By his own description, David Copperfield
was Dickens's favorite novel and the one closest to his heart, with the eponymous main character being, while not Dickens himself, obviously based on the author. David Copperfield's father dies before he is born, and his mother, while loving and doting, is also too weak to defend him against the tyrannical man she remarries. The book follows David's life from his hard, sad childhood to his adult life as a successful novelist and family man.David Copperfield
is about equal parts humor and tragedy, but Dickens was in full sentimental mode when writing this, so this is a good one to read if you want to be sure of a Happy Ever After ending. It has his usual large cast of memorable and memorably-named characters: David's loving nurse Peggotty; his dire stepfather Mr. Murdstone and his equally cruel sister Miss Murdstone; Wilkins Micawber and his constant crises of a "pecuniary nature"; the eely villain Uriah Heep; the charming cad James Steerforth; poor pitiful Little Emily; and dozens of others, all of whom are so remarkable you'll remember even the bit characters like Mr. Creakle. There isn't as much social criticism in this book as in some of Dickens's other novels, but it does have his characteristic sympathy for the poor and indictment of Victorian class snobbery.
The story does rely an awful lot on improbable reappearances of characters (just about everybody
David meets during childhood comes back to play a role in his adulthood) and you can tell where Dickens was indulging in a little wish-fulfillment (like giving David a second chance at a happier marriage than the author had). It's also got his characteristic excess of verbiage (three or four chapters after a modern writer who isn't allowed to turn every book into a doorstopper would have ended the book, Dickens is still going). I'm not sure this would be my favorite Dickens novel (frankly, it's the first one I've read in a long time) as it's mostly just a sentimental Bildungsroman
, but it's still Dickens which means it's great and lots of fun to read.