“I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Great Expectations is the thirteenth novel by Charles Dickens and his penultimate completed novel: a bildungsroman that depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip. The novel was first published as a serial in Dickens’s weekly periodical All the Year Round, from 1 December 1860 to August 1861.
I haven’t touched classics in years and then I started in a new job few months back and nicely ended up in a book club at work and this is the first book we are reading. I almost feel bad for writing this neutral review of the book. I’ve read Great Expectations (most grateful for the copy of the book) before and I even gave it four stars on Goodreads. Four stars…I’m just baffled. I think I was just syncing my paper reading journals with Goodreads and made a mistake? My review might contain some spoilers.
“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.”― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
I don’t know how to describe my thoughts. I could just say it wasn’t my cup of tea or I could say more. When I started reading this at first, I thought of David Copperfield which I read more recently and how similar these two are. And I remember liking Dickens’ favorite child. Then, I read my old review I had written here (pretty please do not even bother to find it) and it not seem like I liked it very much either. I like long books and stories but not with coming of age focus. Moreover, I suppose it’s harder to say you do not like something that has been deemed good and that has been popular for decades. But you might already know that I hate Jane Austen with great passion so, disliking a book or two from Dickens shouldn’t bring me any lower.
Great Expectations described something so ordinary. It was like reading a boohoo story with some good life wisdom but not enough to reverse my judgment of the novel. It did not challenge me as a reader, I finished it and I felt empty. And I crave to read books that challenge my whole way of thinking and often classics do this for me so I was disappointed. Then, it was so slow-paced. I heard that Dickens was paid by the word but this wordiness was a little ridiculous. I didn’t like how the characters were written, instead of few truly good characters, you mainly have these shadow of characters that Pip meets and who are only there to serve that one purpose. We meet Magwitch, escaped convict who helps Pip. Okay. I can’t help but compare here Magwitch with Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. I did not see the point… If Pip needed to inherit the money from someone later why not a rich long-lost relative. Then our Pip falls in love with Estella. Who really is a mean, cold-hearted
bitch wretch. But wait it gets better. Then, he dreams of becoming a gentleman so that he can be worthy of her. Poor Eponine Pip. Then Pip comes to a lot of money, becomes a gentleman, good for him, and then becomes a snob. Wait what. So Pip was poor, he was humiliated by rich people around him and yet he becomes exactly like them and still tries to win the heartless Estella back? I don’t get it. If anything, you become less ignorant because of the circumstances you grew up in? What was the lesson to be learned? Or if it meant to say, but this is life and this is what people are like then great, but I already know it.
“Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces – and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper – love her, love her, love her!”― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
How about no. Let it go and walk away.
Now, to be fair, Great Expectations had many good lines like “Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies.” which is my favorite quotes and I did not recall it was from this book. Or “We need never be ashamed of our tears”. And of course a sympathetic story of Pip and how he overcomes a lot. In the end, this just wasn’t my cup of tea. I don’t drink tea.
2/5 stars. It was ok.
How-To Read Great Expectations
1. A great thing about classics is that you can find them for free online. Check out Project Gutenberg to find this one and more.
2. I think its best to start reading Dickens from Oliver Twist, Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol and then move on to David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Bleak House.
3. I suppose you’ll like this more than I if you enjoy coming-of-age stories.
Have you read this? Thoughts?