Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Free US/UK Kindle Classic
Charles Dickens is one of England's finest writers and Great Expectations is perhaps his most celebrated book.  (US Edition)  (UK Edition)  We all have our favorites, but when it comes to what is called a "critical" success, I believe Great Expectations with the indelible character of  Miss Haversham cannot be denied.

A US Amazon Reader Reviewer says "Best novel EVER!"  A UK Reader Reviewer (what would I do without you guys?) says; " I thought I'd try just the first chapter, but was hooked from the first page. This is one helluva book! The pace, the characterisation, the plot, the atmosphere, the everything are masterly. But it isn't all misery as there are frequent moments of irony and typically English gallows humour. Outstanding, but it'll make you cry."

This is an extraordinary book.  It is one of his shorter novels, but contains some of his more memorable characters,  Miss Havisham, Estella, Pip, Jaggers, Wemmick, and Magwitch.  

Let's take a look. 
I had heard of Miss Havisham up town,—everybody for miles round had heard of Miss Havisham up town,—as an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who led a life of seclusion.
And . . .
We went into the house by a side door, the great front entrance had two chains across it outside,—and the first thing I noticed was, that the passages were all dark, and that she had left a candle burning there. She took it up, and we went through more passages and up a staircase, and still it was all dark, and only the candle lighted us.

At last we came to the door of a room, and she said, "Go in."

 I answered, more in shyness than politeness, "After you, miss."

To this she returned: "Don't be ridiculous, boy; I am not going in." And scornfully walked away, and—what was worse—took the candle with her.
The house and garden are as much a character as any person in the book. 

The original ending was pulled by Dickens at the recommendation of his friend, Bulwer-Lytton, and replaced with a different version.  Most critics seem to prefer the original ending and you will be able to find it online if you like. 

This is one of two Dicken's novels written in first person; the other being David Copperfield, which famously begins;  " I am born."

There are many film versions; the best is generally considered to be the 1946 version with John Mills, Alec Guinness, and Jean Simmons.  But read it, then watch it!

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