In Havisham, Ronald Frame has taken inspiration from the Charles Dickens's classic novel Great Expectations and has recreated the supposed life of the ill fated spinster Catherine Havisham. There has always been much speculation into the mystery of Satis House and the portrayal of Miss Havisham left in her decaying mansion surrounded by the ghost of her wedding paraphernalia presents an iconic image of English literature.
Catherine Havisham is such a fascinating character that any story that can shed light on her troubled personality is one to be embraced with great interest. Overall, I think that the author has done an admirable job in fleshing out her character and whilst there are no great surprises to found within the story, it does make for an interesting and enjoyable read. I thought that the story starts off rather slowly and needs to be read with great care and attention and then once Catherine grows up the story really starts to become a fascinating account of a life mismanaged by tragedy.
The Dickens purists may not agree that Miss Havisham's story deserves to be told by anyone other than the great man himself, but as an enjoyable addition to the sub Dickens genre, Havisham works well.
Taking the story of one of Dickens' most iconic characters - Miss Havisham from Great Expectations - this is a surprising and unexpected story.
The book doesn't `catch-up' with and meet Dickens' original until about three-quarters of the way through and while we know the gist of Catherine Havisham's story, I still found it less predictable and more interesting that I perhaps expected.
Frame doesn't attempt to write in a Dickensian style (thank heavens!) and makes Catherine Havisham his own. Even when the book does `meet' Dickens, there is a kind of (post) modern twist which isn't clever-clever or irritating, but does shift the story somewhat.
I don't want to say anything about the plot that will spoil this for other readers - suffice it to say that I'm not a great fan of prequels, sequels or other re-writings of classics, but this is a successful intervention into Dickens' text - and makes me eager to re-read the original.
(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher).
Ronald Frame's 'Havisham' is the re-imagining of Miss Havisham's story from Charles Dickens' 'Great Expectations'. In his novel 'Great Expectations' Dickens provided his own brief back story for Miss Havisham, but Frame has used his own imagination to put some flesh on the bones of Dickens' story and to describe to his readers Catherine Havisham's history before the life-changing event which caused her to have all of the clocks in her home stopped at exactly the same time ...
Catherine Havisham, daughter of the very wealthy brewer, Joseph Havisham, has grown up motherless after her mother died giving birth to her. Catherine's father gives her all that money can buy, but when he confesses to her that she has a half-brother, she is shocked and hurt by her father's deception. Catherine meets her half-brother when he comes to the family home, Satis House, and from what she has discovered about him, she is not surprised to find him a difficult and uncouth person who is set on coming between herself and her father. In order to try to recompense his daughter and to provide her with some social polish, Catherine's father arranges for her to spend some time with the aristocratic Chadwyck family, and it is whilst she is living with the Chadwycks, discovering literature, music and art, that she meets the rather attractive Charles Compeyson - and if you have read 'Great Expectations' you will know what the eventual heartbreaking outcome of this meeting will be, and if you haven't read it, I won't spoil the story for you here.
Although Frame's novel is a prequel to 'Great Expectations' the author does not finish his story once he reaches Dickens' original, but travels alongside the original story fleshing out the character of Catherine Havisham and giving the reader an imagined insight into some of the characters' behaviours and motivations. Frame's writing is rather visual in style and I found his descriptions of situation and setting evocative and satisfying to read; I also found it interesting to read about Catherine Havisham's early adult life as a bright and enthusiastic young lady before she becomes an embittered and lonely older woman. By using a first person narrative for Catherine, the author enables the reader to see events from her perspective, which pulls us immediately into her world and, although this rather poignant story is stronger in some parts than others, overall I found this novel an entertaining and absorbing read. It seems unfair to compare this novel too closely to the original, so I won't, but I will say that reading this has made me want to return to 'Great Expectations' and, as I haven't read it since my teenage years, it's most probably not a moment too soon.
on 16 April 2013
The book is easy to read and rollicks along at a steady pace, keeping the reader engaged at all times. However... it's just a bit bland. I felt there was no depth of character, and I really didn't sympathise with the character at all, even when she was abandoned and bereft on her wedding morning. The other characters drifted in and out of the story without making any real impact - the half-brother could have made things a lot spicier, if he had been given more time in the story. And I am afraid the introduction of Pip towards the end seems wholly superfluous - I had thought that it being the story before the story, it would have ended before we reached that point.
All in all - I would recommend this book as a harmless story - but I felt no closer to understanding the elusive Miss Havisham, and in some ways, wished I'd left her previous life to my own imagination.
on 28 May 2013
It was interesting to read the background 'life' of Miss Haversham, but the style of writing was on occasion dull. The story was written in short chapters which jumped ahead and often left me feeling as though something was missing - like an abridged version of a story. While I wanted to finish nod see how it turned out, it was never a story that captured my imagination or enthralled me in any way. A little disappointed.
