Richard Armitage Achieved The Impossible, Or: I Loved David Copperfield

RA narrating DC

Richard Armitage in narration mode.

Yes, so as a huge fan of Richard Armitage, and a huge fan of audiobooks, I was pretty underwhelmed with excitement when the news first broke that Richard was to narrate the Charles Dickens classic David Copperfield. In fact, I expressed my frustration with the choice of material in a spoof in which I suggested that I had previously read the novel, but couldn’t remember much about it. I know I read Great Expectations all the way through, and disliked it intensely, and at the time I wrote the spoof, I really did think I’d also read DC, but now that I really have, it’s clear to me that instead at some point I must have been assigned to read some excerpts… probably in high school English, which is why some of the story seemed familiar to me. However, after the first several hours, I was certain that I had never read the entire book!

There. That paragraph has been in my drafts folder for WEEKS. Why!? I really did love David Copperfield– the narration was superb and it was the best storyline from Dickens that I’ve encountered to date, definitely kept me engaged and eager for more. It took me about 3 weeks to listen all the way through, starting almost as soon as it was released. Which means it’s been about a month since I finished it, and have nothing but good things to say… but I’ve been struggling, really struggling, with motivation to blog lately. And damned if I haven’t forgotten most of what I thought I’d write about.

So let’s see… if I had to pick a favorite characterization (meaning, Richard’s voicing of the character rather than Dickens’ descriptions here) I would have to go with one of the villains. I loved his Edward Murdstone voice- so low, and darkly sinister, and controlled. I particularly loved it when he’d reprimand his sister, the way he’d say “Jane Murdstone” with such careful, vicious enunciation when she’d interrupt him. Fabulous! I hated and dreaded that character to the fullest degree. But then there was also the villain of the latter part of the novel, Uriah Heep. Oh, what a weird, “writhing” and undulating voice Richard created for this character when in the throes of his overwrought humility! I would have loved to see what kind of neck and mouth contortions Richard might have used to achieve such strange tones! (When I try to re-create them I become almost lantern-jawed in the effort!)

Really, there was not one voice that he chose from an enormous cast of characters that was not consistently and instantly recognizable! Another thing I’m pretty sure I wanted to mention was his ability to deliver humorous content- makes me so wish to see him take on if not a comedy, then a somewhat comedic role. I was surprised at the number of times I smiled and even snorted out a laugh. Something about his delivery of Betsy Trotwood’s eccentricities, in particular her war on donkeys! And the ups and downs in the life of Wilkins Micawber… very entertaining… especially the heights of passion achieved when Wilkins Micawber finally blew his gasket over Uriah Heep’s embezzlements.

I was definitely leery when we learned it was to be 36+ hours, but by the time I’d been through about a 3rd of it (the average length of most of my audiobook material), I was fully involved and just grateful to have all that time of sublime narration out in front of me. I think RA himself suggested that he’d been the one to choose this book to narrate, and at the time I couldn’t imagine why, but now I understand. It’s a massive undertaking, but I thought, an outstanding achievement. Bravo! The Audible Editors were spot on to include this one in their list of February selections (and I’ve since listened to several of their list, and enjoyed this one the most!)

Who would have ever thought that the best audiobook of 2016 to date would be a Charles Frickin’ Dickens? LOL

All I have to say is… when is the next one?

 

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34 comments

  1. Sue · March 23, 2016

    Jen, I completely agree!! I’ve listened to DC twice now (long drive into work!), I adore Miss Trotwood, Uriah Heep, Trattles, Mr. Peggitty, to name just a few.
    I laughed aloud with; “Janet, donkeys!!” And cried when Jip died.
    I did read DC in school, but it had nowhere near the impact, on me, as Richard’s narration did!

    Like

    • jholland · March 23, 2016

      Oh, yes! “Janet, donkeys!” The way he delivered that- I know I was laughing out loud. And again when Aunt Betsy had moved to the city, but would have restless evenings and attribute it to the certainty that a donkey had trod over her land! Giggle =)

      As to listening twice- I can hardly believe it of myself, given my tendency to abhor Dickens… but I’m definitely planning to have a second listen. It was really an exceptional narration!

