Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations (Barnes & Noble Classics)Title: Great Expectations

Author: Charles Dickens

Pages: 468

Source: Personal library

Rating: 8/10

Summary (From back of book):

In an overgrown churchyard, a grizzled convict springs upon an orphan boy named Pip. The convict terrifies Pip and threatens to kill him unless Pip helps further his escape. Later, Pip finds himself in the ruined garden where he meets the embittered and crazy Miss Havisham and her foster child Estella, with whom he immediately falls in love. After a secret benefactor gives him a fortune, Pip moves to London, where he cultivates great expectations for a life which would allow him to discard his impoverished beginnings and socialize with the idle upper class. As Pip struggles to become a gentleman and is tormented endlessly by the beautiful Estella, he slowly learns the truth about himself and his illusions.

My Two Cents:

I've always liked Charles Dickens. I think I get that from my grandma, as he was her favorite author when she was younger. There's just something about sitting down with a Dickens novel, snuggled under a blanket, that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, even if the novel is kind of grim.

Pip is just such a poor excuse for a person. I could not like him, nor could I feel sorry for him. Luckily, he started to redeem himself near the end of the book, but I still didn't find him a sympathetic character. When his prospects looked up, he completely turned his back on Joe and Biddy, people who had done nothing but help him. There was no indication that he used his money or new status to help anyone (Outside of helping Herbert advance in business) for any sort of good. And his obsession with Estella. Ugh. I found absolutely zero redeeming qualities in her that would warrant a nearly life-long obsession.

I wish we could have seen more of Joe and Biddy. They were definitely the best characters in this book (Herbert was all right, too). I know that was Dickens' intention: To show how money and a fine upbringing does not always make one a better person. I just wish we could have had more time with them. And I just love how they get their sort of "happily ever after."

Since I've read a few Dickens novels, I shouldn't be surprised by all the coincidence the reader is asked to swallow. I went into this novel knowing there would be some really crazy happenstance, but I still had a hard time dealing with a lot of what I was asked to believe. Really? Every single person in this novel is connected to everyone else, even if it's just by association? That's not how real life is. It certainly makes for some interesting revelations, but I had a difficult time suspending my disbelief after the first few big reveals.

If you're a fan of Dickens and his contemporaries, or you just want a good, large-scale novel, give this book a try.


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