4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2003
Looking at the reviews for this book, it seems many are reading this book for the first time, as I did, as part of an English Literature course in high school.
Believe me, we can all assure you that this can be a difficult book for a ninth grader to enjoy. After all, we're talking about blacksmiths, pirates, and so on. Hardly things the average teenager of the 2000s can relate to.
But if you're in your twenties, thirties, or forties, this book is as compelling a novel as you'll ever read. It's an opportunity to look back at Pip and ourselves, the great expectations we all have, and the major surprises, disappointments, and regrets of life.
The adult reader can understand the vindictiveness of Miss Havisham, the pride of Magwitch, the true and rare friendship of Herbert Pocket, and, of course, Estella. Each man has in his life an Estella.
Beyond the true-to-life tale of hope and defeat, is the wry humor throughout the book that a more mature reader can appreciate.
Surprise yourself. If you hated this in high school, pick it up now; you may find this is one of the best books you ever read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2004
Why do I come here to "review" this? It isn't anyone's book club selection, no. But tonight I want to talk about this incomparably rich and wonderful book, and how as a fourteen year old kid I simply sank into it, taking it slowly week by week, glorying in its mysteries, its great grotesque portrait of Miss Havisham in her rotting bridal finery, its often painful recounting of a young boy's awakening to a seductive world beyond the blacksmith's forge to which destiny has condemned him. This book was about me. It was about wanting to learn, wanting to transcend, wanting to achieve while anything and everything seems hopelessly beyond one's dreams. Of course life changes for Pip. And the world Pip enters was a world that dazzled me and only made my adolescent ambitions burn all the more hurtfully. I think this book is about all who've ever tried for more, ever reached for the gold ring -- and it's about some, of course, who've gotten it. It's also a wondrous piece of storytelling, a wondrous example of how in the first person ("I am, etc." ) a character can tell you more about himself than he himself knows. What a feat. And a very strange thing about this book, too, was the fact that Dickens said more about Pip and Pip's dreams than Dickens knew he was doing. Dickens himself didn't quite realize, I don't think, the full humanity of the character he created. Yet the character is there -- alive, captivating, engaging us throughout with full sympathy. Go for it. If you never read anything else by Charles Dickens, read and experience this book. Afterwards, David Copperfield will be a ride in the sunshine, I assure you. And both books will stand by you forever. For whom am I writing this? For myself perhaps just because Pip meant and still means so much. For some one perhaps who's unsure about this book and needs a push to dive into a classic. Oh, is this book ever worth the effort. -. Enough. Read it, know it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2003
Why, in God's name, do high school teachers insist on stuffing this complex novel down the throats of their teen-aged students? Because the initial chapters are narrated by, Pip, a little boy we watch become a young man? Because there are pirates and bad guys in it? Because there's a sort of love story? I'm sure some high schoolers understand GREAT EXPECTATIONS but the majority of them... I don't think so.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS contains many complicated, adult themes and issues that adults will surely appreciate. A virtual encyclopedia of human emotions--fear, child abuse, anticipation, disappointment, love, jealousy, manipulation--this greatest of all of Dickens' novels has everything. And all these ingredients are woven into an incredibly entangled plot, full of twists and turns. On top of all that, the novel is also a virtual encyclopedia of the layout and attitudes of Victorian London.
Holding it all together is Pip's incredible perceptions into his world and his emotions. Never before had there been a character so aware of his feelings and, still, because he is human, he allows these emotions to sometimes compel him to do the opposite of what is right and best. Pip does sometimes behave like the child and young adult he is, but that doesn't mean this novel is suitable for anyone of that age.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2005
During the course of the year I try to read a few, "Important Novels" in order to get a fuller understanding of literature. Dicken's GREAT EXPECTATIONS has been on my list for nearly a year. I completely dreaded reading what I thought would be a long and drawn out story about something I could careless about. Well, I was wrong. Normally I go for a bestseller such THE MERMAID CHAIR or McCrae's CHILDREN'S CORNER, but went for this classic instead.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS is now #1 on my all-time favorites list. While, admittedly, it took me roughly 150 pages to get any enjoyment out of the novel- once I was in- I was hooked. Pip's journey through life is a very refreshing look at how distorted we let our lives become by focusing on the unimportant. Dicken's ability to slowly alter Pip's views on life, without changing his essential character/morales (Ex. How Pip looks to help his friend in his business pursuits). Some have called "Great Expecations" his masterpiece... but in my opinion, it may be the "Masterpiece" of English Literature.
I also wonder why this is required High School reading. While I loved this book at age 28, I think most 16 year-olds would find it unbearable. It seems like such a waist to ruin both the book and Dicken's name on minds that are not ready for such a reading task. Would also highly recommend two other books: LIFE OF PI and a book titled BARK OF THE DOGWOOD.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 1999
I loved this book. I have to admit in the beginning it was a bit of a chore to get "into" it but once I did I was just swept away. I especially loved the characters in it. I found myself putting the book down to tell my husband how mad I was at Pip. Joe, Estella, Abel Magwitch, Mr.Jaggers and of course Miss Haversham are unforgettable! A great book once you give it a fair chance. I am so glad that I stuck to it!
Listening to the audio version of this Dickens classic is thoroughly enjoyable. The narrator, who is also the main character, addresses you directly and colours the whole story with his own amiable personality. Indeed, one can imagine that the novel, published in instalments in that long bygone era before radio, television and other non-printed media, was conceived to be read out loud in the family parlour.
