Monday, 1 February 2016

Review: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
Year: 1861
Publisher: Wordsworth Classics
Pages: 412

Great Expectations follows the orphan Pip, who lives with his sister, known as Mrs Joe, and her husband Joe. The novel is a classic example of the Bildungsroman, as it really describes Pip's development as a character. Still a kid, he is sent to London to be educated and turned into a true gentleman. We get to know him before, at the time of, and after the education. A lot happens in this novel, and one of the most influential events is at the very beginning: As a young boy he helps a convict escape by providing him with food and a file. It haunts him throughout his life, continuously thinking about the consequences of this act. But many more things happen: he meets interesting characters such as Miss Haversham, Pumblechoock, Herbert Pocket, and the enchanting Estella. He also redefines his relationship with people he already knew, and above all, he learns to know himself.

This was my first full length novel by Dickens. I picked this one as my first for two reasons: it's one of the most famous ones, as well as one of his shorter novels. Perhaps the latter shouldn't be a reason, and perhaps I should feel ashamed for admitting it, but come on, Dickens is intimidating as it is. So I started Great Expectations at the very beginning of the year, my first read of 2016.

To a certain extent, I regret reading this to set off my new year. I feel like a short but amazing read would have probably prevented the reading slump I was in for the month of January. For the past few years, there have been few months in which I only read one novel, but January 2016 was one of them. This was partly due to the fact that Great Expectations took me a long time to get through, just because I wasn't fully invested in the story, The beginning really did draw me in, and I loved it, but it gradually started to bore me. I didn't find the main character the most interesting one, and I was constantly longing to know more about side characters, while really only getting to know Pip. While Pip still is interesting, and a well-rounded character for sure, I wish more characters were described in great depth. For example, Miss Haversham, about whom, admittedly, we learn a lot, deserved a whole novel for her own story.

There's no doubt this novel is a classic. It's written beautifully and themes such as self-improvement and social class truly describe the troubles of nineteenth century England, But as a novel about ambition, about self-improvement, I was disappointed by how little the novel inspired me. It barred me as a reader, a writer and a critic. While reading it, I was constantly thinking about what to write in my review, and I just didn't know - what would I read afterwards, I didn't know - what did I think about this novel, I didn't know.

A couple of weeks after having finished the novel, letting it sink in, I know I enjoyed it. The story was good and solid, and I really enjoyed the reading. But I surely was disappointed by it. Nonetheless, I'm excited to read more Dickens, although I'm definitely going to wait a few months before I do.

As I said, I didn't read another novel after having read this. I started a few, but with each one, I was afraid it would disappoint me like Great Expectations did. After a while, I decided that perhaps, I just wasn't in the mood for reading, and I should let it go. So I did. I read a bit of nonfiction, a bit of philosophy, which did inspire me to write again, to follow my own ambitions. So I decided to start off February a little bit better: I read a few pages in a new book, I wrote this review, and I tidied the house. Sounds like the start of a good month. We'll see.

No comments:

Post a Comment