Great Expectations by Charles Dickens Review 5/5

Overall Impression: One boy’s journey of self discovery packed to the brim with some of the most memorable characters I have ever come across.

I was scared to open this book, and I mean scared. That never happens to me, but a had this huge trepidation about Dickens. I remember loathinGreat Expectationsg Oliver Twist when I was younger, I encountered the film many times and the book itself during year nine English and have steered away from all Dickens since. God help anyone who starts singing about ‘gruel’. Seriously, there is a special place in hell dedicated to people who sing those songs. 😛
However, in the name of literature (and because the book is on The Rory Gilmore Challenge) I decided to attempt Great Expectations, all the while thinking I should rename it ‘Low Expectations’. Even having seen TV adaptions and enjoying them, I couldn’t put away that pain from year nine English.
Ohh how I have been missing out! I took the book on holiday with me because I thought it would help me fall asleep earlier, but instead it kept me up later!

Pip’s life as an ordinary country boy is destined to be unexceptional until a chain of mysterious events leads him away from his humble origins and up the social ladder. His efforts to become a London gentleman bring him into contact not just with the upper classes but also with dangerous criminals. Pip’s desire to improve himself is matched only by his longing for the icy-hearted Estella, but secrets from the past impede his progress and he has many hard lessons to learn.

Philip Pirrip know simply as Pip by most, is an unassuming young orphan in the care of his older sister and her husband, Joe. They live poorly, scraping by on dinners of bread and butter in a village near the misty marshes where criminals have been known to wander. One evening as Pip mutely accepts his sisters regular berating he is informed by a family friend that the wealthy town recluse Miss Havisham is searching for a playmate for her adopted daughter. Pips family volunteer him and he begins his visits. The overgrown gardens and vast elaborate halls make a lasting impression on Pip, but none more than the beautiful and cruel Estella, who makes it her purpose to belittle and taunt him with the enthusiastic goading of Miss Havisham. After each visit Pip feels more ashamed of his upbringing, his family, but most of all himself and dreams of having great expectations to help him win Estella’s heart.
So when a lawyer from London informs Pip that a mysterious benefactor wishes to make him a gentlemen, he can barely believe his luck. Saying goodbye to everything he has ever know he moves to London; his story is barely beginning.

AAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!! Ajjfnhijiofffffff!!!!!!!!! 😀
Sorry, I just had to get that out. This book, this book, this book! Go and buy this book!!!
It makes me sad that it has taken me this long to discover how awesome Dickens is. Whether my brain has matured enough to love it or if Great Expectations is just better than Oliver Twist I’m not too sure, but I’m glad I picked it up!

SDC14590Great Expectations has the most vivid first scene I have read in a long time, Pip meets a convict out on the misty marshes and there was something so…mysterious, terrifying and exciting about it. The imagery was brilliant and really set the tone for the rest of the novel. Dickens writing is just beautiful, it’s the only way I can think to describe it. It gave me tingles because he is so on the mark with everything in this book, the happy scenes made me grin uncontrollably and the sad sections had me reaching for the tissues. He sucked me into the setting, the story and its wonderful characters, so much so that I physically felt part of the book. When the characters were angry I was angry, when they were hurt I felt hurt. This book took me on a massive journey, and I feel like I’ve walked a thousand miles just by reading it.
I was worried I would find this book a hard read, I’d heard the horror stories about Dickens but it was not as difficult as I was expecting. There were a few places where I struggled with the language because of the altered speech with misspelt words (If you could call it that, I’m sure there must be a technical term!) or where I would get a little disorientated but this was rare. When I was younger I remember feeling his sentences were so drawn out, agonizingly so, but I didn’t have any issues with this in Great Expectations. Sure he used more words than were necessary at times and his sentences were somewhat like trying to walk down a windy road, but I don’t think I read one passage that I didn’t enjoy. This should give you an idea:

It was not because I was faithful, but because Joe was faithful, that I never ran away and went for a soldier or sailor. It was not because I had a strong sense of virtue of industry, but because Joe had a strong sense of the virtue of industry, that I worked with tolerable zeal against the grain. It is not possible to know how far the influence of any amiable honest-hearted duty-doing man flies out into the world; but it is very possible to know how it has touched one’s self in going by, and I know right well that any good that intermixed itself with my apprenticeship came of plain contended Joe, and not of restless aspiring discontented me. – Pg101

Dickens insight into people’s motivations and behaviours is staggering and his phrasing feels unique, especially for his character descriptions. It’s like he has made it his mantra to find the most strange and unusual ways to describe everything. I remember him using the phrase ‘undecidedly blue eyes’ which somehow struck me as genius at the time.
Another thing I never realised about Dickens was how funny he was! It’s a more subtle humour which just makes it even better because you don’t expect it, and then you’re laughing and snorting and people start staring at you weirdly because they’re not in on the joke!

