David Copperfield – A Book Review

Gosh! Dickens is extremely hard to review. I have been polishing up this review trying to make it come right for more than a week now, but eventually decided to just go ahead and hit Publish.

Ahh! the delights of being an amateur :)

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

After my enjoyable experience with Bleak House, I was tempted to read one more Dickens. In most reviews, David Copperfield is singled out as one of his best books. A semi-autobiographical book based on Dickens’ own life intrigued me enough to make the plunge.

Story Synopsis:

This is another bulky book from Dickens, but the story is very simple and straight-forward. It is a kind of bildungsroman chronicling the story of David Copperfield from his early childhood until early middle age.

This is the story of a boy named David Copperfield who struggles after his widowed mother marries again. David dislikes his stepfather and his sister who ill-treat him. He is sent to boarding school where he manages to make some friends. However, just when he is settling down at school, his mother dies, and he is left completely at his stepfather’s mercy. They apprentice him to work in London, where he is miserable. He runs off to Dover to seek protection from his aunt – Betsey Trotwood.

From then on, his life goes smoothly. He completes his schooling and starts work. However, when his aunt loses his fortune, his character is again tested. Throughout a variety of people both good, bad, and ludicrous flit in and out of his life, forming his character and enlivening the book in the process :).

My thoughts:

I don’t know what to think of the book. I found the starting bits very boring. David Copperfield is the least interesting character in the book, and because the beginning of the book deals almost entirely with him…well, let’s say it was heavy going for me.

In fact, the book itself doesn’t really take off till almost the middle of the story when David’s aunt loses her fortune. After that, David and his friends really stop messing about, and start trying to fix their messed up lives. Until then, it’s all a hodge-podge of bad choices in love, and money.

Dickens has a somewhat preachy, moralistic hero, and the tone of this book reflects that. I found some humorous sections, but not many, and the pace is uneven. Towards the end, the last 200 pages or so, Dickens is really forced to up the pace, and it’s an odd feeling when a slow book suddenly hurtles towards the end. In the process, Dickens ends up killing one important character, exporting a whole bunch of people to Australia, and sending another couple of people to prison!

So, I didn’t like David Copperfield (the hero I mean), and I wouldn’t have liked the book either if not for the really interesting secondary characters. There is Agnes – David’s good and wise childhood friend who is in love with him, David’s silly wife – Dora, the perennially in debt Micawbers, the evil albino Uriah Heep, the sentimental and kind Mr. Peggotty, David’s aunt – the strong, feminist Betsey Trotwood…so many people to keep track of…but good fun anyway.

One of my favorite lines from the book:

In one section of the book, David is extremely frustrated with his wife Dora who is a very bad housekeeper. After a fight with her, he asks his aunt to intervene and talk sense to his wife. Below is his aunt’s wise response:

I am not delivering a lecture – to estimate her (as you chose her) by the qualities she has, and not by the qualities she may not have. The latter you must develop in her, if you can. And if you cannot, child,” here my aunt rubbed her nose, “you must just accustom yourself to do without ‘em. But remember, my dear, your future is between you two. No one can assist you; you are to work it out for yourselves. This is marriage, Trot: and Heaven bless you both in it, for a pair of babes in the wood as you are!”

Even today, that advice would apply to people going to get married or just married. I suppose that’s why some books stand the test of time, and some just fall by the wayside.

Last Words:

I did like this book, it doesn’t really come close to being my favorite Dickens though. There is too much treacly sentimentality, and preachiness, and too little humor. But, the character sketches and the writing is great. Give yourself the time to read this book. If you just dive into Dickens’ world forgetting your 21st century sensibilities, you will be well rewarded.




  • http://cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com/ Cleo

    This was a very brave review to write Nish and very well executed!

    • Nishita

      Thanks @disqus_mUBrEiIQ5D:disqus I’m not sure there was anything very brave in the review. It’s an ok book, but I definitely did not think it was the best of Dickens.

  • http://google Anish

    David Copperfieldwas one of the best novel i had ever read.its all about a boy and the problems he faced in his life .but i have a doubt that whoever attach to him is died due to illness.

  • Chhayny

    This story is also studied commonly in Cambodia.

  • John D

    Your review is so very perfect! Awesome work. Must read this, if any part of book isn’t understood!

  • MishtheFish98

    It says in the Story Synopsis, “However, when his aunt loses his fortune,his character is again tested.” Is it a typo or is it supposed to to be ‘her’? Not to mention, thank you very much for the simple summary, it’s much better than the long plot overviews. Keep up the good work Nishita! :)

    • MishtheFish98

      Can someone please reply? I really need the information soon for my presentation on the book David Copperfield. Appreciate it!

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      I mean that David Copperfield’s character is tested when his aunt loses her fortune. He is her dependent, that’s why.

      Sent from my iPhone

      • MishtheFish98

        Oh okay, thank you :D

  • chahat

    hey u can’t say that. it is truly a good book. u don’t know anything about it

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      @chahat: I didn’t say it was a bad book. Just that I didn’t like it as much as I expected to.

