Over the weekend, I finished Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. Three month, and 882 pages — 882! — of tiny, eye-squinting type later, I completed “Mas’r Davy’s” journey from birth to a happy adult life.
I can’t say it was an easy read, because it really wasn’t, but I’m glad I did it. It’s pretty clear that reading for enjoyment back in Dickens’ era was a lot different from leisure reading in our modern world. Following the twists and turns of David Copperfield’s life — which apparently has a lot of autobiographical elements of Dicken’s own life in it — required a significant amount of focus and attention to detail to follow the different characters and the arc of the plots and subplots, and it wasn’t always easy to accept, or understand, the motivations of the characters living in a long-ago time. David Copperfield is definitely not a “beach read.”
I confess that there were times, especially during the middle part of the novel, when I came home after a long day at work and just couldn’t face another encounter with the execrable Uriah Heep or another exposure to the elaborate manners and curious conversational gambits of people in Victorian England — which is one reason why it took me more than two months to finish the book. (That tells you something, incidentally, about the demand for Dickens’ novels these days; I was able to renew the book multiple times without the library advising that I needed to return it because someone else wanted it.) And yet the story was interesting enough that I kept at it, and as the novel progressed I found that the momentum of my reading increased because I wanted to see whether the plot ended the way I thought it would. (It did.)
So now we’ve reached May, and I can check off one of my New Year’s resolutions. There’s some satisfaction in that, but my next bit of reading is going to be something a little less taxing. I’ve concluded that I’m not done with Dickens, however — his writing is intriguing, and after a detour into some recent fiction I’m going to tackle Great Expectations.