The characters are straightforward, captivating and likeable. Totally removed from any realistic complexity, they are all the more memorable: naïve, honest Pip; distant, cold, condescending Estella; devoted, loyal, simple-minded Joe; mysterious, ethereal Miss Havisham; etc.
The plot, convoluted, wholly implausible and a tad predictable, evokes harsher but so much simpler times. Though by no means a cliff-hanger, the work is suspenseful and the reader's interest is expertly sustained throughout.
Extremely well written, peppered with tongue in cheek humour, this archetypal novel is strongly recommended to any audience, particularly in audio form.
on July 7, 2004
Virtually every writer that has lived after Dicken's owes him a debt. While by today's standards he may seem verbose and long-winded, taken into context he is a marvel of craftsmanship and wit. And even taken out of context, he still survives, like Shakespeare, Marlow, or many of the other great writers. GREAT EXPECTATIONS is one of the few "perfect" books that have ever been written. What constitutes a "perfect" book? I'd say it would have to be pacing, excellent story material, a plot that makes sense and resolves itself, and wonderful writing. Believe it or not, few books fall into this category. Steinbeck's EAST OF EDEN comes to mind, as does McCrae's THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD or Capote's OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS. There are more, but not a lot. Of all of Dicken's works, GREAT EXPECTATIONS is by far his best effort. It's not as long as DAVID COPPERFIELD or some of his more protracted works, and this is probably the reason it's read in high school. If you're just now discovering this immense and talented genius, try this book first.
on June 23, 2004
Many reviewers have called this Dickens' greatest novel. One reviewer says it was the first time a character's feeling had been explored in such detail. These things I cannot comment on - this is the first Dickens novel I ever read, and I am not familiar with other works of this period. I can say that it was a damn fine read though.
I must admit, maybe it was a convention of the time, but there were a great many impossible coincidences in this story. The term "soap opera" even crossed my mind at one point. In the end I forgave these improbable coincidences because the story was so compelling, and the novel so old, and the author of legendary repute.
I loved the saint-like character Joe. I think he was my favorite character. And Dickens does a masterful job of showing the friendship between Pip - the protaganist - and Joe and especially Herbert. Miss Havisham is the picture of the bizarre rich recluse. And Estella the epitome of the cold-hearted shrew. All of the characters are rich.
And it is true, as many other reviewers have commented, that so many issues are explored in this work. The meaning of true love, genuine friendship, the implications of "moving up" and it's effects on family and friends, good fortune, redemption, etc. It's all there - life is there.
The book was slow at certain parts, but most of the time I found myself eagerly turning the pages. Dickens is a master at compelling his reader to turn the pages. What will happen next? At some of the titanic coincidences and plot turns I found myself thinking, "what?! You've got to be kidding me..." and then begging for more. I think you will too.
There are some deeply heartfelt moments. Deeply heartfelt, touching, that inspired warm feelings in me. It was a pleasant change of pace from the darker, more cynical literature of today (though there are evil people and violent actions in Great Expectations as well). The final lesson of redemption is truly heartwarming.
on May 11, 2004
"Great Expectations" is an extraordinary novel of a young boy's journey to adulthood. We meet Pip as he describes his sister who "raised him by hand." However, despite his misgivings about his sister he still feels very fondly towards his brother-in-law Joe Gargery. He meets many extraordinary characters along the way one of them being the classic literary figure Miss Havsiham. Miss Havisham had a broken heart and she raised her daughter Estealla to view men the same way she did. As Pip grows up and moves out on his own he becomes the only person to know the true identity of Estella. The other important character in "Great Expectations" is a criminal. He had threatened Pip in the marshes when he was a young boy and came back from New Zealand many years later to see Pip again. All though the criminal meets his untimely demise we still grow close to the character and miss him when he goes. This book gives an excellent view of not only a young boy's thoughts and emotions but outlook as well. It takes you on a journey that provides you with many lessons that can be carried throughout your life. Despote the magnificence and brilliance of the author's writing it is still a very difficult book. Dickens gives an amazing outlook on life and he deserves the recognition he has gotten, even since his death. "Great Expectations" is a true classic and deserves to go down in literary history.
on March 26, 2004
Another reviewer claims that you have to be at least 21 years old to read this book. Although I don't think it should be "forced" on schoolchildren (they will only hate it) I read this novel when I was a child and I loved it. I have just re-read it now and I enjoy it all the more. This is my favorite novel by Dickens. It is from his later period and is criticized for being too dark - which, however, makes it more perfect for today's sensibilities. Stephen King cites this work as one of his favorites: he believes that it is this book that brought the gothic novel mainstream.
Was there ever a novelist who created more memorable characters than Dickens? Here, we meet perhaps his most intriguing - Miss Havisham. For anyone unfamiliar with the story, I will not spoil it by describing her. The story is similar to parable about the prodigal son - good Pip inexplicably comes into some money and goes off to the corrupting city.
AN IMPORTANT THING TO NOTE: Dickens wrote two ending for this book. His friends thought that the original ending was too downbeat and they asked him to come up with a different one. It is the upbeat ending that is the official ending of the novel. However, most critics agree that the original unpublished ending is better. Most modern editions feature the unpublished ending in an appendix. MAKE SURE YOU BUY A COPY THAT CONTAINS THE ORIGINAL ENDING!