In One Word

In One Word, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is…

  • Published in 1850 by Bradbury and Evans
  • Format: Audiobook
    • Narrator: Martin Jarvis
    • Listening speed: 1.5x
  • Listening time: 11 interesting days


  • May regret getting this audiobook. I’ve read three Dickens books (four if you count ‘ The Signalman’) and haven’t liked them very much at all. But, The Well of Lost Plots got made me curious about David Copperfield so I’m willing to give this a go, especially since it’s on sale.
  • Offers chilling portrayal of both an abusive home and homelessness. We see victims twisted into accomplices against other victims and the terror of having nowhere to hide from every danger on the road. Those two moments are the strongest parts of the book. Nevertheless, in the former case, I can’t help but compare this to Jane Eyre and wish that David had given Murdstone a piece of his mind like Jane had to Mrs Reed.
  • Narration is excellent. Jarvis brilliantly matches the voice to the personality. Micawber is hilariously over-verbose, Heep makes your skin crawl and the Peggottys are full of familial warmth.
  • Uncomfortable portrayal of women throughout. For the most part, they’re either hysterical or harridans. Miss Betsy, Peggotty and Agnes are pretty good but, on the whole, it isn’t a very good showing. Dora, especially, risks ruining the whole book for me. That aside, nearly all of the other characters have a distinct voice and personality and all are interesting in their own right.
  • Massive in scale and it spares no detail. I must look up the historical context to this book as it lends a few tantalising hints on the state of the nation in the mid 1800s. I’d like to know everything that Dickens is taking a sly potshot at during the satirical moments. I must say that this is better to listen to than to read on a page. It goes off on a few tangents and side plots from time to time so it’s okay to get distracted a bit. It’s not difficult to pick up the thread of it again if you lose it.
  • Emily really didn’t deserve all of that. I really felt for her plight and the impossible situation of spurned women in the Victorian era. It’s so unfair that everyone blamed her and not Steerforth, who was the real villain in this. The views and treatment her family gets from the Steerforths is so unfair too. The Peggottys are getting close to my favourite fictional family and they’re worth a hundred Steerforths.
  • Not even a good dollop of Victorian mawkishness near the end can make me like Dora a jot more than I did when I was first introduced. What did David see in her? By the end, I really fancied the idea of locking her in a room with Mr Murdstone. Just for half an hour, I’m not heartless.
  • The last few chapters are full of pure wish fulfilment with deserving endings all round for all characters, with just a little dash of satire on prison systems to give it flavour.
  • Australia really seems to be the place for happy endings in Dickens’ mind. I wonder if he ever went there or if it was really the land of fortune and new beginnings as he seemed to think.
  • Lucky me. I think I’ve found a Dickens that I like. As far as bildungsromans go, I still rank Jane Eyre high above this but, in terms of my Dickens experience, this has been a good one. I’ve been recommended A Tale of Two Cities so I think I might give that a go next.

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

4 thoughts on “In One Word, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is…”

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