David Copperfield

 David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The narrator, David, begins by stating his intention to recount the story of his life. This he does, from the moment of his birth, through a happy few years with his mother and his nurse, Peggity (his father died before he was born), and then painful years of neglect and abuse. His mother meets and marries Mr. Murdstone, a cold, mean, punishment of a man who will rigidly control everything they say and do.

David is sent away to school, where he is befriended by an older boy, James Steerforth, whose charming facade convinces David he has found a true friend. He hasn't. Then David's mother dies unexpectedly and Murdstone, refusing to pay for any further schooling, puts David to work in one of his counting houses. Neglected, alone, and still a child - David runs away, searching for an Aunt he's hoping will take him in. 

She does, and in his new life with her he continues his education, meets the lovely Agnes, with whom he will grow up as sister and brother, and is introduced to the unsettling Uriah Heep, surely one the of the most obnoxious of Dickens', or anyone else's, villains.  

The story is lengthy, 716 pages in my copy, but with a large cast of characters there is rarely a dull moment. Several different story lines to follow means someone is always in difficulty of some sort, keeping the reader turning pages expectantly. Well, I wasn't exactly turning pages because my copy was very poor, with lines of text so jammed together that it hurt my eyes and forced me to switch to an audio version.  

Now, let me tell you about this audio book. I do still prefer the printed page, but I've discovered in the past few years the luxury of being read to. It's true I've experienced some narration so awful I couldn't finish a book, but most of the time I feel priveleged to have someone tell me a story. This one - David Copperfield narrated by Richard Armitage - was something special. He doesn't just read it, he acts - inhabits really - every single role. Each character has his own voice, particular manner of speaking, and distinct personality. It's a one-man play. I was mesmerized.

And moved - I've never been so moved by Dickens as I was listening to this. The scene where Dora lies dying as she and David whisper their final words to each other was gut-wrenching, and the shipwreck scene was so vivid, so immediate, that I found myself pushing back in the chair to get out of the way. I've never heard anything like this. I knew Richard Armitage to be a great actor but it doesn't always follow that they'll be a good narrator and I have been disappointed with a few. But this one - this one was stunning.

Wonderful book. Superlative narration.


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