Wednesday, 10 June 2009
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
First off, I just have to mention that I listened to David Copperfield rather than read it. I have the version narrated by Martin Jarvis (published by BBC WW) and his narration was nothing short of brilliant. He really made the characters come to life and coloured in the story. It was like seeing a black and white film in colour for the first time. I'm working my way through all of Dickens books and am really glad I got this particular audio version. I'll certainly be looking forward to hearing more of Jarvis. He made even the slower bits entertaining, although I think I could have done without getting to know Mr. Micawber quite as well as I did though his narration (tongue in cheek). Sometimes Dickens does go just a bit over the top with his characters sometimes.
Even though this is one of the most well known of Dickens works, it’s not one I would recommend to someone as their first Dickens novel. It’s quoted in Wikipedia as being the most autobiographical of Dickens’ works, which I suspect is largely due to it’s first person narration. David Copperfield himself tells you about his life from the time he was a little lad at The Rookery. The first half of the book can be a bit slow in events at times, so if you don’t care for Dickens or haven’t read any of his works yet, I could see that it might be a bit tedious. The second half more than makes up for this though. I really found myself enjoying it once Copperfield reached an age where he was able to control his own life somewhat.
This book, or perhaps the fact that I listened to it rather than read it, made me realize that one thing you must have to enjoy Dickens’ works is a good imagination. You can’t just read about what the characters are doing, you have to picture their actions to make it interesting. Once you start to do that, you can begin to appreciate his use of descriptive language rather than just finding it tediously long and circumspect. I suspect that’s always what I’ve rather liked about Dickens, but just hadn’t realized it so concretely. The scene where he mentions the cell window being six or seven deep in men’s heads as the jostle for a better position takes on much more of a comic atmosphere when you picture it happening instead of just reading about it.
If you like Dickens, you’ll love this one, if you don’t, you may want to try the audio book (which I can recommend either way). I loved it and will certainly read it again sometime.