It is difficult to sum up what Great Expectations is about, it has so many layers and I’m positive that you would get something different out of it with each reading. It covers class struggles, the definition of love, obsession, poverty, ambition, revenge etc. and each time I felt I was about to pinpoint Dickens key message something else monumental would happen to change my mind completely. The plot had me hooked from start to finish – and I didn’t want to finish! There were so many twists and turns, unexpected revelations and some huge shockers. I wish I could have read this book from the perspective of someone who hadn’t seen various TV adaptations because it would have made the unveilings that much more dramatic. Even so, there were still some gasp moments that had been omitted from the screen that surprised me! I did feel the plot slowed in the middle to go off on some tangents that weren’t necessarily key to the story, but I still enjoyed them.SDC14606

My favourite parts of the book were always when the two worlds of rich and poor collided and these scenes normally included Pip and Joe the loyal but simple blacksmith. These were at the heart of the novel for me and what truly made the book worth reading. As Pip progresses in class he naturally feels more ashamed of where he has come from. The way he treated those who had been nothing but kind to him his entire life was heartbreaking, nearly moving me to tears at points. I can’t resist putting this heart wrenching speech in by Joe after Pip had acted so meanly towards him, (Pip, Joe, you breakkk my hearrrtttttt! :() it had such a profound impact on me, but it’s long so feel free to skip it!

‘Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man’s a blacksmith, and one’s a whitesmith, and one’s a goldsmith, and one’s a coppersmith. Diwisions among such must come, and must be met as they come. If there’s been any fault at all to-day, it’s mine. You and me is not two figures to be together in London; nor yet anywheres else but what is private, and beknown, and understood among friends. It ain’t that I am proud, but that I want to be right, as you shall never see me no more in these clothes. I’m wrong in these clothes. I’m wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th’ meshes. You won’t find half so much fault in me if you think me in forge dress, with my hammer in my hand, or even my pipe. You won’t find half so much fault in me if, supposing as you should ever wish to see me, you come and put your head in at the forge window and see Joe the blacksmith, there, at the old anvil, in the old burnt apron, sticking to the old work. I’m aweful dull, but I hope I’ve beat out something nigh the rights of this at last. And so God bless you, dear old Pip, old chap, God bless you!’ – Pg212

As for the characters, were do I even begin? I admired Biddy’s honesty and how she saw straight through everyone, I loved Mr Jaggers logical temperament and the way he always folded and unfolded his handkerchief in a precise way, I laughed along with Wemmick’s double personality and his hard of hearing Aged P, I appreciated Herbert and his unwavering friendship. I was entertained by Mrs. Gargery’s shrill tones, intrigued with Magwitch’s harshness and enjoyed Mr. Pumblechook’s irritating insistence that Pip should be grateful to those who brought him up by hand.
Special mention have to go out to Miss Havisham, Estella, Joe and Pip though who have all found a new special place in my heart. Miss Havisham is possibly one of the most striking characters ever created with her battered wedding dress and decaying house where the clocks are stopped at twenty minutes to nine. Estella is equally fascinating with her lack of empathy and the way she has been shaped over the years to break men’s hearts. Joe’s acceptance and appreciation of everything in life was lovely to read about and Pip’s character development from child to adult was a readers dream! We get to watch him progress massively. Can you say epic character arc? 😀

I would recommend this book to males or females, 16+ mostly because the older you are the more likely you are to appreciate the language. Those who enjoy eloquent writing, vibrant characters, descriptions of Victorian England, plot twists and moral messages will have a tonne of fun with this book, but most importantly, don’t be put off because of Dickens reputation as being a hard read! I feel a lot better about attempting more of his novels now, although now I’m worried that they couldn’t possibly live up to this one! Anyway, enough of my waffling, just go and read it! 😀

Writing Style: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Entertainment: 5/5
Character Development: 5/5
Would I recommend this book? Hell yeah! When have I ever given a book all 5’s?!

