Thursday, June 28, 2007

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations
By Charles Dickens
Barnes & Noble Classics, reprint
Originally published in serial form, 1860-1861, This version: 1868
475 pages

I didn't rush through Great Expectations, but the time spent reading was addictive and it went fairly fast. Too fast, in fact, to bother writing down any page numbers or mark quotes. I just didn't want to put the book down long enough to bother. So, the only quote I marked was this quote, which made me think of junior high:

So, throughout our life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise.

For those who haven't gotten around to reading, Great Expectations is the story of Pip, a young boy who lives with his temperamental sister and her simple but kind husband, Joe Gargery, the town blacksmith. Pip is visiting his parents' graves when an escaped convict frightens him into bringing food and a file to remove the ball and chain from his ankle. Not long after his experience with the convict, Pip is asked to visit Miss Havisham, a reclusive eccentric who still dons the wedding dress she was wearing the day her intended sent her a note and ran off with her money. Miss Havisham has an adopted daughter named Estella, whom she is raising to break the hearts of men who pursue her.

Pip is entranced by Estella's beauty but hurt by her condescension. Yet, he's so captivated that he can't get Estella out of his mind and determines that he must make a gentleman of himself in order to win Estella. He asks for help from the granddaughter of the schoolmistress, Biddy, who does her best to teach him everything she knows. But, a letter from a lawyer which says Pip is to come into "great expectations" (some form of inheritance) and must be fitted out as a gentleman and hasten to London is the first turning point for Pip.

The rest of the story tells of the ups and downs of Pip's life as he is educated by the brother of Miss Havisham, meets his lifelong friend Herbert, and begins to overextend himself financially while inadvisably separating himself from his roots back home.

Of course, there are a lot of twists and turns that I'm not mentioning. Pip's determination to eventually marry Estella, for example, which is thwarted at every turn by her inclination to exact revenge on any man who pursues her. Estella has been taught to deceive and entrap, but certainly never to satisfy. Pip, however, is convinced that Estella's hand is a part of his great expectations and that someday he will win her over.

It's easy enough to guess who Pip's benefactor is, but there are two possibilities and that lends the story a hint of mystery. As the story unfolds, more secrets are revealed and characters' lives explained. Dickens certainly knew how to keep one's attention with the gradual revelation of its various strands, the well-drawn individuality of each character, the humor, tension and mysteries, all of which add up to make the story thoroughly absorbing.

I can't believe I've missed out on Dickens for so long. Great Expectations is an amazing roller-coaster ride and has just made it onto my mental list of all-time favorite novels.


Also finished reading: Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. I'll try to get a review of that posted, later tonight.

Haven't really felt like writing, this week - I can't say why. The husband called one last time from Darwin, yesterday, before leaving for the interior or desert or Outback, whatever. He will be, he said, in a part of Australia in which 8 of the world's deadliest snakes reside and claimed he's going to let his boss walk ahead of him. Hahaha. At least he's kept his sense of humor. Mine seems to have abandoned me.

We're having daily storms, here - sunny or partly cloudy in the morning, stormy in the afternoon. The humidity has thus shot back up to normal (the yuck zone) and the grass is growing way, way too fast. It's too late for quite a few of the flowers, but the strawberries that died out in the heat are making a comeback.

I opted to skip this week's Wahoo Wednesday post because, a) it was storming and, b) it was Wednesday when the husband said, "Talk to you in 5 days." Well, gosh, that just kind of got me down. So, I'll watch for Wahooey things and try to make next Wednesday's a nice, long post.

Off to take the sick kitty to the vet to be x-rayed and then take the kiddo to a movie. I leave you with the kind of car the spouse has decided he wants to own, since seeing them in Italy (taken at the Canton, Michigan IKEA - "You are in IKEA heaven," said Simon, when he called and I told him how uncrowded the store was. We were, indeed.):


  1. A smart car! How fun! I told my husband that I want to at least test drive one before we leave.

  2. Hi, Nancy!

    I haven't read "Great Expectations" so I was very eager to read your impressions. The characters sound quite fascinating and I like that it has a hint of a mystery about it....I might look for it on tape, it will keep me company on all those dreary, long-distance drives when I shuttle the girls from one soccer game to another.

    Also wanted to let you know that "The God of Animals" arrived here today. Thank you so very much!!! What a gorgeous cover...I'm afraid I can't stop looking at it!

