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Great Expectations – Book Review

My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. -From Great Expectations, page 1-

Pip grows up in a small English village, an orphan who is raised by the abusive hand of his older sister. Pip also lives with Joe – a forger with a kind heart and gentle spirit. Fate introduces Pip to the beautiful Estella (adopted daughter of the strange and damaged Mrs. Havisham) whose comment about Pip being a commoner changes his world view and sets him upon a destructive path. When Pip one day receives a gift of a large sum of money from an unknown benefactor, he follows a course of misguided expectations and dark mysteries.

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens hefty classic – is about the cleansing process of human suffering, redemption, the consequences of living a material life, and the loyalty of family bonds.

Dickens includes some memorable characters in this gothic style novel. Most notably Mrs. Havisham who suffers from a broken heart and lives in mostly darkness among her ruined wedding gown.

So she sat, corpse-like, as we played at cards; the frillings and trimmings on her bridal dress, looking like earthy paper. I knew nothing then of the discoveries that are occasionally made of bodies buried in ancient times, which fall to powder in the moment of being distinctly seen; but, I have often thought since, that she must have looked as if the admission of the natural light of day would have struck her to dust. -From Great Expectations-

I must admit to struggling to get through this book.  Victorian era literature is wordy and includes endless details of everyday life that I found tedious.  The middle third of the book dragged for me, but the novel redeems itself over the last third when the reader begins to uncover the mysteries and Pip sees the error of his ways.

I wanted to love this novel. I have read The Tale of Two Cities, as well as A Christmas Carol – and loved both of these. I know I must have read Great Expectations in high school, but I honestly have no firm recollection of it.  The truth is,  I found it to be a mostly boring story with a good ending. Not something I would recommend to most people. Although if you love Victorian literature, you may find the novel satisfying.

9 Comments

  1. Anonymous Anonymous
    January 26, 2008    

    Good for you for finishing this one. My friend Phoebe (KnitHappened) is trying to get through it too. I tried to read Dickens in the past, but I get impatient with the wordy prose.
    =) Jill

  2. Anonymous Anonymous
    January 26, 2008    

    I have A Tale of Two Cities planned for 2008. I know I have read it before but can’t remember it.
    I have no immediate plans to read this one. Less so, now. 🙂

  3. Anonymous Anonymous
    January 26, 2008    

    Jill and Amy – thanks for your comments. Amy, you might like it…I know several readers who love it – it just wasn’t my cup of tea (and maybe it was the mood I was in…I didn’t feel like working so hard to read right now!).

  4. Anonymous Anonymous
    January 26, 2008    

    well, at least now you’ve read it. Sometimes even when I haven’t enjoyed a ‘classic’ I’m pleased with having got through it. And sometimes it is your mood too.
    Are you reading Dangerously this year?

  5. Anonymous Anonymous
    January 27, 2008    

    Raidergirl: Yes, I’m in that challenge … which is one of the reasons I persevered with Great Expectations! I’m glad to have read it, but I won’t do it again 🙂

  6. Anonymous Anonymous
    January 30, 2008    

    I have to admit that I loved Great Expectations! I will admit it’s wordy, but there is so much humor in Dicken’s writing, that I love every minute of it. Someone once told me that authors of that time were paid by the word, which explains a lot, doesn’t it!

  7. Anonymous Anonymous
    January 31, 2008    

    Chain reader…I had heard that was the case with some of these early writers! And yes, it explains a lot *laughing* I felt a lot of the verbiage could have been taken out and then I probably would have loved it…because the story itself was great; and some of the characters were so memorable. But, it just dragged for me in the middle!

  8. Anonymous Anonymous
    February 6, 2008    

    Ohhh, bummer. I really liked this one EXCEPT the ending. 🙂 Dickens takes a little time getting into for me, but I love his humor (kind of dry…like my own). Our Mutual Friend is a good one, but its 800+ pages. Ha!

  9. Anonymous Anonymous
    February 8, 2008    

    Trish, I like his dry sense of humor – and I know a lot of people LOVE this book. I think I wasn’t in the mood to read this type of literature. I like some of Dicken’s other books.

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