Friday, December 5, 2008

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

Yes, Dickens was paid by the word when writing this.
Yes, this is a big book
Yes, if you were forced to read it in school, you probably hated
Yes, if you read it on your own at or after age 25… you probably loved it.

I for one, thought this book was great, sure it was wordy, but it was not wordy in that “what the heck is he trying to say” way that gets many other wordy books (Crime and Punishment – though I blame the translators for that one).

Short Summary: This is the story of Pip, starting from a young age after his parents and many younger siblings are deceased and he is being raised by his militant sister and her lovable but slightly dense husband, Joe. Pip has very little hope of a future other than an apprenticeship with Joe as a Blacksmith. Suddenly… doors start opening for Pip, and opportunities present themselves to him. He accepts but never knows who or why strings are being pulled in the background to open these doors for him. We follow Pip through his life as he accepts these opportunities, and they lead him down a strange but wonderful path of self discovery, maturity, and opening his eyes to the real world.

The reason this book is so effective is because Pip is so real. We follow him through his blunders and successes, we dread his putting his foot in his mouth, saying the wrong things to Biddy, or Ms. Haversham, and we rejoice when he commits selfless acts and hate him when he commits selfish ones. It is my personal opinion that this book will have more of an affect on the late twenty year olds and up because by then you have suffered a bit, and made some of the same mistakes as Pip, you have wandered through finding your way in the world, and the confusion of who you are, wishing you were something else, loving what or who you cannot have, and figuring out what path to put your life on.

The rest of the cast of characters is quite a collection of multifaceted, entertaining, and interesting people. Ms. Haversham is a favorite of many, so strange, so tortured, so heartless, and so intriguing… then we have Dear old Joe, so Simple, and mild, and encouraging. Joe’s love is unconditional and unwavering. Biddy, is so loyal, so kind, and so honest, then you have her polar opposite, Estella. There are so many other characters that are interesting, fun to read about and that you will have strong feelings for one way or another.

I highly recommend this book, even though it is over a century old, the language is not difficult to read (very little work required) and the plot and characters are stellar. True there are no explosions, but a book can be engaging with out them. Give it a try.

Great Expectations (Oxford World's Classics)


Anonymous said...

I am glad to find you. Having had in mind of deleting Odyssey Review from my blog, I noticed you following it, and curiousty led me to check your site. And it's kind of rewarding to me. I like your thorough reviews over many books, especially classics. I didn't know Dickens had got paid by words. Dickens is a giant as I see him. I don't know who else could measure to him in Engilsh literature. If you happen to know any greater, let me know. I am much looking for who that might be.

Ravenskya said...

I personally have a special place in my heart for Oscar Wilde and Thomas Paine. Dickens truely is a Giant, I love reading his works and wish that they had been assigned to me in highschool when I would have had people to discuss them with.