In this month’s Writer’s Book Club, I review the audiobook version of Barbara Kingsolver’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Demon Copperhead narrated by Charlie Thurston. Demon Copperhead is a modernized version of Charles Dickens’s novel David Copperfield.
The protagonist, Damon Fields, nick-named Demon Copperhead, is born into poverty in Appalachia and struggles throughout the novel trying to not only thrive but survive.
What I liked about Demon Copperhead
It had been several years since I’d read a Kingsolver book. Immediately I was hit by the beautiful writing in this novel. It reminded me why I’ve always been a big fan of her books. For example, here are the opening lines of Demon Copperhead:
First, I got myself born. A decent crowd was on hand to watch, and they’ve always given me that much: the worst of the job was up to me, my mother being let’s just say out of it.
On any other day, they’d of seen her outside on the deck of her trailer home, good neighbors taking notice, pestering the tit of trouble, as they will. All through the dog-breath air of late summer and fall, cast an eye up the mountain and there’d she be, little bleach-blonde smoking her Pall Malls, hanging on that railing like she’s captain of her ship up there and now might be the hour its going down.
Charlie Thurston nails the regional accent and the flow of the language. Listening to him, I felt as if I experiencing the story along with Demon.
Additionally, I’m impressed by the amount of research Kingsolver must have done to create this novel. Not only did she have to be intimately familiar with David Copperfield (a book I’m sorry to say I’ve never read), but she had to learn about and understand Appalachian poverty and the drug culture there. Kingsolver grew up in rural Kentucky and considers Appalachia her home, which, I’m sure, helped when she created this book’s world.
And finally, I generally liked the protagonist, Demon, because, while he didn’t always make the best decisions, he was resilient and had a good soul.
Issues I had with the book
The drug abuse went on too long. I kept thinking, “Enough already. I get it.” When a major secondary character died from a drug overdose, I felt no emotion. I just didn’t care. That’s when I realized that Kingsolver was too heavy-handed with the drug scene, which caused me to lose empathy for the characters.
I wanted more (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing)
While I’ve read five or six of Kingsolver’s books, I now want to read the ones I’ve missed. I want to be immersed in her wonderful prose. I will also look for more books narrated by Thurston.
How this has affected my writing
After completing The Devil Particle Series, I’d like to try writing a literary stand-alone novel, possibly one based on a classic (Pride and Prejudice, perhaps?). I also want to ensure that whatever my message is in my novel, I give it a light but poignant touch.
Demon Copperhead gets 👍🏻 👍🏻 👍🏻 👍🏻 stars for beautiful writing and a creative take on an old classic.
Next month’s Writer’s Book Club
I’m a third of the way through this novel about a disturbing utopia, and I’m torn between wanting to tear through it and wanting to take my time and relish it. It’s really good.
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