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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.
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on September 29, 2003
This is a great story of Pip (Philip Pirrip)'s obsessive love for a woman who neither loves him nor seems in any way the typical heroine. As he strives to become a gentleman, aided by an anonymous benefactor's money, he succeeds only in alienating those who love him best and most honestly. Appearances, as in most Dickens novels, are deceiving, and those who are wealthy in a material sense are not those who are wealthy in the emotional sense and vice versa.
The language and sentence structure are both complex; if you have any difficulty in understanding this sort of English you'd do well to wait awhile before reading GREAT EXPECTATIONS, because Dickens' brilliance is in the wording. This is less humorous than many of his other stories; however the humor is there if you look for it and listen for it in the phrasing.
Dickens provided two endings for this book, and, frankly, I don't care much for either...but read the book, read both endings, and decide for yourself.
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on April 10, 2000
I usually find Dickens to be somewhat boring and at times long winded. This book was not only well written, I found that it did not drag the way books can sometimes do. The characters are developed in such a way that they become real in every aspect from Estella and her cold heart to Joe and his love for Pip. What I think is the most interesting part of this book is the ending because it is not typical Dickens. **Also, if you can get a copy of it, Masterpiece Theatre did a version of this story in 1998 or 1999 starring Ioan Gruffudd (who also was seen as the title role in the Horatio Hornblower series on A&E) which was extremely well done.**
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on November 23, 1998
Maybe I can ofer insight to anyone who can't possibly see why anyone would ever like this book, because every single person I know, including all of the lit teachers I've had, seem to hate it with a passion. I just think its a great story, do you remember those? Those things that our parents used to tell us about princesses or in my case giant cats that peed on mail men? Its just a story about this painfully tragic romance, and let me say that not all tragedy happens wham-bam everybody dies... its like real life where its very drawn out, very subtle, and that's the way the book has to be. I personally like it becuase its a perfect description of the life I was leading at the age I read it. I do not, however, think it should be forced on freshmen in High School, just becuase they can't have an appreciation for it at that age. Our teacher didn't force it on us, but I read it voluntarily... here I was making a C in the class, never read anything, we read the first chapter in class and I was absolutely hooked. And now look at me, I'm going to be teaching Literature in High School. All I can say is its one of my favorites, and if you're about to read it in school, don't let all these horrible reviews scare you away, read it and make your own opinion, its a great book.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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on May 17, 2002
There is no doubt that Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" is a masterpiece. The intricacy of its plot has rarely been matched. Its characters are unforgettable. It speaks powerfully to what it means to be human.
Pip is the perfect picture of flawed humanity. He is essentially well meaning, but his vision always seems to get cloudy at just the wrong time. Throughout the book, Pip falls prey to his dreams and infatuations. In the process he ignores those who truly love him. Only in the end does he learn, in catastrophic terms, the importance of love. Only then is able to accept it.
"Great Expectations" is the story of Pip's learning process. Along the way we encounter some of Dickens greatest secondary characters: the fierce Mr. Jaggers, the self-centered and mentally unstable Mrs. Havisham and her heartless prodigy Estella, and Pip's great friend Joe.
I give a special recommendation to this Bantam Classic edition of the work. Its introduction by John Irving is one of the greatest pieces of criticism ever written.
Though not my favorite Dickens novel, I give "Great Expectations" a heartfelt recommendation.
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Great Expectations succeeds beyond almost all novels of its time in exploring the roots of character and moral behavior. Charles Dickens makes the case for there being the potential for good in everyone. Evil and sin follow from a combination of being self-absorbed and selfish. What is remarkable about the way these themes are handled is that they are clearly based on an assessment of human psychology, long before that field was established.
The book is also remarkable for its many indelibly memorable and complex characters. Miss Havisham, Pip, Magwitch, Mr. Jaggers, and Estella are characters you will think about again and again in years to come.
The book also surrounds you with a powerful sense of place. Although the England described here is long gone, it becomes as immediate as a nightmare or a dream that you have just awakened from.
For a book about moral questions, Great Expectations also abounds in action. The scenes involving Pip and Magwitch are especially notable for way action expresses character and thought.
Great Expectations also reeks of irony, something that is seldom noticed in more modern novels. Overstatements are created to draw the irony out into the open, where it is unmistakable. Yet the overstatements attract, rather than repel. The overstatements are like the theatrical make up which makes actors and actresses look strange in the dressing room, but more real on the stage when seen from the audience.
At the same time, the plot is deliciously complex in establishing and solving mysteries before that genre had been born. As you read Great Expectations, raise your expectations to assume that you will receive answers to any dangling details. By reading the book this way, you will appreciate the craft that Mr. Dickens employed much more.
This is the third time that I have read Great Expectations over the last 40 years. I found the third reading to be by far the most rewarding. If you like the book, I encourage you to read it again in the future as well. You will find that the passage of time will change your perspective so that more nooks and crannies of the story will reveal themselves to you.
If this is to be your first reading of the book, do be patient with the book's middle third. It may seem to you that the book is drifting off into a sleep-inducing torpor. Yet, important foundations are being lain for your eventual delight.
Mr. Dickens wrote two endings for Great Expectations. Be sure to read both of them. Which one do you prefer? I find myself changing my mind.
Give love with an open heart, without expectations!
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on August 18, 2001
All right. I admit it. The book starts out slow. Dickens, though I love the man, writes in such flowery and long winded language at times. What takes many authors a line or two, Dickens will devote whole pages.
And I almost put the book down for that exact reason. I'm very happy I did not.
With so many detailed threads in the story, the depth to the characters--when they all start to blend together a few chapters in, the result is page-turning.
The story centers around a young boy--well, almost young man-- named Pip, and revolves around his growing into age. You cannot help but love the boy. Much of Pip's worry and concern I could relate to--falling in love with a girl who refuses to return your sentiments and only plays with your heart, growing up and leaving home for the first time, and discovering your true relationships with others and yourself, as shocking as they may turn out to be.
I felt as if I was side by side with Pip through it all, and that made the novel a wonderful experience for me. I recommend the novel for the young because so much relates to them, and also for the older readers--because you can experience it all again.
A wonderful and heart warming tale. Just get through those first chapters.
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