Charles Dickens Great Expectations

ISBN 13: 9781455122905

Great Expectations

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9781455122905: Great Expectations

An Oprah's Book Club 2010 Selection

[Read by Simon Prebble]

One of the most revered works in English literature, Great Expectations traces the coming-of-age of a young orphan, Pip, from a boy of shallow aspirations into a man of maturity. From the chilling opening confrontation with an escaped convict to the grand but eerily disheveled estate of bitter old Miss Havisham, all is not what it seems in Dickens' dark tale of false illusions and thwarted desire.

Raised by a humble blacksmith, Pip is recruited by the wealthy Miss Havisham to be a companion to her ward, the cold but beautiful Estella. There, Pip learns to despise his rough origins as Estella torments him about his low prospects. When Pip is informed that an unknown benefactor expects to make him his heir, he sets off to London to realize his ''great expectations.'' But true gentleman stature, he will find, is a matter of character, not fortune.

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Review:

Dickens considered Great Expectations one of his "little pieces," and indeed, it is slim compared to such weighty novels as David Copperfield or Nicholas Nickleby. But what this cautionary tale of a young man raised high above his station by a mysterious benefactor lacks in length, it more than makes up for in its remarkable characters and compelling story. The novel begins with young orphaned Philip Pirrip--Pip--running afoul of an escaped convict in a cemetery. This terrifying personage bullies Pip into stealing food and a file for him, threatening that if he tells a soul "your heart and your liver shall be tore out, roasted and ate." The boy does as he's asked, but the convict is captured anyway, and transported to the penal colonies in Australia. Having started his novel in a cemetery, Dickens then ups the stakes and introduces his hero into the decaying household of Miss Havisham, a wealthy, half-mad woman who was jilted on her wedding day many years before and has never recovered. Pip is brought there to play with Miss Havisham's ward, Estella, a little girl who delights in tormenting Pip about his rough hands and future as a blacksmith's apprentice.

I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt for me was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.
It is an infection that Pip never quite recovers from; as he spends more time with Miss Havisham and the tantalizing Estella, he becomes more and more discontented with his guardian, the kindhearted blacksmith, Joe, and his childhood friend Biddy. When, after several years, Pip becomes the heir of an unknown benefactor, he leaps at the chance to leave his home and friends behind to go to London and become a gentleman. But having expectations, as Pip soon learns, is a two-edged sword, and nothing is as he thought it would be. Like that other "little piece," A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations is different from the usual Dickensian fare: the story is dark, almost surreal at times, and you'll find few of the author's patented comic characters and no comic set pieces. And yet this is arguably the most compelling of Dickens's novels for, unlike David Copperfield or Martin Chuzzlewit, the reader can never be sure that things will work out for Pip. Even Dickens apparently had his doubts--he wrote two endings for this novel. --Alix Wilber

Review:

An absorbing mystery as well as a morality tale, the story of Pip, a poor village lad, and his expectations of wealth is Dickens at his most deliciously readable. The cast of characters includes kindly Joe Gargery, the loyal convict Abel Magwitch and the haunting Miss Havisham. If you have heartstrings, count on them being tugged.

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Dickens, Charles/ Prebble, Simon (Narrator)
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