Great Expectations


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.


Joe and Pip

Mr. Jaggers and Miss Havisham both scared me, in very different ways and for different reasons.


Miss Havisham

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.  🙂


9 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. Great Expectations was required reading in my high school, so I read it under duress, skipped through the descriptive passages, and remembered only the major plot elements of a novel meant to be read thoroughly and leisurely. Many, many years later I picked it up again after having read and enjoyed Our Mutual Friend. What a surprise! Great Expectations, totally unlike anything I had remembered, was a splendid revelation, and I have been recommending it ever since to others who remember it only as an adolescent chore.
    I haven’t seen the BBC film, but I own the DVD version of David Lean’s 1946 film with, among others, John Mills (Pip), Finlay Currie (Magwitch), Alec Guinness (Herbert), and Jean Simmons (Estella). Although they have sugar-coated the ending, this Dickens adaptation by Lean is second only to his 1948 Oliver Twist, which also featured Alec Guinness (Fagin). I never tire of re-reading Oliver, but Great Expectations is the better book.

    • What a neat story! I have often done the same thing – rejecting a story as boring in my childhood, only later to rediscover it and find that it’s wonderful. You have me really interested in the 1946 film version, now. I’ll have to look into it! Thanks so much for commenting – I just love discussing good books!

  2. Love it again! I have to tell you, though, after reading your post on One Life, C. S. Lewis’ bio, I purchased the book and have u to thank for a wonderful read! Keep ’em coming girl!

  3. All right, that’s it. I shall go back and check it out. I read it when I was twelve or eleven and couldn’t stand it (I think I was too young), and so I distrusted Dickens since that moment. A Tale of Two Cities brought me back into the fold, but I have yet to attempt Great Expectations again. Speaking of which, A Tale of Two Cities is pretty great, you’d probably like it. Our Mutual Friend is probably Dickens’s best, most psychologically complex work (and the 1998 miniseries is great too), but I’d have to say ATOTC is my favorite.

    • Yes, yes! Go read it! It’s so good. Oh, I love ATOTC, as well! I haven’t read it in many years, but I remember really liking it. I’ve never read Our Mutual Friend, though – what is that one about? I’ll have to check it out!

      • I’ve read ATOTC three times since I first discovered it – last year. 😀 Our Mutual Friend is a quirky romance centering around a fortune (this is Dickens, after all), a mystery, a river, and society. It’s hard to say much of the plot without giving it away, but in it Dickens tends to avoid his own weaknesses – I think I can identify a more complex version of the central couple in ATOTC, for instance. Also, David Bradley (Argus Filch in Harry Potter) is in the miniseries, and he’s terrific – as is the rest of the cast.

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