The name of Miss Havisham is well known to many, certainly anyone who has read Dickens’ Great Expectations. The figure of a woman in her wedding dress, her wedding breakfast shrouded in cobwebs, the house darkened and gloomy, the child Estella living with her – it’s all familiar to those who know Dickens’ story. This book seeks to offer a new perspective on Catherine Havisham, and tells her story as she lived it – from her own perspective, and on her own terms.
Catherine Havisham lost her mother at her birth, and is raised by her father, a successful brewer. He seeks to have Catherine raised to a status above that of brewer’s daughter; he could supply money, so he places her with a family with whom she can acquire polish and position, to set her in good stead for life as … what? A society lady, a wife and mother? Catherine has her own ideas about what her life should mean for her, and sets out to make her own way. Where that ultimately leads her, we who know Dickens’ story know only too well, but it’s the journey, and the aftermath that makes up this story.
Generally this is a good book, but I did think that it went on to the end of Miss Havisham’s life to its detriment. Rather, it would have been a more appropriate ending to have finished the tale at some point where it blended into Great Expectations – perhaps when Estella has reached the age of a young woman. I felt that this book drifted off target somewhat when Miss Havisham seemed to lose her purpose; the whole key to her life is, after all her failed attempt at marriage – why, who, how and what happened after. But the latter part of her life is so successfully told by Dickens that it did not need to be retold here, and not so well. A good read, but not great.
on 2 December 2013
As a big fan of Charles Dickens, and never having read Great Expectations before, I was eager to read this.
It is the heartbreaking story about a wealthy young woman named Catherine Havisham, the daughter of a nouveau rich man earned his riches making beer and ale. Frowned on by the upper classes, her father sends her off to live with a more noble family to ease her into society. Cathrine is deeply in love with the man she is about to marry, but to her utter shock and devastation, he never shows up for the ceremony and she is left at the altar. This sets off a chain of events as Catherine is left to pick up the pieces of her life and run the family business after her father dies. She does so with a ruthless ambition, growing the business even further. But others thwart her, embezzle, seek to usurp her authority. Betrayal, frayed trust, and resilience are underlying themes in this novel.
At first, I struggled to "get into" the novel, and set it aside several times. On the 4th try, I persevered, and was glad that I did, because after that, I was thoroughly engrossed in the story. I think my difficulties lay with the writing itself, and not the story. At times, scenes were under explained and too brief and I found myself going back to re-read passages to try to understand the meaning. Other times, the prose sparked with brilliant descriptions and emotion. Other than the unusual writing style, it was a great book. Now I'm eager to sit down and finally read Great Expectations. Don't be afraid to give this book a try, especially if you're a Dickens fan!
Like many other readers I have been fascinated with the character of Catherine Havisham since I first encountered her in Great Expectations at the tender age of 13. Jilted on her wedding day and frozen in time and bitterness in Satis House, she endeavours to wreak vengeance on treacherous, unreliable men via her ward, the irresistible Estella. Ronald Frame uncovers the human side of Miss Havisham, revealing an ambitious and vivacious young woman not yet tainted by the trauma of broken relationships.
We see a young girl, an only child doted upon by her widowed father who lavishes her with gifts "Children, handpicked" are brought to play at Satis House but Catherine remains an outsider, the money coming from the Havisham Brewery marking her as different from the local villagers but still not quite good enough for noble families. Her one friend is Sally, the daughter of a labourer, but she is not a suitable companion for an heiress so Catherine is shipped off to the Chadwycks, a more socially appropriate setting for someone of her social stature. However the overriding impression is that Catherine is her own woman, a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, stuck in a limbo between new and old money. She's never presented as a paragon of virtue but you feel she's doomed to be an outsider, living on the periphery of others' happiness.
In this reimagining of Miss Havisham, Frame forges his own style and gives a realistic background to a very troubled lady. It's a bit of a slow burner but give it time to breathe life into a ghostly figure and you will be rewarded with the compelling story of a much maligned and perhaps misunderstood character. A must for fans of Great Expectations.
on 11 December 2012
I have loved GE for nigh on fifty years, so approached the prequel with some trepidation. Other reviewers have criticised the long passages on dress, but surely that is pretty much all an erstwhile "lady" of the day would have had to think about? So much was denied them. Her transition into the person in GE is very real for me.
I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book, perhaps because the author has imagined something close to me own imagining?
on 16 May 2013
I thought this was very light and bland and not equal to, or worthy of, its iconic subject.
The first half is almost like a write by numbers young lady in 18th Century novel - snooze......... The author sets Miss Havisham out to be an intelligent and independent lady - so she would surely have seen Compeyson for the swindler he is. The author doesn't make a convincing case as to why she retreats from society after she is jilted - which is the most fundamental thing he had to get right! The second half is a bit airey fairy with far too many quotations included.
There's a short passage where Miss Havisham starts feeling herself!!! Totally inappropriate and tawdry.