      Like

  2. Servetus · March 23, 2016

    Wish the same had happened to me.

    Like

    • jholland · March 23, 2016

      Well? Details! Was it just the material that you couldn’t get into, or did you dislike the narration?

      Like

      • Servetus · March 24, 2016

        Yeah. DC is too much of a cliché for me. I listened to about forty minutes. I may try again sometime when I know i will have to be trapped in a car for a long period of time.

        Like

        • jholland · March 24, 2016

          There were definitely aspects that were clichéd (Dora, I’m looking at you!) but then there would be some details attributed to the characters that struck a chord with me and brought it to life… the chubby/last-to-be-picked boy Trattles, who compulsively sketched skeletons all over his papers as his outlet as one example. And I also really enjoyed some of the wild eccentricities/lunacies that Dickens came up with- as mentioned, the whole donkey dilemma for Betsy Trotwood and also Mr. Dick’s ever-unsuccessful struggle to keep King Charles The First from creeping into his writing project… now I’m not saying that Dickens has suddenly become my favorite author, but this book, to my great surprise, and in no small part thanks to RA’s abilities as a storyteller, did engage me.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. AnotherRAFan · March 23, 2016

    I cannot listen to audiobooks. 😦 😦 I tried Hamlet so many times , but my mind keeps wandering. So this is one more Richard’s work that I will experience second hand ( the other one being hannibal). Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    Like

    • jholland · March 23, 2016

      Oh, that’s tough, because he’s such a gifted narrator. But, I can relate to just not being able to get into certain formats. For me, that’s onscreen musicals. I can appreciate musicals in live theatre (though it’s my least favorite type of theatre) but there has never been a single onscreen musical that I could sit through. I just never make it through. LOL

      Like

  4. carlyquinnauthor · March 23, 2016

    I guess I’ll be adding another audio book to the pile, now I need a good long drive to go with it.

    Like

    • jholland · March 23, 2016

      Welcome, Carly! LOL- yes… do you happen to have any coast-to-coast drives coming up? It’s a monster of a long audiobook… but well worth it! =)

      Like

  5. Helen · March 23, 2016

    I thought I had read DC as well but obviously not more than excerpts, like you! I am about a third of the way through now, and really enjoying it. My only quibble is some of the accents. I like in Norfolk, England and Yarmouth, where the Peggotys live, is also in Norfolk. But the Peggotys have a very generic ‘yokel’ accent which is nothing at all like a Norfolk accent, and I think I would die happy if I heard RA talk proper Norfolk….! 😊 😔😏

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · March 23, 2016

      That was lost on me completely! I wouldn’t know a Norfolk accent, but I’ll take your word on it! I think I saw where someone (now I’m forgetting who/where) didn’t think Micawber’s accent was correct… again, I wouldn’t know any difference with my American ears, and fully enjoyed his flowery words as delivered by Richard.

      Like

      • Helen · March 24, 2016

        I actually need to look at the book to check on where some of the characters are supposed to be from. Can’t remember the name of the fascinating lady dwarf he meets in Yarmouth but I’m sure it was remarked that she was from around there, but she had a Liverpool accent… It must be very difficult finding different voices for all the characters and it hasn’t spoiled my enjoyment, but knowing RAs love of background and detail I thought there would be at least a few Norfolk accents. Mind you, Dickens is a bit suspect too because if DC’s original home was in Suffolk I can’t imagine why he would go to Yarmouth to get to London…. The geography just doesn’t work! 😉

        Like

        • jholland · March 24, 2016

          LOL… obviously my geographical grasp of Great Britain is as tenuous as my ability to differentiate the various accents! =)

          Like

  6. Helen · March 23, 2016

    That should have been I live in Norfolk… 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Gratiana Lovelace · March 23, 2016

    Loved your review of Richard Armitage performing David Copperfield! I’ve got to get back to listening to this audiobook–maybe this weekend. I’m only about 10% in–Davey’s heading to school. And Richard Armitage’s performance of Murdstone’s voice and his characterization is the creepiest! *shudders* Every time Murdstone chastises Davey’s mother with a menacing “Clara”, I feel for the poor woman. She was so duped into marrying him and now she must bear the brunt of his malevolence. While Betsy Trotwood’s vocal trilling and folksy charm is a welcome relief. Cheers!

