Friday, July 20, 2018

Fiction Review: Great Expectations

I last read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens in my 9th grade English class...let's just say that was a very long time ago! I remember liking it - and all the Dickens' novels we read in school - but I only vaguely remembered the characters and very little of the plot. I remember in school thinking that all Dickens' novels started out slow, with a lot of dull description, but then they picked up about a quarter of the way through. So, I was very pleasantly surprised when I recently listened to Great Expectations on audio (free from SYNC in the summer of 2015) and was immediately pulled into the gripping story and enjoyed every moment of it.

A young orphaned boy named Pip lives with his older sister, who is harsh and scolding, and her husband, Joe, a blacksmith who is kind and gentle and adores young Pip. The plan is for Pip to apprentice with Joe at his forge, and Pip is happy with that plan as he and Joe are very close. Everything changes, though, when Pip is invited to the home of the eccentric Miss Havisham, an elderly woman who is stuck in time as the jilted bride of her youth. Her young charge, Estella, is beautiful but haughty and dismissive, and Pip falls instantly in love with her, though she often makes him miserable. Suddenly, being an apprentice and following in Joe's footsteps is not enough, and Pip yearns to become a gentleman. As he gets older, an anonymous benefactor sends him to London and supports him and his education, and Pip feels as if his dreams are coming true.

I had forgotten that this story and its characters had so much depth and complexity. The book is narrated by Pip later in life, looking back on what happened in his youth. It's painful to see him reject kind Joe and chase after this dream of a different life. Every character is full and feels real, and the story has plenty of suspense as to what will happen to Pip and who his mysterious benefactor is. And this classic novel is very, very funny! I'd forgotten that Dickens had such a rich sense of humor, but some scenes (like when Joe meets Miss Havisham or the scenes with Pip's friend, whose almost-deaf father is just called The Aged) made me laugh out loud. The audio production I listened to, narrated by Anton Lesser (produced by Naxos Audiobooks), was outstanding, with each character fully realized and individual, and the older language made easily understandable yet sounding authentic. I absolutely loved listening to this book - far more than I expected to! Great Expectations highlights the renowned talents of Dickens for gorgeous language, engrossing plots, engaging characters, and substantial wit, and I enjoyed it from beginning to end. Now, I am eager to move onto some of the Dickens novels I haven't read yet, like Oliver Twist and David Copperfield.

384 pages, Dover Publications
the audio I listened to was produced by Naxos Audiobooks
(though obviously, there are many, many editions of both the book and the audio)

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Listen to a sample of the audio production I enjoyed here (and you can order it from Audible at this link, too) - this sample is from the start of the book.

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  1. I don't think I have ever read this particular Dickens book, but your review has got me thinking about tackling it.

  2. So glad you enjoyed this reread. I'm planning on a reread myself next year--it's been >20 years since my last encounter with GE, so I'm sure it will feel fresh. Every time I read a Dickens novel, I'm amazed by the complexity and layers of his stories. Really a Shakespeare of the Victorian world. For what it's worth, DC and OT are among my favorite novels.