Charles Dickens: Great Expectations (1861)
In Great Expectations the orphan Pip tells the story of his life. He tells us how, after having lost his parents as a small child, he was brought up “by hand” by his mean and quarrelsome sister who hit him and her husband. How his sister’s husband Joe and Biddy the teacher were the only kind people in his life. How he met a convict and helped him. How he was invited to the excentric and melancholy Miss Havisham to play at her house. How he saw the wonderous house for the first time and met the beautiful Estella who would be the love of his life. How being introduced to Miss Havisham and Estella made him long for another life and feel ashamed of his own. How finally he was made rich and hoping for great expectations from an unknown benefactor. And how in the end things turned out in a very different way.
Great Expectations offered everything I expected from Dickens and so much more. The only thing I could criticize is that it was predictable and that there were a lot of coincidences which didn’t seem all that realistic but who cares. There is so much in this novel to like that I can easily forget its flaws. The characters were, as was to be expected, quirky and over-the top, much more caricatures than portraits, but drawn which such a wonderful imagination that I loved each one of them.
I also liked the atmosphere, how with a few words, a few sentences he captures a mood, a season, the weather, a location, a house, a street. All his descriptions are highly evocative and one sees every little detail.
There were many uncanny, witty and captivating scenes and I would have a hard time picking favorites. I liked all the chapters at Miss Havisham’s house. The sorrow and grief which had made the time stand still in that place and entrapped its owner for eternity, gave the book a very gothic feel.
But I also loved all the scenes including Mr Jagger’s clerk Wemmick and his father. They made me chuckle very often. They are such an endearing couple.
To do this book justice and write properly about it, I would need more time which I don’t have. Maybe I will return to it next year and write something a bit more detailed.
For now I would just like to say, I loved it for many reasons but what stood out the most is that Dickens comes across as a writer with a huge heart who can even make many of his villains endearing.