    Like

    • jholland · March 23, 2016

      Yes! Murdstone was just so chilling! And Aunt Betsy just gets better and better and funnier and funnier! (I also just really love her good friend Mr. Dick. That was an understated performance, but also brilliant in its way. =)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Perry · March 24, 2016

    I tolerated it. I don’t have much criticism of the narration. I liked his Rosa Dartle and Aunt Betsey. I thought some of the the younger female voices blended together. I liked the food scenes/dinner parties best, especially the preparation. Just don’t like Dickens at all, and don’t care for DC. A difficult job for Richard Armitage, I think, but not his best narration. But I’m glad you enjoyed it, as I know you were in the same frame of mind as I was before listening.

    Like

    • jholland · March 24, 2016

      Oh, yes- Rosa Dartle was really well-done. Not really knowing where her storyline was headed, I was prone to like her when first introduced, thinking she was actually seeing Steerforth clearly… but by the end she was one of the cruelest characters we met, and RA’s performance of that was exceptional. I’m not really a Dickens convert yet, but RA brought out the best in him for me. After The Chimes I was really concerned that my attention would wander and I would have to force myself to concentrate, and for 36 hours rather than 3 hours… so I was really relieved when I realized I was genuinely engaged. And just you coming to comment triggered a memory- you made a post about your frustration with “Dumb Dora” but I hadn’t reached the Dora section at the time. Now that I’m finished I have to say yes, I so agreed- what an incredibly silly creature. I was so frustrated that Davie became so blindly enamored with her, and was so sick of her asinine, juvenile reactions whenever he would gently try to steer her into some form of sensible behavior. But somehow, perhaps through Betsy Trotwood’s acceptance and handling of the young couple, I came to get a tiny bit fond of her by the end (only a tiny bit) despite my reservations that she was Too Stupid To Live and a total cliché.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Guylty · March 24, 2016

    I haven’t yet read the whole of your post, J, because I am unfortunately not quite through with DC myself, and I don’t want to spoil the enjoyment, nor take on your opinions before forming my own. But from the first 14 chapters I can already agree with your headline – RA has certainly convinced this audiobook hater that it is worth-while listening to him. I have chuckled and choked, alternately, and I am astounded at the wealth and breadth of variety that he is able to evoke with his voice. Aunt Betsy is a favourite (I like the Scottish accent, mind you, I am not familiar enough with it to determine whether he is good at it… But it seems to fit this slighty irrational, dominating and eccentric character very well…) Anyhow, looking forward to returning to this post once I have finished DC. Hopefully this side of the summer hols 😉

    Like

    • jholland · March 24, 2016

      I so look forward to your review when you get there. This review of mine is pretty light on substance because I never made notes and then let a month pass and 4 or 5 other audiobooks get between my memory and my write-up… But so glad you are enjoying it so far. I thought Aunt Betsy was fabulous, and RA’s delivery of her was both heartfelt and humorous- perfect!

      Like

      • Guylty · March 26, 2016

        Ha, my review may suffer from similar obstacles as yours. I am stuck on chapter 14 because I don’t have enough space on the phone to import the rest of the 762 chapters. And no notes here, either. But I can already vouch for the quality of the narration by the simple fact that I can remember so many of the voices and much of the content, as well. That definitely means this is a fabulous piece of work by Mr A.

        Liked by 2 people

        • jholland · March 26, 2016

          762 Chapters? Dayum!

          Like

        • Guylty · March 27, 2016

          Don’t we wish??? 😂

          Like

  10. Pingback: Richard Armitage Achieved The Impossible, Or: I Loved David Copperfield | MimiCruzC
  11. Rachel · March 24, 2016

    Thanks for your write-up, jen.
    I have decided that (1) one needs to be an adult when reading (or listening!) to David Copperfield, and (2) one needs to really love the English language.

