book review

Review: Great expectations by Charles Dickens

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 Orphaned Pip is set to be apprenticed to forgery, but as he spends time with the bitter spinster Ms. Havisham and her beautiful, though haughty, niece Estella, he finds himself craving to have far more in life. Against all odds, it seems his luck is about to change.

 I don’t like to assign ratings to specific subcategories of a book and then get an average rating, as I have seen many people do, because I believe one asset of a story may be so well executed that it outshines all others. However, I have noticed that, when it comes to classics, I put most value on the writing and themes. Books like Jane Eyre, The age of innocence, and most of all, Lolita, have stuck out to me mostly due to their prose. I had heard that Charles Dickens lacked in style, and since this is the first time I read anything by him (with the exception of Oliver Twist, but I read that when I was like 13, so I don’t remember very well), I didn’t think I would like it very much. I agree that, while Great expectations has some incredibly memorable quotes and passages, the writing isn’t consistently astounding, as for instance, Jane Eyre, which became an instant favorite of mine due to the sheer force of Charlotte Bronte’s prose. Nonetheless, it managed to captivate me.

 Dickens crafted a story filled by a rich cast of characters that you can’t help but care about. I understood and empathized with Pip’s longings, Estella’s convoluted emotions, and Miss Havisham’s misfortunes. Every character is compelling and multidimensional in their own right, and their arcs add depth a story that would otherwise border the soap opera territory, making it irresistible and complex. This introduced me to some of my new favorites, and I genuinely cared about them and how things would unravel, which I don’t say lightly.

 Furthermore, I value the subjects explored in the novel. Although the “appreciate what you have”/ “it’s better to have less with better people” message has been done far too many times before (even in the Hannah Monatan movie), this goes beyond, as it spends a lot of time portraying the realistic and sympathetic way that Pip unfolds his expectations. It’s about social inequality, what it means to be a gentleman, the nature of wrongdoings and innocence. But the things that most stayed with me were how understandable and well-developed Pip’s yearnings were, the dangers of allowing your imagination and personal desires to delude yourself, and the fact that it is essentially a coming of age narrative about losing one’s naivete.

 This story and its characters are specially timeless, and I believe many will be able to relate to them, as I did myself. Even elseways, Great expecations is rich, detailed, and simply charming. It surpassed each of my assumptions (or expectations, if you will) and earned its place as a new favorite of mine.

5 stars

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