Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

4/10 (Boring, contrived, no sympathetic characters, lame villains)

My least favorite of the five Dickens I have read, this one lacks almost anything that make the other ones great, or even enjoyable.  The only sympathetic characters are minor ones (Joe, Biddy, Herbert, Wemmick), and underdeveloped.  Pip himself is mostly obnoxious, and my ambivalence toward him as the narrator made it difficult to even care about the book over the first 100 pages or so.  The story was terribly slow until Pip got to London, about 1/3 through 535 pages.  There are no memorable villains, unless Ms. Havisham is supposed to occupy that slot.  But the book´s later twist makes her and Estella’s entire arc almost totally irrelevant.  Orlick and Compeyson get about 10 pages devoted to them in total, hardly the stuff of satisfying external conflict (plus Mrs. Gargery’s relation with Orlick is never resolved).  The twists themselves take Dickens’ notorious propensity for contrivance to an entirely new and ridiculous level.

All I knew of the book coming into it was that it featured three of the more memorable characters in pop culture history: Pip, Estella, and Ms. Havisham.  By the end, I was left wondering what precise purpose the latter two served, and if the book might indeed have been better overall had they been reduced in importance, or even left out entirely.  Better for the reader would be to read either Bleak House or A Tale of Two Cities.

 

Original Review

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