Overall: 5/5

Two more fave quotes:

I resolved to tell my gaurdian that I doubted Orlick being the right sort of man to fill a post of trust at Miss Havisham’s. ‘Why of course he is not the right sort of man, Pip,’ said my guardian, comfortably satisfied beforehand on the general head, ‘because the man who fills the post of trust never is the right sort of man.’ – Pg231

~ * ~ 

‘I’ll tell you,’ said she, in the same hurried passionate whisper, ‘what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter – as I did!’ – Pg227

Image Sources:
Stranger in the Churchyard: My own photograph.
Mrs. Joe, Joe and Pip: My own photograph
Book Cover:

46 thoughts on “Great Expectations by Charles Dickens Review 5/5

    • I really was surprised by how much I loved it! It’s completely flipped my opinion of Dickens. 🙂 No, he’s written so many that I doubt they can all be such a high standard, some of them are real tombs as well. She has now become one of my favorites too.

      Thanks for commenting Cynthia!

  1. Safe to say that you loved it then?! Phew I’m glad!

    I haven’t read it since I was in college so I’m in definite need of a recap. It immediately jumped into my favourites list when I first read it. Remarkable story, remarkable characters, remarkable book.

    • Haha I did, I definitely did! 🙂

      It’s amazing how quickly the details can fade, I find writing reviews does really help the memory because I don’t remember books as well that I haven’t written about! It’s jumped straight into my favourites pile too, I can see myself rereading it in the future. 🙂

  2. I have had this on my to-read list since I read the Jasper Fforde Eye Affair books, Miss Havisham is in them and I was always curious to check out her “origin” story. I have only read A Christmas Carol and always enjoyed that one, I have been put off with long books lately, this whole blogging gig or something.
    Excellent review, makes me want to pick it up RIGHT NOW! 🙂

    • Miss Havisham makes an appearance in other books? Awesome! I would love to see how the authors attempted that. She really is an amazing character, definitely worth reading the book for. 🙂 So twisted and complex.
      Oooh, glad to hear you liked it because I’m hoping to attempt it this Christmas! Luckily it’s also much shorter. 😉

      Long books are more of a commitment but often worth it. 🙂 YAY, that means I’ve done my job right!!

  3. I haven’t read it, but I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Like you I’m kind of scared of the book, I don’t know why. I know what the story is about, but for some reason I keep putting off its reading.

    • Ahh yes, the terror that is Dickens! He really is quite an intimidating guy, especially as most of his books are so long. Maybe if you haven’t tried one of his books yet you could start with a shorter one like Hard Times, A Christmas Carroll or A Tale of Two Cities. But I think with Great Expectations as soon as you read the first few pages you will be away in no time. 🙂

    • Ahh I totally understand that! I’m pretty sure that’s why I hated Oliver Twist so much because it was forced upon me, and AMEN to the Shakespeare!!! I do not get the hype (which I know is blasphemy as a bookworm but I don’t care.) my school did Richard 3rd and Romeo and Juliet, the worst and most painful thing I’ve ever read! Which ones did you have to endure?

      • Romeo and Juliet, along with Macbeth. The Olde English meant all I could make out was “blah blah blah blah.”

        When it came to watching some ropey film adaptions where the actors spoke in Olde English, all I could make out was “blah blah blah blah.”

        In fact all I can really remember is seeing Juliet topless for about a second (which brought forth a loud cheer from all the boys in the class), and some really dodgy special effects where a floating knife appears in front of Macbeth’s wife as she asks God to unsex her.

      • Hahaaa I know what you mean. For me it wasn’t so much not being able to make it out but just that I disliked it so much I didn’t care what it was about. :L It takes a lot of effort and it reads similarly to poetry – and as you know, I HATE poetry. LOL. I think it was always just going to be downhill from there… Eugh, yepp I had to suffer a few adaptions too, one cartoony thing and another with Leonardo DiCaprio which was slightly more bearable as a modern retelling with gangsters.

        Haha, I can imagine! I think I’m sensing a pattern about what you remember here…imagine that. Luckily I never had to endure Macbeth!

  4. If you loved this one, “David Copperfield” will blow your mind. My notes at the back of my copy of GE say that an author told Dickens about the character of Miss Havisham, who was based on a real woman and “not in the slightest bit exaggerated.” Creepy.

    I also picked up “outrunning the constable” from this one, a phrase I use now and then – living beyond your means. 🙂

    • Oooh really? I’m looking forward to that!! I heard somewhere that Copperfield was somewhat based on his own life? But I don’t know whether that’s true or not, and most authors do use their own life for inspiration anyway. It might take me a little longer to work up to that novel, because it’s even longer than Great Expectations, lol. 🙂

      No way! I would never have guessed, thanks for bestowing the knowledge. 😛 That’s really creepy, and a little sad as well. Loving the phrase.

