the flighty Dora. I loved the descriptions of how he loses all reason when she's around. It was so well written and humorous. I would recommend David Copperfield, but try one of his shorter novels first. Like A Tale of Two Cities..

So this round of Big, Big, Big, Big Book was a success! Next possible reads for it: War and Peace (a big book if I ever saw one), Don Quixote, Tom Jones, The Count of Monte Cristo, Jerusalem (not a classic), The Brothers Karamazov, Middlemarch, Tom Jones, Vanity Fair, The Origin of Species and Bleak House. Any suggestions? I know I'm going to read Don Quixote next, but after that? 

Read David Copperfield
  • if you like Charles Dickens
  • if you like English literature
  • if you like detailed stories
  • if you enjoyed the movie (I haven't seen it)
  • if you like books with in-depth character sketches
882 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

1 comment:

  1. I really like that quote. It IS very clever but I don't think it's overwritten. It's very... insightful. Too bad the book was long-winded but it does sound like you enjoyed it nonetheless. I never thought that Dickens overwrote. I've read only The Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. I didn't really see it that I can remember.
    Would you read The Count of Monte Cristo next? I want to know what you think (:
    I want to read the author's The Man in the Iron Mask one day.