Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
Published by: Sterling Children’s Books, Inc. (Originally published 1861)
“We spent as much money as we could and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us. We were always more or less miserable, and most of our acquaintances were in the same condition. There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves and a skeleton truth that we never did. To the best of my belief, our case was to the last aspect a rather common one.”
Great Expectations is the story of Pip (pip, cheerio), and his Great Expectations. Essentially, his unyielding hope that he can gain the love of a beezy who is completely unworthy of his love. It is his financial rise and fall, and his eventual growth to the realization that there are more important things than money. Which he couldn’t manage even when he had it. Pip is a rather boring narrator, and the story is peppered with much more interesting if unlikable characters, as well as a few lovely folks whom he takes for granted until he learns his final lesson.
It took me over a year to read this book. *covers face in shame*. I didn’t start it over for the Quest, because it had taken me so long to get about 30% through that I couldn’t bear to begin again. I hated that first 30% of the book. But me being me, I was determined to see it through. I can’t not finish a book. Not an option. I will admit the rest of the novel was not nearly as mind-numbing as the beginning, but the bright spots between the monotony are few and far-between. I loved Mr. Wemmick and his Aged Parent, was intrigued my Miss Havisham, and appreciated humble Joe and Biddy (although Joe’s 19th-century slang was sometimes very difficult to wade through), and was refreshed by the other character I won’t mention, because spoiler.
I didn’t understand Pip’s love for Estella. It made me dislike him as a character and disregard his redeemable qualities because what would have been a forgivable crush of a child became an unwarranted obsession as an adult. She was pretty. That’s it. She was cruel and uncaring and he knew it. He even realizes as he narrates that he is miserable whenever he is around her. So, what? His love for her was actually just some testosterone-induced need to attain the unattainable? Ridiculous. I can’t root for that love. No one should.
Okay, and what’s up with the far-fetched connections between every character in Pip’s life? (We’re talking, like, the Shire to Mordor far) This book should have been titled Great Coincidences. And I can’t say any more about it because it would ruin the book for you if you should read it. Boo.
As I read GE, I found myself wondering if this book has been heralded as a classic simply because Dickens wrote it. I love A Christmas Carol, and A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books, but I felt that both of those were layered and intricate and meaningful, whereas GE was just unnecessarily lengthy and drawn out. There are certainly some beautiful passages, and when the action got moving I was drawn in, but a very large portion of the novel didn’t move the plot forward in any necessary manner. I understand that many of these sections involving supporting characters were used to contrast Pip’s expectations with what he was missing out on because of them (read: actual happiness), but it just took WAY too long to do it. It’s so long and meandering, it’s hard to keep a hold on what the plot is supposed to be.
Okay, I know I’ve spent this whole review grumbling. And I didn’t like the book and will never read it again. Probably. Never say never. So why did I give it a 3/5 rating? Because I’m glad that I did read it. I would still recommend that you read it if you like classics, if only so that you can grumble with me about it or tell me I’m wrong and it was a beautiful story. Or because it’s Dickens and to be well-read you’re expected to have read it. (What’s up with that, by the way?) It’s not by any means poorly written, it was just too slow for me. It is still a thought-provoking novel with some very memorable characters. So read it, and let me know what you thought!
I’ll write again soon. Until then, keep reading.
Found in: Quest No. 1
What were your thoughts on Great Expectations?