      • David Copperfield was based a bit on Dickens’ early life. His father (and the rest of his family) were put in jail for debt and Charles had to work in a factory sticking labels to jars for pennies. He thought of himself as quite posh, and it scarred him for life. Also, he was a court reporter for a while, as David becomes. The character of Mr Micawber in David Copperfield is based partly on CD’s father.

        Potted history of Charles Dicken’s there. 🙂

      • Ahh I see, I did watch a vague documentary on him once but because I wasn’t really pro Dickens I didn’t pay much attention. I think that might have been where I heard it…I remember something about similarities between his marriage and the one in the book. I didn’t know any of the stuff you’ve just mentioned though! Sticking labels to jars for a job, wow, that must be soul destroying, lol. Still, I’d rather do that than be an accountant. 😛

        When I’ve read a few more of his books I might have to find a biography on him somewhere, it sounds like he had an interesting life!

  5. This review of yours is encouraging me to pick it up. I too didn’t like Oliver Twist all that much, so I’m banking my hopes on Great Expectations!

    Also, I will echo TonyT and say that you should consider David Copperfield. Pretty great book. 🙂

    • Oooh yay I’m glad to hear that! 😀 Bleugh yeah, down with the Oliver Twist! 😛 I think there is so much more depth to Great Expectations as well as intrigue and plot twists. The characters are better from what I remember too.

      Oooh, check for the David Copperfield, I’m looking forward to trying it!

    • Thank you. 🙂 Oooh you’re going to love it when you get round to it, especially if you enjoyed the TV series. I watched that series as well and thought it was really good!

  6. I read this ages ago. Can’t remember it in any great detail, but I do remember being unable to put it down. You have me thinking I should pick it up again. I have been meaning to read A Tale Of Two Cities again, and David Copperfield is lying unread on my shelf, so I might just make it a Dickens trilogy.

    • There are a lot of details and the plot is very windy so I’m not surprised you find it hard to recall! You should definitely pick it up again if you feel in the mood, it’s a powerful tale well worth revisiting. I can see myself rereading in the future. 🙂

      A Dickens trilogy, that sounds intense! Good luck. 🙂

      • My all-time favourite Dickens tale is A Christmas Carol, followed closely by Nicholas Nickleby. To my shame I have to admit I have only seen the movies of both, but only because I haven’t been able to track down the books yet (the classics are a bit expensive to buy new over here, so I have to rely on second-hand shops).

      • That’s interesting to know, because I have no clue what Nicholas Nickeby is about, but he keeps staring at me from my shelf. 😛 I love it when you can go into a book with no clue what it will contain.
        There are so many books in the world it’s impossible to read all of them, so don’t feel too bad! I had seen multiple portrays of Great Expectations before I had the guts or the time to pick up the book.
        Wow really? That’s so strange to me coming from the UK because classic books are often the cheapest ones you can buy. On kindle you can even get them for free (but I don’t like kindles, lol.) I hope you find yourself a nice copy soon. 🙂

    • Thank you, I think it may be my longest yet, I just couldn’t stop babbling! Ah, great minds think alike. 😉 I was intimidating, but once you start you’ll get into it in no time. 🙂

  7. I read Great Expectations earlier this year and loved it too. I just love the vast array of colourful characters that Dickens’s packs into his novels. As for his writing style it can be a little intimidating at first because of his convoluted sentences but I think you come to enjoy this style in time. I am now reading Bleak House.

    • Yay with the Great Expectations love! This book really took my by surprise.
      I agree, his characters were the best aspect of the novel for me, there wasn’t even one I could pick out as undeveloped because his novel was so detailed. 🙂 I hope you enjoy Bleak House! I think that’s his longest book, Here’s to hoping you like it just as much as Great Expectations. 🙂

  8. I tried reading this many years ago and I couldn’t make it past the first few pages.
    Well done, Becky. 🙂 But you say his writing is beautiful, so maybe I need to go back to this with adult eyes.

    • Thanks Emma. 🙂 Maybe you just weren’t in the right mood or the right place to try it at that stage of your life. I think to get into you do have to really commit at first so you get used to the writing. You might find that you really love it as an adult, who knows? 😉

  9. The only Charles Dickens book I’ve read is A Christmas Carol, but I’m wary to try anything else of his. I can’t say I’ve even flipped through any of his other works, which kind of a shame. I’ve been told Dickens’ style involves long-winded or verbose sentences and isn’t for everyone — something not found in A Christmas Carol and that has deterred me for some time. Maybe if I’m diligent enough, I’ll get past feeling intimidated and read another Dickens book!

