Sunday, 19 August 2012
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I posted earlier in the week about my fear of Dickens so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book. On the whole, it was a pleasant reading experience with the first and last thirds being the most enjoyable. The first third had the delightful gothic settings of the graveyard and Satis House and of course the first meeting with Miss Havisham, clearly the most memorable character in the book. In the last third, Pip finds out that he may have been wrong about his benefactor (I had guessed this from the start but there were some surprises in store) and the pace quickens dramatically with some great cliffhanger endings between chapters. I literally could not put the book down during the last third. Unfortunately the middle section lagged in comparison with the other two and reading about Pip's being a snobby gentleman in London became very tedious. I struggled to reach part three but was glad to have persevered once I got there.
I liked that the message of the book was to be grateful for what you have, rather than always striving for more. Pip as a blacksmith's apprentice had Joe, who was nothing but kind to him, and a potential wife in the intelligent and resourceful Biddy. He should have been happy with what he had but wanted to become 'better', which caused him a lot of hardship. He became embarrassed with the unrefined manners of Joe and put himself above everyone else. Throughout the book, Dickens shows us how false the class system can be by spreading the good/moral characters across the classes and by making many of the upper class characters miserable - money doesn't buy happiness and all that. Whilst I agreed with the message, I did feel Dickens was heavy handed in moralising in some places.
One thing that bothered me was how all the characters ended up being related or connected in some way by the end of the book, even the most unlikely ones. Dickens had a gift for creating memorable characters but his London really was a small world. I liked that the ending was full of twists and turns and links between the characters I hadn't guessed, but I was raising my eyebrows at the likelihood of some of them. I guess things were a bit too 'tidy' amongst the characters for my liking.
On the whole, whilst Dickens hasn't become my new favourite author, I wouldn't be opposed to reading more books by him (and a good thing too, because I have another four on my classics club list!). The wordiness of the middle section got to me but this was balanced by the memorable characters and how the pace was ramped up by the end of the novel. I'm glad I gave Dickens a try.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 1860-1861 in serial format
My Edition: Vintage UK, 2008
Score: 3.5 out of 5
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I'm glad you enjoyed it! I had to check to see if I had it on my list, and I only have David Copperfield. My list keeps getting longer!ReplyDelete
I don't have David Copperfield on my list, because it's a massive book! I actually have all 16 of Dickens' novels but only have 5 on my classics club list - the 16 are going to be a lifetime job!Delete
I read a lot of Dickens when I was in school but think I missed that one. I'm not sure I'm crazy about that cover.ReplyDelete
I missed Dickens in school and I have no idea how. My sister read Great Expectations & Bleak House, I just did a lot of Shakespeare.Delete
The cover is lovely in person, it's part of a set. Doesn't really translate well on screen.
I have borrowed, renewed, returned and then borrowed, renewed, read 40 pages of this book and then returned again. I bought my own copy 2 weeks ago and I hope to finish this and watch the Great Expectation movie again by Ethan Hawke and Gywneth Paltrow. I'm glad you like it!ReplyDelete
Is the movie good? I have the more recent one reserved on lovefilm, but might have to add the Gywneth one too. Hopefully one day you will get further than 40 pages!Delete
The Gywneth version is not a period movie, it has contemporary setting but I thought it was sensual and I remember most was Pip's longing for Estelle that seems most heartbreaking.Delete
To me this is the most enjoyable of his books (at least that I have attempted) other than Christmas Carol. A Tale of Two Cities gets rave reviews from many, but I had such a hard time getting through it that I haven't tried another Dickens book since then.ReplyDelete
I definitely preferred Christmas Carol although I liked this one. A Tale of Two Cities is going to me my next Dickens, I was going to try it first as I love historical fiction but in the end I went for Great Expectations as it's more 'classic' Dickens.Delete
Dickens is definitely one of my favorite classic writers. I'm a huge fan of detail...and I feel as if I'm walking in old London whenever I'm reading his books :)ReplyDelete
At the moment he's not a favourite of mine, but we'll see after I've read some more. Which Dickens did you enjoy the most?Delete
I'm glad you ended up liking it. Dickens does have a habit of being a bit too tidy, but his books are enjoyable so I just go with it. My favorite is Bleak House, followed by David Copperfield. I haven't read Great Expectations since high school though. It's probably about time for a reread.ReplyDelete
I admired how he got it to be tidy even if it was a bit unrealistic. I'm still early on in my Dickens journey but I hope I end up enjoying them as you have :)Delete
I like Dickens in general, but this was a hard book for me to get through, and I'm not sure why.ReplyDelete
The middle section was hard for me - nothing seemed to happen apart from Pip being a snob for a long time. Which Dickens books have you enjoyed?Delete
I think I am also a bit afraid of Dickens, so this is interesting to read. I read a little bit of him in high school and didn't feel particularly grabbed by him, but a friend recently recommended him so perhaps I should give him another try. Good to hear that reading him was a positive experience for you!ReplyDelete
I liked Great Expectations but it didn't grab me. I'm glad to see his writing isn't hard at all compared to most classic authors, there's just the odd obscure word every now and again that has fallen out of use, but it's usually easy to work out the meaning from the context. Have you read Christmas Carol? I enjoyed that more than this.Delete
I. just. can't. I'll admit I've only read Hard Times. And I remember it being something that would not have been finished had it not been for the paper that relied on my reading it in its entirety. And while I admit that I understand what Dickens hoped to accomplish with his realistic depiction of the poor, working class in London at this time, I still had a hard time getting through the wordiness. My boyfriend's father often jokes that with Dickens, you may not remember much about the story as a whole, but you'll certainly remember the color of the wallpaper in the rooms mentioned.ReplyDelete
This story sounds a bit more captivating! So good to see you flying through the classics! I'm almost finished with Pride and Prejudice and am so glad I signed up for the Classics Club after seeing your post! Thanks, Sam :)
I think I'm going to have to add this to my list now too. I read Oliver Twist off my list, and didn't really like it as much as I'd hoped. Bleak House is my other Dickens, but I was on the fence about this one.... I think my list will end up being never-ending! -SarahReplyDelete
This is one of the few Dickens that I've read, and I do remember enjoying it. Although Pip was not one of the reasons - I was so frustrated with him throughout most of the book! My favorite was probably the lawyer Jagger (?) - I love Dicken's snarky characters.ReplyDelete
You're right, though - everyone was related to everyone else that Pip comes across that it was far too unbelievable.
I've long had a fondness for this one although when I tried another Dickens recently, I really struggled.ReplyDelete
I distinctly remember slogging through this one. Perhaps it was the middle that was difficult for me, also.ReplyDelete
It feels so good when you finally conquer a difficult author, doesn't it?