zondag 7 februari 2016

"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before - more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”

I started reading this novel with quite some anticipation. Many still consider Charles Dickens to be the greatest novelist ever, and this book is widely recognized as one of his very best. Great expectations indeed.

The book's Great Expectations, of course, are the main character's. Philip Pirrip, Pip for short, is an orphan who is raised by his mean older sister. As a child, he is invited by the wealthy Miss Havisham to be a regular companion. At her place, Satis House, he meets Estelle, Miss Havisham's beautiful, but cold and rude adoptive daughter, whom he falls in love with. Her upper class life style soon becomes his ideal. He realises, though, his apprenticeship with his brother-in-law, a blacksmith, will never get him to lead the kind of life he yearns for. But then, very unexpectedly, a lawyer, Mr Jaggers, appears with the news that a mysterious benefactor is willing to invest in Pip's dreams. With quite a fortune in his hands, Pip heads to London to become a gentleman and to make his great expectations come true.

Dickens is a joy to read. His writing is inventive, incredibly witty and dramatic. His descriptions are phenomenal: Pip's meeting with an escaped convict in a graveyard, the creepy atmosphere at Satis House, where the old spinster Miss Havisham is still wearing the faded and cobweb-covered wedding gown she wore when she was abandoned at the altar,... These are all scenes and characters that are unforgettable. The story meanders quite a bit, especially in the middle section, but this was a characteristic of most Victorian novels, of course. The best novel ever? Well, maybe not, but it's easy to understand why Dickens is still held in such high regard.

Author: Charles Dickens
Title: Great Expectations
Publisher: Penguin, London
Year: 2003 (orig. 1861)
Number of pages: xxv + 514 p.
ISBN: 9780141439563

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