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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 8 February 2004
Charles Dickens's acknowledged masterpiece, Great Expectations, is rightly considered one of the greatest novels of all-time. It depth and breadth are staggering, as it follows its protagonist, Pip, from his early childhood through his later life. During the course of his life, we encounter a vast catalog of raw human emotions: love, hate, jealousy, hope, sadness, despair, anger, pity, empathy, sympathy -- and on and on. The story is treasured and revered for many reasons. One of its main strengths is its plot: after a somewhat slow introductory section, Dickens puts his story in fifth gear and delivers a fast-paced and exciting story that gallops along without ever losing interest or clarity. The incredibly complex plotline, full of separate stories and incidents that seem totally unrelated to each other, but are then all harnessed together as the book heads straight toward its denouement, is also full of constant plot twists, which continue up until, literally, the last paragraph. But, of course, as with all of Dickens's major works, it is the characters that make the book. Like Shakespeare, Dickens preferred to have the story develop through the characters, rather than having the characters be mere set pieces inside of an overriding story. And what great characters they are: the perennially paradoxical but essentially human Pip; the bitter and mysterious Miss Havisham; the beautiful and haughty Estella; the simple and saint-like Joe; the kind and benevolent Herbert; the very human convict, Magwitch -- and all of the other wonderful characters. Dickens excelled in creating well-rounded, very human characters who harbored very real and very complex emotions -- that is, human emotions. We identify with Pip as he winds through his life, because we have been there, too -- the disappointments, the surprises, the loves, the anger, the sadness. In whatever way his story may differ from our own, it is still essentially human, as is ours. For all of his complex and paradoxical emotions and sentiments, Pip is a recognizably human character -- and that is why we love him and this book. A masterpiece for the ages, which will endure for years yet to come, Great Expectations is a great book that can be loved by one and all, for, at its heart, is that grain of simple truth that says so much about what is human in all of us -- whether we have great expectations or not.
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on 20 January 2006
I spent most of my 45 years since leaving school doing my best to avoid anything by Charles Dickens, quite why, I'm not sure. A recent illness and enforced idleness had me rummaging around some books I had come by and there was Great Expectations. I thought I'd try just the first chapter, but was hooked from the first page. This is one helluva book! The pace, the characterisation, the plot, the atmosphere, the everything are masterly. But it isn't all misery as there are frequent moments of irony and typically English gallows humour. Outstanding, but it'll make you cry.
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on 9 April 2007
I have a handful of books I can read over and again and this is top of the list, it may even be my desert island choice. The descriptive passages are wonderful and the characters are so richly painted. Pip and Joe is the best relationship - some funny moments, sad moments and some really heartbreaking moments. Every time I get to the part where Pip thinks he is too good for Joe and Joe irritates him it makes my skin crawl. Estella is a wonderful character, cruel, cold and twisted but not her fault and she ends up in a sad situation. Miss Havisham - a truly creepy lady, what an excellent creation. The story is fabulous with such a great ending - who would have thought? This book is absolutely fantastic. Brilliant characters, described so well that the most unimaginative reader will have vivid mental images of them all and you won't forgot them or this book. Ever.
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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 3 February 2002
Don't bother reading this if you are immature. When I tried to read it at the age of 15 with the desire of becoming 'intelligent', I lacked the insight to appreciate its humour. I thought it was 'boring' didn't get beyond the first 100 pages and would probably have given it 1 star at that age.
However, 11 years on, having exhausted all of Wilkie Collins' novels, I decided to give his friend a second chance. I'm so glad I did.
His dark sense of humour comes through the description and interaction of the characters. His dramatic timing is simply perfect and the props he uses sets the reader up for shocks and surprises. He shows us that most of us, like Pip, don't fall into the category of good and evil, but that we are flawed human beings, capable of doing good deeds or making terrible mistakes. The characters cover a vast spectrum, by degrees, from the purely innocent, to likable villains, down to cold-hearted individuals.
It's beautifully written, very atmospheric... from the misty marshes to the dusty, dirty claustrophobic London. I laughed. I was moved. I was intrigued. I read with wide-eyed surprise at the unfolding of events. And I defy anyone who reads this story to forget Miss.Havisham.
If you understand the English language and have a pulse you should enjoy this immensely.
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on 11 July 2004
An excellent narration by Hugh Laurie who captures the emotions and feeling of the characters in this classic book so well.
