Great Expectations – Book Review

Where do I begin to review a work of literature that is already know to be one of Dickens’ best? 

Serialised in 1860-61, Great Expectations was the 13th novel (penultimate completed novel) written by Charles Dickens. He is widely known as the greatest writer of the Victorian Era. Simply to read the book’s title gives a supposition of the greatness of this novel.

Characters

Dickens, as I’m sure many will agree, is superb at characterisation. From relatable, likeable characters, to threatening, amusing, or totally eccentric ones, the variety of people throughout his work is amazing. In Great Expectations, it is impossible not to warm to the character of Pip. Somehow even the words in the first paragraph of the novel ‘I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip’ make the protagonist likeable, and we want to find out more about him.

Throughout the book, Pip goes through a great change both in age, character, and circumstances. The reader is allowed to share in that journey and therefore grow closer to Pip. He is in no way a perfect character – he himself regrets his mistakes and flaws, such as his being ‘ashamed of home’. However, this makes Pip human, and we identify more with him.

The most unusual and eccentric character, without a doubt, is Miss Havisham. The image of her sat in the lonely rooms of Satis House in her wedding dress, with all of the clocks stopped, is a tragic and haunting one, and the reader can’t help but get wrapped up in Pip’s captivation with the woman.

I think the rest of the characters – Estella, Magwitch, Joe Gargery, Mr Jaggers, Pumblechook and Wemmick, to name a few – are also very individual and well described.

Plot

Dickens keeps us guessing in his plot. Seemingly unrelated threads of story join up at the end, and I found myself wanting to read more and more to find out how things were connected. I found certain parts a little far fetched. For example, the interconnecting relationships between Estella, Magwitch, Miss Havisham and Compeyson seemed an amazing coincidence.

Nevertheless, I found Great Expectations easier to follow and read that some of Dickens’ works. I found myself engrossed in the story, rather than feeling I was reading for the sake of it. The ending was as satisfying as you could wish it to be after all Pip goes through.

Favourite book quote

My favourite quote from Great Expecatations is this one:

‘It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade’

I think this sums up the atmosphere of change that runs through the novel. It also adds relatability – a March day in Victorian England sounds the same as a March day in modern times.

Conclusion

Overall, I think Great Expectations is an excellent example of the passage of life and its up and downs. We all have to face things like family embarrassment, unrequited love, and obnoxious people like Pumblechook. Pip’s sudden change of expectations really brings into reality the possibility that a life can change (for better or for worse) in the blink of an eye. There is so much more I could say about this book, as I loved it so much, but I think as far as my review is concerned it will suffice to say that, out of all of Dickens’ novels I have read, this is certainly one of my favourites.