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Demon Copperhead

by Barbara Kingsolver


Oh my gosh – this book… I can’t stop thinking about it!  Who better than Barbara Kingsolver to rework Dickens’s David Copperfield into a contemporary tale remaining true to his politics of highlighting the plight of orphans?  It’s meaty, it’s compelling, it’s heart-breaking, it’s funny and it’s thought-provoking… Demon is that character who you get behind 100% and you will him to do the right thing. He deserves his chance!

Demon Copperhead is set in the mountains of southern Appalachia. It’s the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-coloured hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival.  Told in Demon’s unsparing, mature and ironic voice, the story follow’s his young life as he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labour, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses yet he never loses hope.

Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to her own place and time, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.

‘It’s EPIC. Righteously angry, DEEPLY moving, wholly immersive, totally convincing and exquisitely written. She is so GIFTED.’ – Marian Keyes

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.’ ― Kirkus Reviews

I am a long-time fan of Barbara Kingsolver’s writing but I was really blown away by Demon Copperhead – without a doubt the best book I’ll read this year. – Kate Atkinson

Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, Kingsolver’s latest is the story of Damon, the only child of a teenage alcoholic in southwestern Virginia. In a feat of literary alchemy, Kingsolver uses the fire of his spirit to illuminate — and singe — the darkest recesses of our country. Inspired by the work of Charles Dickens, she has effectively reignited the moral indignation of the great Victorian novelist to dramatize the horrors of child poverty in the late 20th century. This would be a grim melodrama if it weren’t for the main character’s endearing humour, formed by his unaffected innocence and weary cynicism – Washington Post

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