  • Hassan jamshed

    agree to lil’ bit with the critics , the story is itself inspiring , rather i would say a huge massive bunch of entangled thoughts which could have been said shortly …….

  • http://YAHOO RAMAN

    excellent

  • Disha Bhattacharya

    Well, your review is somewhat opposing my thoughts about Dickens. He is a good writer altough the story is a bit tricky..

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  • http://yahoo sarmita bera

    i like the story because the whole story was tricky……..

    • shreya

      Hey,hi i don’t think it was a good…………… review.

  • Frederick

    Wow! Did dickens get paid by the word? 700-odd pages that could have been told in three. Florid, fussy, overwritten. Ludicrous
    coincidences-people popping up all over the place. As for Heep
    and Littimer both in the same prison at the same time…well!
    Then they all go to Australia and live happily ever after?
    Come on! Brilliant minor characters, especially Miss Mowcher, but why use 15 words when 1 will do?

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      @Frederick: wrt to David Copperfield, I have to agree with you. Too many coincidences, and rather florid language. But, I did enjoy this same style when I read Bleak House.

  • Bishara

    an absolute novel

  • amit kumar

    madharchood charles khud to mar gya hoga hamme chutia bana gaya

  • Beth Marquez

    I have just gotten through Chapter 32 and, with the exception of the very funny Chapter 24 when David gets drunk, all I can say is…z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z!! But I’m glad I read your review because it looks like the book will finally pick up. Unfortuantely I hit two spoilers (aunt losing his fortune, David marries Dora), but I took that chance when I decided to read your review. On another note, at least to me, there seems to be a hint of a gay attraction to Steerforth. Maybe it’s just the more open/liberal English culture, but if DC took place in America (and was written by an American author), I would definitely conclude that the author was portraying a same-sex attraction.

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      @Beth: Oops, I didn’t mean to spoil your reading experience with those spoilers :( and I too had that weird feeling about David and Steerforth. My thinking is that society at that time was a bit conservative about affection between people of opposite sexes, but really didn’t mind people of the same sex being close (need not be in a sexual way).

      I have seen so many pictures of Victorian England showing men strolling arm in arm with other men, or women with other women, something I think we are just not used to seeing today without attributing a sexual overtone to it.

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  • http://zenleaf.amandagignac.com Amanda

    Sorry your experience with this one wasn’t as good as with Bleak House. :/

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      @Amanda: Maybe 2 Dickens in a row was too much? But honestly, this book had little to no humor/satire at all.

  • http://tellastorymyway.blogspot.com/ Hema

    We had an abridged version at school and that was the last time I read charles dickens.. we didnt have his later stage of life like marriage or the murder.. guess i will have to read it fully.. nice review.. nicholas nickelby, another one by Charles Dickens is a similar kind.. you might like it!

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      @Hema: I did too! I liked the abridged one, the full one…well, not as much!

  • http://timtamtomika.blogspot.com Vaishnavi

    A lovely review on David Copperfield. You should try Pickwick Papers, I am sure you will love it, it remains one of my favourite Dickens :)

  • http://www.bookchums.com/ Claudia Huggs

    This really makes sense, I am waiting for hard copy of this book and book reviews are also good.

  • http://mynanegi.blogspot.com/ Meena Negi

    Since ‘David Copperfield ‘ was the first novel that i read as a child, i am all but nostalgic about it. It’s been one my all time favourite but your review is rather interesting to me. As an eight year old the book caught my imagination instantly since the hero was another young chap, who is confronted with the hardships of life after his mother’s death, could have been thrown into oblivion as a result but reedems himself eventually and to my childish delight emerges as a winner in the end. Perhaps these sensibilities appeal to you much strongly as a child but as an adult since we kind of figure out how it works, it fails to create the same magic. Thanks for this different take on the book!

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      @Meena: You make a very valid point. I read Oliver Twist when I was a child, and really liked it a lot.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting :)

  • http://jennysbooks.wordpress.com Jenny

    Huh. My mother always goes on and on about how David Copperfield is the best Dickens book of all, and I haven’t read Dickens until I’ve read David Copperfield. But I have long suspected that I simply don’t care for Dickens.

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      @Jenny: I think Dickens is one of “those” authors. It’s work to read his books…sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes not. I find Tolstoy impossible…

      And David Copperfield is not one of his best books (not for me at least), I still preferred A Tale of Two Cities

    • http://gang niki

      foolish

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  • http://readbookswritepoetry.blogspot.com gautami tripathy

    Dickens managed to create memorable characters. His prose might be pedantic by todays standard but if you compare it others of his era, his is in fact sparse. David Copperfield is one of my favourite books. But then most Dickens novel qualify for that.

    One simply can’t forget his character sketches.

    As I had mentioned last week, I have started a weekly feature on Sunday, Sharing Poetry With You, where I would be sharing any poem that has made an impact on me. It could be a classic one or a contemporary one, and anything in between. Do check out what poem I share today by clicking on Sunday Salon: Sharing Poetry With You. You are invited to convey your thoughts on the poem posted. In one word or many words..your choice!

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