    • Ooh I’m hoping to read that this Christmas, although again I am a little hesitant, mostly because I’ve seen so many adaptions of it that I didn’t like. The book is usually better though. 🙂
      It is long winded in comparison to some other authors, but I have to say I didn’t find it much harder than reading a Jane Austen or Bram Stoker. I also feel like every long sentence was a benefit to the story, which is something I can’t normally say about classic authors who drone on and on. 😛
      Definitely worth a go if you feel like something different!

  10. You’re so right with your advice that the older you are the more likely you will appreciate Dickens and the language. I picked up GE years ago and put it away after the third chapter. I just couldn’t do it (I didn’t tell anyone this because I was too embarrassed 😦 ). The same with Old Curiosity Shop. But I started reading OCS again and I’m so enjoying it. He really is a brilliant writer and would have made a brilliant psychologist too! 🙂

    I have been meaning to attempt GE again for quite some time now. I’ll take this review as a sign. *big grin*

    • I’m glad you think so Nisha. 🙂 I don’t think I would have got along with Dickens when I was younger, even if I had chosen to read him myself rather than being forced to.

      No way, really?! I would never have thought it, and yet you read Bleak House! I think you really have to be in the right mood to read Dickens though because he is wordy so maybe you just weren’t in the right frame of mood. 🙂 I know absolutely nothing about Old Curiosity Shop so it will be interesting when I get round to that, because I do own it. Haha you’re so right, he would make an awesome psychologist!

      Woop woop, doooooooooooooooooooooooo it, dooooo it. You’re gunna love it. 😉

      • Bleak House was a test of discipline and perseverance. I think I passed 🙂

        You’re so, so right. You have to be in the mood for it to enjoy his works. I was itching to read some Dickens, and it was either OCS or GE but I couldn’t find our copy of GE (although it is lurking somewhere). I’ll let you know what I think of OCS when I’m done 🙂

      • Haha I bet! You certainly did, you is a super douper long distance reader! 😀

        :O How dare Great Expectations hide from you, being all sneaky like that.

        Look forward to seeing what you think of OCS, hope you enjoy it!

  11. Wow you are a woman true to your word! I’m so delighted you enjoyed Great Expectations so much. Actually a lifetime has gone by since I read it myself so I think I’ll have to take it out again. Thanks for the inspiration, it’s amazing how many of Dicken’s novels have stood the test of time.

    • I am indeed. 🙂 Me too! I was hoping I would like it but had no idea that I would end up loving it as much as I did. Oooh yeah definitely dig it out and give it another go, it’s such a great novel. After I finished the book I even considered rereading it straight away, lol. It’s always the sign of a good author when they’re still current centuries later. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

  12. I just finished reading this yesterday and I must say its left like a massive hole in me 😦 I have never engaged with a classic book like this before! Great expectations is like a million times more accessible than Jane eyre, wuthering heights etc. This was just indescribably epic. Like a whole 10 book series in one delicious bite, will definitely be reading over and over.

    • Hi Mill, I agree, I got a bit of a book hangover when I finished this, I wasn’t ready for it to end! I still miss the characters and I think it is likely I will return to them again one day. 🙂 I actually really enjoyed Wuthering Heights, it was the first classic I read and remains my favourite, but Great Expectations is a close second! I haven’t read Jane Eyre yet. I know exactly what you mean about feeling it was a 10 book series, it felt like so much more than just one novel! Maybe it’s because of the way it was originally published. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Wuthering heights was the first classic book I read too omg! I think at the time I was too young to appreciate it though :/ next on my pile after 1984 (which im loving) is the picture of Dorian grey! Excited!

      • No way! What a freaky coincidence. 🙂 Quite possibly, maybe you’ll have to return to it again some day, I hope I can because I read it quite a long time ago now. Oooh, I’ve always wanted to read 1984 but I never seem to get round to it. I just finished Dorian and must admit that I didn’t really get on with it, but hopefully you will!

        Do you have your own blog Mill? Your name isn’t connected to any kind of link.

  13. Finished 1984 (very good and interesting read, recommend it!) and now half way through Dorian…so far there’s been a lot of talking and not much has happened haha, i hope it picks up! No Becky I don’t have a blog, I’m far too lazy at the moment to start one but i hope to in the future…spending too much time reading at the moment 🙂

    • Ohh I’m glad to hear it! Haha that’s exactly how I felt, not a lot happens in the book period. In fact, I think it should be renamed a lot of talking. 😛 Hopefully you’ll get something out of it anyway, I learnt a few things along the way.

      Ohh right no worries, I just thought I would have a look at it if you did. 🙂 Time reading is never wasted, enjoy!

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