I had to read Great Expectations for my English Literature class, and I figured I would write a review to share my opinion a bit. It was written by Charles Dickens, and first published in 1861.
Genre: Classics, Historical, Bildungsroman
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Pip is an orphan, raised by his sister and her husband, Joe, who is a blacksmith. One day, he is invited to visit the odd and wealthy Miss Havisham, and keep her company. He quickly falls in love with her adopted daughter Estella. Around the same time, he also meets a mysterious convict, who asks him to feed him. He then will come frequently to visit Miss Havisham, and play with Estella: this is the beginning of his expectations. He wants to become a gentleman and marry Estella, even though he is bound to become a blacksmith, and Joe’s apprentice. However, years later, Pip receives news that he has a benefacor, who will help him become a gentleman, and he moves to London…
I have to admit, I had really low expectations for this book. I had watched one of the movie adpatations a few years ago, and hadn’t enjoyed it that much. It was a compulsory read, too, which usually doesn’t lead me to enjoy the book at first. And for some reason, I had overall a rather bad opinion on the story before starting it.
So when I started reading, and I realised how pleasant the writing style was, I was greatly surprised. The story wasn’t that bad, and I realised I was actually enjoying the book.
That is, until the end of the first part. Then, it started getting worse, until the very last chapters, which reconciled me with the book.
I didn’t feel any empathy towards Pip, which was probably one of my greatest problems with this book. The more he grew up, the more annoying I found him. I sometimes found myself enjoying the ironic voice of the narrator, but overall, as a character, I didn’t find him endearing at all, and the only reason I finished the book thoroughly instead of skipping to the ending is because I had to write a paper on it.
Aside from Pip and Estella, I actually like most of the characters, and Wemmick even has a special place in my heart – I just find him so adorable, I don’t know why. But I have many reproaches for Pip. He never thinks, and just follows his so-called “expectations”. And to make matters worse, he thinks himself oh-so-superior from the others. The only person I could stand even less than him was Pumblechook.
So, why did I give it three stars? Let’s make it one star for the enjoyable first part, one star for the writing style – it’s Dickens after all – and one star for all the great side characters (Joe & Biddy, Herbert, Wemmick, and of course, Miss Havisham among others). I also grew attached to Magwitch, and I like how his relationship with Pip evolved (even though the I also found Pip ridiculous and desparate at many points, in the end, he grew to me when he grew closer to Magwitch, I guess).
Overall, I can say that I started this book with very low expectations, and even though I struggled a lot to finish it, I was nicely surprised it the end, mostly due to the fact that it is really well made, and wonderfully written. This book is clever, I can’t deny it.
People who like classics, 19th century England, and coming of age stories.
If you have read the book, please feel free to share your opinion below!