Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Great ExpectationsI feel as though I have known the story of Pip for most of my life. I have vague memories of listening to audio books and watching adaptations. Maybe that is why I have never felt a real need to pick up the actual book and read it.

The beginning is pretty much exactly how I expected it to be. All the characters seemed to be just as I had seen them before; the scary convict, the kindly Joe Gargery, the nasty sister, stuck up Estella and timid little Pip. Even Miss Havisham didn’t seem any different to how she has been portrayed. It’s not until half way through that I began to feel as though I was coming to the story for the first time. Possibly I’ve not paid as much attention to that part of the story when watching adaptations?

When Pip moves to London to start his new life, there’s all sorts of people, places and plots to interest the reader. I found his relationship with Wemmick especially entertaining. This character, with an almost split personality, is such a brilliant invention! Everything from his odd home to his ‘portable property’ makes him such a delight to read about. As Pip gets to know and understand his peculiar ways, I, too, felt that I was getting to know him. I had never really thought much about his role in the past, but when reading Great Expectations, you can really see how important he is to the storyline, even more so than Pip’s greatest friend, Herbert (who is yet another loveable character – Dickens sure knows how to make them!).

I’m quite a fan of Dickens – even though I have only read a few of his books, and haven’t enjoyed all of them (I really struggled with A Tale of Two Cities). And so I find it strange that I have only recently picked up Great Expectations. It seems to be a favourite to so many people, but I can’t help wondering why. Lots of people like Pip’s character, but when I compare him to David Copperfield, he seems a bit dull.

That’s not to say I didn’t like Great Expectations! I loved the descriptions of the bleak marshes where Pip grew up. I appreciated the interlinking storylines, even if there were quite a few coincidences. The twists were fantastic and well timed – I only wish I had read the book before seeing adaptations so that I could have been shocked by them! If I have one complaint, it’s that the ending seemed a bit drawn out.

Now that I’ve finally read Great Expectations, I feel that I should give Oliver Twist a go. The 1968 musical was always a favourite of mine when I was younger!

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19 thoughts on “Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

  1. Great review! Mr Wemmick and his Aged P are my favourite characters in Great Expectations, though overall it’s not my favourite of Dickens’ books. That honour goes to Bleak House – in my view, possibly the best book ever written…


  2. A theater company in Seattle called Book-It did a wonderful staging of the book a couple years back. I loved Mrs. Joe! This is definitely one of my favorite Dickens. I, as you are thinking about, read Oliver Twist directly after Great Expectations and I was struck by the difference in his voice. I thought the descriptions of characters and scenes were much richer in Great Expectations — he did write it nearly 25 years later after all.


    • That’s interesting and has made me want to read Oliver Twist even more! Maybe I’ll read it soon.
      Great Expectations seems to be one of those books that people like to re-discover and re-invent. I imagine a performance on stage would be wonderful! I think I would probably prefer it to a TV drama or film.


  3. I read this a long time ago and even though it’s been awhile, I too have felt like I’ve always known this story. When I was about 9 or 10, someone gave me a couple of classics adapted for children. Great Expectations was one of them. I loved it and it was probably because of that that it took me years to read the full edition. Anyway, I should probably re-read this and also A Tale of Two Cities. 🙂


    • Those shorter versions can be great to get kids into books! I’ve actually read quite a few of those children’s adaptations to kids that I used to au pair for. I’ve discovered a few books that way – so obviously it works for adults too!


  4. I would go for Bleak House as my favorite, although whether I would take on such a literary challenge again I’m not so sure! I agree with what you say about adaptations, it is very hard to keep them separate from your own reading of Dickens’ novels.


    • I have to admit, I’ve steered clear of Bleak House because I’m worried it will be too difficult/bleak. But I hope to read all of his books some day, so I’ll get to it eventually! It’s good to hear that people like it!


  5. I’ve never read any Dickens, not properly. I read half of Oliver Twist for a school assignment but I really hated it, lol! :S But last year I bought the entire Dickens collection because it was really cheap, it worked out less than a pound a book and they had such pretty covers so I couldn’t resist. But I’m not sure which book to try first….I was thinking possibly Great Expectations just because I know the story already and it might help me get used to his way of writing….what do you think?


    • Sorry for slow reply! I’ve only read a few books by Dickens and Great Expectations is probably a good place to start because it’s not as long or difficult as some. David Copperfield is great, but very long. A Tale of Two Cities is shorter but really hard work!
      I’ve read things at school that I really haven’t enjoyed but then loved reading them again in my free time. Sometimes writing essays can get in the way of liking a book!


  6. I am glad that you finally read it. This is one of my favorites. I have read it multiple times. I used to read it once a year, but haven’t read it for several. I may have to pull out one of my copies and read it again :-).


  7. Oliver Twist is really good :). I adored A Tale of Two Cities as well. I wish they would make a period drama of that one. Have you seen the BBC Adaptation with Gillian Anderson? It was quite good. Great Review!


    • Maybe a drama of A Tale of Two Cities would make it easier for me to appreciate. I found it such hard work! I did see the Gillian Anderson adaptation a while ago and thought it was good – although now I’ve read it, I think I prefer the book. Pip was too pretty in the adaptation!


    • Thanks! 🙂 I read A Christmas Carol a few Christmases ago. I wanted to re-read it this Christmas but didn’t manage it. I loooooved A Christmas Carol, it was just as good as I always thought it would be!


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