Review: Great Expectations

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My friend gifted me this beautiful copy for my birthday only recently, and I’m so glad she did. I already had the book on my schedule to read, but this copy is so much nicer than the one I already had.

Read: September 11 – September 5, 2023

Book contains: escaped convicts, mild violence

Classic Coming of Age Story with a Hint of Mystery

Philip Pirrip, known as “Pip”, is an orphan boy being raised by his sister and her husband, and one event when he was seven years old changed his entire life. After serving in a house with a wealthy old woman, Pip is informed that he has a mysterious benefactor, he has great expectations for his life, and he’s on his way to becoming a gentleman.

This is one of the books where I really don’t know what to say about it. It was sort of interesting, but there were never many scenes that stood out to me.

I followed along with this book using Spotify, finding the LibriVox recording from Great Audiobooks again. The whole book is in eight parts, all read by the same person, who is a strong, clear reader who does really well with the different characters’ voices.

The story is entirely narrated by Pip with hindsight as he reflects on his life about thirty or fifty years in the future. It is told in the past tense, first person, of course, and is very much like the reader and Pip are sitting in a parlour somewhere, and he’s telling them about his life. The story entirely follows him, and the reader is given nothing aside from what he knows.

The main character is Pip, who paints himself in a decent light, though he doesn’t always treat his family the best, and he realizes that later on. Everything, however, is very understandable, like when Pip is ridiculed for his “common” ways, then later, he feels embarrassed by Joe’s (his sister’s husband) common ways as well.

Pip was raised by his sister, who was quite abusive toward both him and her husband. Joe is quite a gentle soul and does very little in return to his wife’s “rampages,” as he calls them. The beatings are not considered as harmful as they would now, and it’s clear that Pip’s sister only wants him to grow up proper.

Other character include the others in the town while Pip was growing up, plus Miss Havisham (the elderly woman) and Estella, and the friends and work colleague’s Pip makes in later life.

The relationship I liked most throughout the story was the friendship between Pip and Joe, and the matronage of Miss Havisham to Pip. Firstly, though Pip and Joe are about twenty years apart, they had a great friendship while Pip was young. However, as Pip grows older and more esteemed, he begins to distance himself from Joe, and though Joe senses it after a while, he never strays from caring for and nurturing Pip. He’s a steady rock, and he’s there when Pip needs him. I’m so glad how they turned out in the end as well; Joe is a sweetheart who deserves all the happiness in the world.

I’m undecided about Dickens, but I’m still looking forward to reading some of his other work. He really went all in when writing the accents of the characters, and though some of the scenes and strings of events were still a bit over my head, I understood most of it. He’s not my favourite classic author, but definitely in the mid-high range.

I’d recommend this book to readers who love coming of age stories. It starts when Pip is seven and ends in his later life, and he learns valuable lessons along the way. I doubt it would be good for a reader who has a shorter attention span, as I found myself lapsing a few times when the scenes were hard to picture.

Related Review(s):
The Scarlet Letter

2 responses to “Review: Great Expectations”

  1. I read this in school, but only remember Miss Havisham and Estella, which Miss H said meant ‘star’. I found it tedious but because we ploughed through it chapter by chapter, no wonder. I will give it another go.

    1. It’s definitely not one to plough through, though I did enjoy it as an on-the-plane book. It passed the hours.

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