Review by Meredith Allard
“Of all my books, I like this the best. It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of my fancy, and that no one can ever love that family as dearly as I love them. But, like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.”
Few would argue that David Copperfield is Dickens’s greatest work, but, as the quote above points out, it was his favorite work. It’s my favorite of his books too. This is not a scholarly review but a personal review of a book that was personal for Dickens, and for me as well.
I first read David Copperfield as an English graduate student. While it should be a shame that I first read Dickens in my twenties in graduate school, all I can say about that is I was educated in America. Enough said. We were assigned two Dickens novels that term: David Copperfield and Great Expectations. I enjoyed Great Expectations, but I loved David Copperfield. I understood David. I knew him. David had a difficult childhood, as I did, as did Dickens. David found escape and relief in the books he devoured, as I did, as did Dickens. David worked hard to find success in the world, as I did, as did…you get the picture. I saw myself in David’s struggles and yearnings and decided that the guy who wrote this book couldn’t be half bad. I became a Dickens fan for life.
David Copperfield has the larger-than-life characters and plot twists and turns we know and love from Dickens, but it’s a smaller book–not because of its size but because it’s more of a character study than a social commentary. In honor of Dickens’s 200th birthday this February, I’m currently rereading all of his books in the order they were written, and while I haven’t yet arrived at David Copperfield, I am looking forward to revisiting that book most of all.
Meredith Allard is the executive editor of The Copperfield Review.