    Sorry you have to wait 5 days to hear from hubby again...I know how awful the waiting can be...I hope so much the days fly by!

  3. Nik,

    I want to hear all about it, when you go for that test drive! I think they're utterly cool, but we'd get smushed, down here, in the land of the giant SUV. :)

    Hi Lotus!

    I think Great Expectations would be a good one for a long road trip! It's no wonder the book is a classic; it's really quite gripping.

    Yea! I'm so glad the book arrived safely! It does have a gorgeous cover, doesn't it? I can't figure out why they changed it for the final publication. The published cover is kind of bland, in my opinion.

    Waiting just stinks. I feel like this is the first time I've gotten a vague idea what it must be like to have a military husband. The difference is that it won't be anywhere near as long before he comes home. And, unfortunately, there's no great support network. I can see why military wives need to stick together and kind of wish I had someone to hang out with. Thanks. I hope it flies by, too. :)

  4. Ohhh, I felt so sad at the end of GE, that I'm not sure I could have given it a 5/5. Poor little Pip...will he ever be happy? I love Dickens too. Might want to check out Our Mutual Friend. A little heaftier, but oh the characters Dickens thinks up!

    Best wishes.

  5. Is 'Great Expectations' your first Dickens?

    I liked it, but not as much as 'David Copperfield' or 'A Christmas Carol'. I wonder how 'A Tale of Two Cities' will rank once I get around to reading that..

    See, I told you about the snakes. ;)

  6. I always like "Great Expectations" but I like almost all Dickens.

    I hope your kitty will be OK!

    Hope you'll take it easy,since it sounds like you are going through a blah spell.

  7. I loved David Copperfield when I read it in college and always meant to read more Dickens. This review is inspiration, but WHEN?

  8. I'm currently reading Great Expectations and have been enjoying it. However, I have found that I have to read it very carefully because of the unfamiliarity with the language used during this era.

    Thanks for your review.

  9. Aren't the smart cars fun?! The first time I saw one was when I was in Paris getting my wedding dress in 2001. That was fun; trying to fit into a FRENCH woman's dress. If you were here, I could do a perfect imitation of the sweet woman who helped me saying, "It looks, um, very beautiful. You just have zee need for, um, zee microfiber." Yeah, like yards and yards of it!

  10. Hey there! I've been to that IKEA! :)

    I'm so happy to read that you loved GREAT EXPECTATIONS. I began listening to it not long ago, but decided it wasn't for that time frame. I'm saving it for another day or rather...many days!. :)

    I hope you find some comfort blogging during your 5 day wait. {{{Bookfool}}}

  11. I feel like such a slacker, having given up on the book. I've put it back on my list. Sort of. Once I give up on something as completely as I did Great Expectations, I rarely pick it back up.

    Hopefully kiddo will keep you so busy the five days will fly. And those snakes wouldn't dare come anywhere near your hubby!


  12. Anonymous3:25 PM

    I love those cars.

    Well, now I think I'm finally ready to read Great Expectations. I do love Dickens ability to spin a pretty fascinating tale.

    I'm picking up the Secret Live of People in love at the library tonight....

    I hope you get good news on Sunshine.

  13. That car is so cool!

    Your cat is still doing bad? I'm sorry to hear that :( I hope she gets better soon...

    I've been enjoying the afternoon rains! We haven't been getting them daily though...more like every 3 or 4 days here..the humidity is miserable!

  14. Great Expectations is one of my Dickens favorites. I also love Tale of Two Cities. Your review was great.

  15. Trish,

    I kind of anticipated the ending and felt sad for Pip, but I was okay with it (even though it was a bit of a bummer). I just felt like the overall experience was so fantastic - all the emotion and such wonderful characters - that I couldn't deduct a thing. :)


    I'm not entirely certain; I think I've read The Christmas Carol, but it's been a while, if I have. I'll have to squeeze in another Dickens, soon; it was just such a great read.

    Yeah, yeah. Good old Kookie knows her snakes. LOL


    I'm looking forward to reading more Dickens, now!!

    Kitty's doing okay - feeling better, thanks to steroids - but her tumor grew a bit. It's slow-growing, but we need to prepare ourselves.

    Blah time is good for reading, so I'll try to take advantage of that. LOL Thanks. :)


    I found that there were occasional sentences that bogged me down - they seemed really convoluted, to me, although it could just be the language of the day. Usually, I just forged on and figured out what he was trying to say by way of the context of whatever was before and after a messy sentence. My 15-year-old loves 19th-century writing. I think that's so wild; it really does take some getting use to, IMHO!!

