I just finished reading Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.
Words fail me.
I’m still glowing with the delightful feeling I always get when I finish an excellent book. I hope you have experienced it at least once in your life: a satisfied, quiet, peaceful feeling that usually comes after a good laugh or a good cry, yet unlike either. (And I did do a prodigious amount of laughing during this book, as well as bit of crying.)
(I watched the BBC miniseries of Great Expectations, and with a few exceptions, thought it to be a good adaptation. The pictures in this post are taken from that adaptation.)
Charles Dickens, I believe, is largely taken for granted nowadays. His influence is everywhere, and references to his stories are common in films and literature. If you stop anyone in the street, it’s a good bet that 95% of passersby would be at least somewhat familiar with the names of Oliver Twist, David Copperfield or Ebeneezer Scrooge. But how many of those people have actually read the original books? Most likely, lamentably few.
But let me tell you, there’s a reason why Dickens’s works became classics. That man could write. He was a powerful master of words: painting landscapes, houses, towns, characters and moods. Not only was he a master writer, he was a master story-teller. I have previously read several of Dickens’s novels, but Great Expectations was by far his most impressive, satisfying story. So many plot twists, so many characters, so much suspense, so many laugh-out-loud passages, so much truth all packed into one book! I don’t exaggerate when I say that I kept the book within arm’s reach all week, and picked it up every spare moment (even if it was only to read a single paragraph).
I hesitate to give even a vague summary of Great Expectations – there are far too many surprises that I could ruin. I will say, though, that the characters were the best I’ve encountered in a long time. Joe and Biddy were such comforting, steady people.
Mr. Jaggers and Miss Havisham both scared me, in very different ways and for different reasons.
And Herbert Pocket – oh, Herbert! Seldom have I met a more delightful, faithful, cheerful friend in the pages of a book! He and Pip reminded me of a much younger version of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.
And the settings were unbelievable. Ruined mansions, decaying flats, misty graveyards and treacherous marshes – I could see them all, every inch of them, as clearly as if I’d lived there my entire life.
I could fill dozens of pages with detailed descriptions, praises, discussions and analysis of Great Expectations. Instead, I’ll just say this: read it! Go to the library this afternoon, pick up a copy and start reading. If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to put it down. When you do finish it, and are filled with that delightful just-finished-an-excellent-book feeling, let me know! There are few things more satisfying than infecting someone else with a good, wholesome obsession about a book. 🙂