    The themes benefit from an adult’s understanding and life experiences. And that old, flowerly kind of English is beautiful in its own way. Made even more beautiful by Richard’s narration. Dickens seems to have had a much greater command of the English language than we mere mortals do today.

    I laughed out loud when jip put his paw in the salt cellar on the kitchen table. Dicken’s humor is there but it is sometimes quite subtle and passes quickly, so you have to grab it quick! Ha-Ha!

    Like

    • jholland · March 24, 2016

      Welcome, Rachel! I totally agree that an adult perspective was helpful and Oh, yes- Dickens’ descriptive abilities are astounding (though admittedly at times, overwhelming and/or exhausting and undoubtedly that was my feeling when I was a teenager trudging through the endless narrative that was Great Expectations!!) At least in this case, with Richard’s ability to bring the words to life, I did really enjoy that more old-fashioned, flowery language- particularly Micawber’s dialogue, which I just loved. =) Oh, that Jip-and-Dora Duo was a recipe for disaster! Hopeless. *Snickers*

      Like

  12. SueBC · March 26, 2016

    First time I’ve ever responded to something on line tho I love to read your blog… Loved the performance and the story itself. I’m a voracious reader but wasn’t sure I’d like listening to an audiobook, being visually oriented. Bought coz of my RAbsession. I’ve never read Dickens but actually found the story interesting, waiting to see when DC would figure out who was right for him. RA’s performance of the different voices was so well done that I forgot it was being narrated and thought I was listening to Mr Peggotty himself speaking . Was very sad when the 36 hours were over!

    Like

    • jholland · March 26, 2016

      Hi SueBC and welcome to commenting! I’m a voracious reader, too. There was a time when I would have 3 books going at once- a physical book on the bedside table, an e-book on my kindle that went wherever I went, and an audiobook on cd in the car! Now the past 3 years, once I finally broke down and got a smartphone, I’ve transitioned to almost 100% audiobooks because the phone is on my person, in the car and on the bedside table! LOL. Anyway, all that to say that I listen to a ton of audiobooks, and I’d be hard-pressed to name a better narrator than Richard Armitage! =) And the fact that he got me to really, truly enjoy a Charles Dickens novel for the first time… stupendous!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. linnetmoss · March 27, 2016

    I loved your description and appreciation of this. Am especially intrigued by his facility with the villainous Murdstone and Heep characters! I do remember Uriah Heep from the novel. He’s more or less unforgettable. A question: what about Steerforth himself? He is quite an interesting character study and one I would expect Richard to do very well.

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    • jholland · March 28, 2016

      Steerforth, good question… the voicing of that character didn’t have a huge impact on me one way or the other. He had, generally, a light-hearted and amiable voice, came across as well-spoken and very smooth. How did the LSH like the audiobook?

      Liked by 1 person

      • linnetmoss · March 28, 2016

        He hasn’t mentioned it–I’ll have to interrogate him! For some reason Steerforth is a character who really stuck with me. I’m not sure how he should be voiced, but maybe he should be a junior Lovelace…

        Like

  14. Hariclea · March 31, 2016

    i absolutely loved it in the end, especially the narration, even through the parts of the books itself which i found irritating. But it created an amazing daily routine on my way to and from work and i couldn’t wait to escape into the book. There is a lot i appreciated and i have to make time to write some of it down. I’d like to go back for another listen even if i was to skip over some parts 😉 But the way he creates stand alone characters is amazing, even more than in Hamlet in many characters i can’t even think of RA in relation to them, they are so distinct.
    I felt bereft the day after i finished it and i got up and ready to go to work and suddenly realised there was no more to listen to that day…

    Like

    • jholland · April 1, 2016

      I really missed his narration when I was through, too. I think that calls for another listen in the not-so-distant future! Glad you enjoyed it! I’d ask what your favorite voices were, but maybe you’ll be writing a post about that soon (Hope so!)

      Liked by 1 person

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