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on 27 February 2003
Having just read G E for the first time, what strikes me is its infinite sadness and sense of melancholia. While there is much of Dickens`s customary wit and punning humour in the writing, the
impression is of a man in the grip of an atypical desire to express some deep pain, a sadness inconsolable, exemplified in the self-torturing central figure of Pip, growing up in a household dominated by a much elder sister/mother who is forever `on the Rampage` and a long-suffering, seemingly ineffectual uncle/father, Joe, who is nevertheless virtually the one constant source of hope in the novel - a thoroughly good, unlettered yet deeply human man (an almost Hardyesque figure; and it is in G E that Dickens perhaps foreshadows such works as Tess and The Mayor of Casterbridge) who is nevertheless far more dignified and, in his way, proud than he at first appears. He, Joe, refuses to outstay his welcome both times he visits Pip in London, not only from a sense of incongruity, but also a strong feeling of self-preservation,a gentle pride in his own realness - something Pip himself nearly loses.
Dickens`s final, tentatively hopeful chapter, Pip and Estella in the ruins of Miss Havisham`s garden, is suitably downbeat, refusing to allow the saddened reader too much sunlight, even as we are gladdened by the catharsis of self-knowledge so hard-won by Pip over the course of the previous 500 pages.
This is, like Wuthering Heights, The Mayor of Casterbridge or Jane Eyre, one of the timeless, lightning-struck landmarks of 19th century literature, if anything the most regretfully sombre of all of them.
A mature, autumnally beautiful book.
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First starting its serialisation in late 1860 this story was praised by critics and has remained quite popular ever since. Ultimately a bildungsroman this tale is narrated in the first person by Philip Pirrip, or as he is most commonly known as, Pip. From an encounter in his childhood with an escaped convict, Magwitch it has to be noted that Pip’s formative years are quite full of incident. As Pip starts growing up it looks like his life of becoming a blacksmith, apprenticed to Joe his brother in law will suddenly not come about as he is taken to meet Miss Havisham and then learns of certain expectations.

For Pip it is obvious that his expectations will come from Miss Havisham, but is that really so? As he falls in love with Miss Havisham’s ward Estella what will the outcome be, especially considering who has brought her up and influenced her throughout her life? With a story such as this I think that most people are aware of the basic plot even if they have never read this due to the number of films and TV dramas based on this. Taking in expectations of wealth and how money can change people, we also have vengeance, love, crime and the story of how Pip grows to become a gentleman. There is quite some humour here despite the main plot of this tale and some rather wry caricatures. With Jaggers the lawyer, Miss Havisham and Compeyson, whose actions resound throughout this we have been given some of the most memorable characters that Dickens wrote.

Always a great read it is interesting how Dickens shows how a lot of these characters have lives that due to one event or another criss cross each other. Dickens did have some trouble writing this as he made revisions and only really at the last moment decided on the ending, as he had two already written out.
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VINE VOICEon 11 June 2005
Great Expectations is one of Dickens's later novels, a work of his artistic maturity. The narrative is symbolic rather than realistic. Although, as in most of Dickens and in Victorian literature in general, the plot relies heavily on coincidence, it is acceptable here because the related events are true to the internal, psychological, logic of the story.
After writing A Tale of Two Cities, which was unique among his novels in that it had none of his trademark humour, Dickens set out to make Great Expectations rich in comic elements. This despite, or perhaps because of, being in a depressed state of mind himself at the time. The conventional critical view is that he largely failed in this attempt, but I strongly disagree. The book is hilariously funny in parts and the main character, Pip, exhibits a characteristically British humour-in-adversity throughout his adventures. There is also the host of minor comic characters that we expect from Dickens. And he for once manages pathos without spilling over into bathos, so there are tears as well as laughter here, sometimes both at once.
If you have not yet read any Dickens, this is not a bad book with which to start, although for younger readers (teens) I would recommend Hard Times or A Tale of Two Cities as their first. Great Expectations demands a mature sensibility to appreciate its symbolism and psychological depth. Perhaps because it chiefly concerns the childhood and youth of the protagonist, it is often recommended to young people. This is a pity because, in its dark complexity, it is more likely to turn youngsters off, rather than onto, Dickens.
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on 1 January 2012
The only Dicken's book I've read before is Christmas Carol, such a long time ago I had forgotten how good he was at writing a picture. To me reading this book has been like watching a film it's so descriptive, all the smoky corners, misty marshes and the living, breathing City of London of the 19th century are right there on the page. All the characters, apart from their names, could be real people and they play their parts well - from a young Pip caught in a churchyard by an escaped villian from the hulks to Miss Havisham caught in her own wedding day nightmare. Beautifully written, a must for all Dicken's fans.
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