Dickens’ David Copperfield brought to contemporary South Virginia is a worthy winner of both the Pulitzer and Women’s Prize. It’s a story of inequalities, addiction, child protection failures and attachment to community and land.
Demon’s voice grabbed me from the first page and never let go and the tragedies of his early childhood – kidult mother; dead-end education; foster carers starving the children and working them like slaves – wrenched my heart. True to the source material, it’s not totally bleak: people do care for Demon, although not always with the power to put things right.
One of my favourite reads of the year.
At four, he could change his sister’s nappies and drag his mother out of bed in time for work. At eight, he’d yet to grasp his ABCs but was an expert reader of his stepfather’s moods. At twelve, in foster care, he fought off his sister’s abuser and went hungry so she could eat. Of course he was branded a liar, a troublemaker, difficult to place. At sixteen, he was a regular in the court room, until the judge decreed enough was enough. She had no choice but to send him to prison. The teenager was selfish, irresponsible, immature.