  16. Lisa,

    Sorry, I missed your message in there, on the first batch of replies. Okay, you're vote number two for David Copperfield as my next Dickens read. Yeah, it's hard to squeeze Dickens in because those serials-turned-novel tend to be whoppers, don't they? :)


    Geez, lady, is there any wonderful experience you haven't had? Paris for a wedding dress? WOW! And, yes, those smart cars are just adorable. Naturally, it was from Canada. I have a feeling we won't see one down here for a loooong time. Nobody seems to be interested in trading out their SUVs for small cars; I think they've just grown accustomed to higher gas prices.


    We saw Ocean's Thirteen. I had a little trouble following the caper, at first, but it was pretty fun just watching all those great-looking guys. They do have a nice cast in the Ocean movies. :)


    It's a great IKEA - the least crowded IKEA I've ever been to!! Loved it! We'll just meet there, next time I'm in MI. :)

    This was my second attempt at reading Great Expectations - I was balancing too many books, the first time, so this time I gave it my total attention and it went quickly.

    Blogging helps. Movies help. Reading helps. Shoot, anything that keeps me from just sitting around thinking helps!!! :)


    You're not a slacker. It may just not be the right book for you now - or ever, for that matter - and that's fine. We don't all get excited about the same books.

    Kiddo will probably help keep me busy. He actually insists that I feed him several times per day. What a pain. LOL

  17. Carrie,

    Me, too. I think they're cool.

    I hope you like Great Expectations when you get to it. And, woohoo!!! I'm so thrilled you're picking up Secret Lives. I can't wait to see what you think. The first story is one of my favorites and I asked Simon all about it, so I have the inside scoop on that one. ;)

    Thanks. Sunshine was so funny; when he put the stethoscope on her little chest, she purred. LOL Her tumor did grow, but it's growing slowly and she's much perkier so we're hoping she'll stick with us for a while. She's such a sweetie.


    Aren't they cute?

    Kitty's "lesion" grew, which means it is definitely a tumor and the best we can do is to keep her on steroids so she'll feel better for as long as possible. She's lost a LOT of weight - she was a chubby cat and now she's just 8 pounds. But, she's been more sociable so she's feeling okay, at the moment.

    We've had rain every day!! Yuck! It's nice for the grass and flowers. :)


    Thank you! I'm going to have to go foraging for more Dickens, pretty soon.

  18. Great review, Nancy. I admit to a prejudice towards Great Expectations, even having not read it. A professor of mine once said that my beloved Oliver Twist was a wannabe Pip. It took me a while to get over that. :-) I do hope to read Great Exceptations and other work by Dickens eventually. I have a big tome sitting on my shelf just waiting its turn

    I hope the kitty is okay!

  19. My first attempt at Great Expectations a few years ago went no where (just couldn't get into it) but I feel in the mood for long, rambling, English novels, so I started Nicholas Nickelby (of which i know nothing).
    So did your husband survive the freezing cold in Melbourne? Sorry I gave you a bum steer on the clothing to pack - it hasn't been this cold and wet in years!
    And Ikea, I was in our store yesterday buying more Billy bookshelves, even at 10am (opening time) it was busy. Sheesh.

  20. Wendy,

    Thank you. I haven't read Oliver Twist, so I'll try to just forget that comment. LOL It took me forever to get to Great Expectations; I highly recommend not putting it off.

    Kitty's tumor grew 1/4" in 6 weeks, which the vet said is pretty slow so I guess that's good. I was kind of hoping for a miracle and we didn't get that, but she's obviously feeling better and will stay on steroids to help her feel better as long as possible. I'm trying really hard not to think too far ahead. She's such a sweetie. Thanks for asking. :)


    I think you do have to be in the right mood to read that type of literature; it took two attempts for me to get through it. I knew, though, that my problem was that I needed to focus on just the one book instead of trying to balance it with several others (which is what I typically do) because I was enjoying it when I decided to put it off till later.

    Hubby was quite happy with the weather, actually. We have very long, hot and humid summers in Mississippi and both of us prefer cool air. He said it wasn't bad at all. I do think he's just enjoying himself a bit too much to complain - or was. I don't know how he feels about the desert, of course!

