Finally finished David Copeprfield yesterday morning so that's the first of my classics ticked off. I'm a big fan of Dickens so it is quite surprising that I'd never read David Copperfield before. Given that it was Dickens own favourite and I know many other peoples' favourite I didn't enjoy it that much.
There was certainly plenty to enjoy and some characters such as Micawber and Uriah Heap are brought to life beautifully. One of the things that struck me, as it always does when I read Dickens, was the absolutely cruelty of Victorian society. They were obssessed with manners and propriety but had a complete lack of basic humanity towards others. I think that this portrayal of Victorian society was Dickens' finest achievement and the first steps towards breaking down that horrendous class system which continued with the First World War but which, unfortunately as our present government demonstrates, has not yet disappeared. Child abuse, the practice of marrying very young girls off to much older men, domestic violence especially of the emotional and psychological kind, were commonplace and in fact normal until Dickens began to shine his light on them and are all illustrated in this novel.
With the exception of the fabulous Betsy Trotwood and to some extent Peggotty and Emma Micawber, most of the women in this novel are fairly weak and insipid. Dickens does go some way to explaining how they are made that way by the men in their lives and the constraints of society, though. The main reason I didn't enjoy this as much as say, Great Expectations or my personal favourite The Tale of Two Cities or even Oliver Twist, is that as it is set out as an autobiography it lacks an overarching plot. A few of the events also seemed rather convenient for all involved.
I can see why people love it. There were some great character descriptions and vivid portrayals of Victorian society and institutions such as the debtor's prison, school and the shipping community at Yarmouth but I prefer a stronger storyline.