Susan Midalia's Review
As its title suggests, Demon Copperfield has connections to Charles Dickens’ semi-autobiographical novel David Copperfield. Both novels are first-person accounts of a young man’s life from childhood to adulthood, and both create a sprawling plot and a gallery of memorable characters. The critical difference, however, is Kingsolver’s challenge to the Victorian faith in the concept of the self-made man.
Demon Copperfield is a searingly honest critique of the social and economic forces that have destroyed the dignity and sense of purpose of people often contemptuously referred to as ‘white trash.’ Set in a poverty-stricken contemporary America, the novel tackles the scourge of addiction, the abuse of children by exploitative foster parents, the recourse to violence and the selfish cult of individualism. In doing so, it implicitly asks us to understand why so many Americans voted for, and continued to support, Donald Trump; these are the forgotten people, socially alienated, economically powerless, politically neglected. It’s both a warning for our times about the rise of the demagogue and a thoroughly immersive and compelling must-read.
Charles Dickens uses his characters to describe a caste system shaped by industrial England. Barbara Kingsolver through Demon Copperhead gives us a picture of nineties contemporary social inequality in Appalachian USA that rivals industrial England.
Demon Copperhead directly parodies names and story-lines from David Copperfield to send the grim message that modern day - post free trade agreement fallout - (and generational entrenched marginalization) conditions in parts of the USA have not improved.
The novel is electric and harrowing covering the failure of the DSS and the FDA, the opioid crisis, the crisis of unemployment with all its attendant violence, abuse and its downward spiraling knock on effect social degradation. Am I putting you off, please don't let me. It is totally engaging and well worth it's eye opening and jolting ride. While not for the faint hearted it is an urgent snapshot of the decaying heartlands of the "greatest" nation on earth.
Demon Copperhead is a boy born to a teenage single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father's good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. Demon befriends us on this, his journey through the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.
Inspired by the unflinching truth-telling of David Copperfield, Kingsolver enlists Dickens' anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead gives voice to a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can't imagine leaving behind.
'Without a doubt the best book I'll read this year. And next year too, probably.' - Kate Atkinson