    I'm terribly envious of you. The closest IKEA to us is about a 6-7 hour drive and it's among the most crowded I've ever been in. I couldn't believe how pleasant the IKEA in Michigan was; usually there's a crowd eating breakfast and then the mad rush is on the moment they open. It's about a 17-hour drive to Michigan, though, darn it! :)

  21. Oh no :( I'm sorry Nancy...I'll keep your cat in my prayers. That's sad. I'm glad to hear she's at least been more sociable and has been coming around.

  22. Somehow I've managed to remain a Dickens virgin, though I must change that one of these days. As a few of you have said, one must be 'in them mood'.

    I am currently reading Bill Bryson's book about Australia and thought of that when you mentioned the deadly snakes. You both might enjoy this book - and could add it to your challenge list =)

    Our IKEA is less than 10 minutes away (sorry!); it was a madhouse for the first year or so and remains so on wkends - not too bad during the week, though.

  23. Chris,

    The vet said he's seen cats last a year or more with a tumor like Sunshine's (and some that have gone in weeks, once it began to spread). Since it's growing slowly and she's been very friendly, we're hoping she'll stick with us for a while. Sunshine is my puppy cat - very smart and sociable - so I'm glad she's back to hanging around with me more often. I plan to savor every minute. :)


    That's cute: "Dickens virgin". I like. ;) Yeah, I think you definitely have to be in the right mood, but when you are . . . wow.

    I've read In a Sunburned Country and I kept our copy but couldn't find it when hubby was packing. He ended up taking a Hornblower book - can't remember which one, but he's a fan of Napoleonic-era nautical books. I laughed out loud a lot when I read Sunburned. Are you enjoying it?

    UNFAIR!!! I love IKEA. We did go to the Dallas IKEA on a weekend - that was probably part of the problem.

  24. Glad you enjoyed Great Expectations so much. I really did too when I read it a few years ago. I really need to read some more Dickens!
    Sorry to hear that Sunshine's tumour has grown! :(
    I'm sure David will be just fine! I always find the time just flies by when H is away on business! ;P

  25. Nat,

    Me, too. I'm going to have to dig through the shelves to decide which Dickens story to slot in, next. :)

    Time is most definitely not flying, but I think the heat and storms have a lot to do with it. We've had wacky weather all week, which means half the time I'm lying around trying to get rid of a migraine and the rest of the time we're stuck indoors while it pours rain and thunder is crashing around us. I think it'll help when I can talk to him, again, though. :)

  26. One of my favorite books! And those smart cars are so adorable.

  27. Dewey,

    It's one of my favorites now, too. ;)

    They're adorable, aren't they? I'm looking forward to a time when SUV's become extinct, but don't tell anyone.

  28. Sorry...I haven't stopped by much this week. I've been a bit busy. I do so love this book!! I'm glad you liked it too!!

    Great Review!

  29. Stephanie,

    That's okay; I haven't been around much, either. LOL Glad to hear another thumbs up for Charlie Dickens. :)

  30. Bookfool, I feel badly that my comment may have sounded pretentious, and I sure didn't mean to. I was just laughing over the American sizes vs. French sizes; in dresses and in cars!

  31. Bellezza,

    You didn't sound pretentious; just envy-inducing. I've been working on my "100 Things About Me" and realized I can say I spent a weekend in Paris. It sounds cool but there wasn't much to it. LOL

  32. I really liked the character of Joe -- he was a good guy. Miss Havisham was pretty creepy. :)

  33. I've been able to live in Europe because when my first husband was stationed in a suburb of Frankfort, Germany, and I taught the American children there, we were able to catch a train anywhere. Which we did. Fortunately, I've been able to return to Europe with my second husband because he lived in Zurich for two years. Believe me, for every joy (living in Europe) my life has had lots of pain, too. Like every one. Nothing to envy here. :)

  34. Tristi,

    I loved Joe, too. I thought it was particularly heart-warming whenever he spoke of his wife, "She were a fine figure of a woman." How cool is that?


    Well, it's still cool that you've gotten to live overseas. I haven't had the kind of heartbreak you've had, but I know what you mean.

  35. I have a picture of Amy (our daughter) standing in front of a Smart Car in Paris. Her arms are outstretched and can almost reach bumper to bumper! Just a tad bit smaller than my MINICooper. ;)

  36. That's great, Les. I have to wonder how my 6-foot husband thinks he'd fit in such a thing. LOL


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