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Great Expectations (Hardcover Classics)
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270 of 286 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
Another reviewer claims that you have to be at least 21 years old to read this book. Although I don't think it should be "forced" on schoolchildren (they will only hate it) I read this novel when I was a child and I loved it. I have just re-read it now and I enjoy it all the more. This is my favorite novel by Dickens. It is from his later period and is criticized for being too dark - which, however, makes it more perfect for today's sensibilities. Stephen King cites this work as one of his favorites: he believes that it is this book that brought the gothic novel mainstream.
Was there ever a novelist who created more memorable characters than Dickens? Here, we meet perhaps his most intriguing - Miss Havisham. For anyone unfamiliar with the story, I will not spoil it by describing her. The story is similar to parable about the prodigal son - good Pip inexplicably comes into some money and goes off to the corrupting city.
AN IMPORTANT THING TO NOTE: Dickens wrote two ending for this book. His friends thought that the original ending was too downbeat and they asked him to come up with a different one. It is the upbeat ending that is the official ending of the novel. However, most critics agree that the original unpublished ending is better. Most modern editions feature the unpublished ending in an appendix. MAKE SURE YOU BUY A COPY THAT CONTAINS THE ORIGINAL ENDING!
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110 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
Why do I come here to "review" this? It isn't anyone's book club selection, no. But tonight I want to talk about this incomparably rich and wonderful book, and how as a fourteen year old kid I simply sank into it, taking it slowly week by week, glorying in its mysteries, its great grotesque portrait of Miss Havisham in her rotting bridal finery, its often painful recounting of a young boy's awakening to a seductive world beyond the blacksmith's forge to which destiny has condemned him. This book was about me. It was about wanting to learn, wanting to transcend, wanting to achieve while anything and everything seems hopelessly beyond one's dreams. Of course life changes for Pip. And the world Pip enters was a world that dazzled me and only made my adolescent ambitions burn all the more hurtfully. I think this book is about all who've ever tried for more, ever reached for the gold ring -- and it's about some, of course, who've gotten it. It's also a wondrous piece of storytelling, a wondrous example of how in the first person ("I am, etc." ) a character can tell you more about himself than he himself knows. What a feat. And a very strange thing about this book, too, was the fact that Dickens said more about Pip and Pip's dreams than Dickens knew he was doing. Dickens himself didn't quite realize, I don't think, the full humanity of the character he created. Yet the character is there -- alive, captivating, engaging us throughout with full sympathy. Go for it. If you never read anything else by Charles Dickens, read and experience this book. Afterwards, David Copperfield will be a ride in the sunshine, I assure you. And both books will stand by you forever. For whom am I writing this? For myself perhaps just because Pip meant and still means so much. For some one perhaps who's unsure about this book and needs a push to dive into a classic. Oh, is this book ever worth the effort. -. Enough. Read it, know it.
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115 of 130 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
Great Expectations is one of Dickens's later novels, a work of his artistic maturity. The narrative is symbolic rather than realistic. Although, as in most of Dickens and in Victorian literature in general, the plot relies heavily on coincidence, it is acceptable here because the events are true to the internal, psychological, logic of the story.

After writing A Tale of Two Cities, which was unique among his novels in that it had none of his trademark humor, Dickens set out to make Great Expectations rich in comic elements. This despite, or perhaps because of, being in a depressed state of mind himself at the time. The conventional critical view is that he largely failed in this attempt, but I strongly disagree. The book is hilariously funny in parts and the main character, Pip, exhibits a characteristically British humour-in-adversity throughout his adventures. There is also the host of minor comic characters that we expect from Dickens. And he for once manages pathos without spilling over into bathos, so there are tears as well as laughter here, sometimes both at once.

If you have not yet read any Dickens, this is not a bad book with which to start, although for younger readers (teens) I would recommend Hard Times or A Tale of Two Cities as their first. Great Expectations demands a mature sensibility to appreciate its symbolism and psychological depth. Perhaps because it chiefly concerns the childhood and youth of the protagonist, it is often given to young people to read and is a set text in some High School classes. This is a pity because, in its dark complexity, it is more likely to turn youngsters off, rather than onto, Dickens.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
I love this book! This is one of my all-time favorite books ever. I had to read it eons ago when I was in ninth grade, and now (14 years later) I am still enjoying it. Every few years I take this one down from my bookshelf to revisit. This is the story of Pip, a small orphaned boy living in poverty in the English countryside with his much older sister and her husband. Pip meets a convict in a graveyard one damp morning and helps him out in the form of some vittles and an iron file. Later in the story, Pip moves from poverty to being a "gentleman" due to the influence of a mysterious, anonymous benefactor. This book tells of his adventures and how Pip's expectations guide him through life. Towards the end of the story, Pip finds out that reality is sometimes very different from what we expect it to be. The characters are what really make this book stand out. Charles Dickens is a master of character development, and his descriptions of Miss Havisham, Wemmick, Joe, and the others is brilliant! The dialogue is great, with the words written the way a commoner would have spoken in England in the 1800's. Another thing I really liked was how all of the characters are inter-related to each other in ways that you may not discover until you get to the end of the novel.This novel will make you laugh and it might make you sad, but it is always entertaining. If you are in high school and reading this book for the first time for English class, keep at it! It may seem difficult at first if you are not used to Dickens, but this book is well worth it! It is truly a gem.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Great Expectations, 1860-'61, Dickens's second to last completed novel is the first tome I have ever read and is one of the best books I've ever read.

The story centers upon Pip who is orphaned and lives with his mean sister and her kind husband Joe. The book's classic opening is when Pip meets an escaped convict and he forces Pip to give him food and then later is caught. Little did Pip know that this occasion will live on and he will be reminded of it in a very unexpected fashion later in the book

Young Pip is then sent to Satis House to meet the very mysterious and eccentric Miss Havisham who, jilted at the altar spends the rest of her cursed recluse life in her rotting, yellow wedding dress in Satis House. Pip also meets Estella, a beautiful, yet very cold and proud girl brought up by Miss Havisham to hate men as revenge for her fiance's betrayal.

Great Expectations is the story of Pip's life and of all the surprises (there's a lot of 'em folks) hopes: some lived some smashed, and of course, Dickensesque eccentrics who populate the book.

Great Expectations is the first tome I have ever finished and I must say that it was worth it. Since I didn't have the book for a while, it took me about three months to read it but have no fear, for this is a pretty quick read with many twists and turns along the way.

This book is often considered Dickens's masterpiece. Well, I don't really know about that but it has to be close to that. It certainly was a great read and I think you will agree.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
The description of Miss Havisham & her home alone is worth two to three stars. This is unlike any other book in the English language, with the possible exception of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights?" Dickens tells us many things in the begining of the novel that appear out of place or irrelevant, but later those pieces fall into place so that the big picture is revealed.

This story runs the gamut of emotions for the reader. Shock, empathy, joy, disappointment, & disdain are all there for the various characters at different times. Multiple plots, detailed descriptions, & ever mutable characters made this a long & entertaining read. This is the story of Phillip Pirrup or Pip. He is a true hardluck case that you root for. His family except for a brother & sister have all passed away. He lives with his sister{a husband beater} & brother in law Joe Gargery in a tiny English village. Oddly for this era, this is one of the few books where fear from a man's perspective is explored. That in itself was refreshing. Along the roller coaster life that Pip finds himself on he meets enigmatic people & gets an anonymous benefactor who helps him reach London to start a better life? Once there life & the nature of Pip himself is radically altered. This is when the title of my review becomes clear. Dickens asks & answers very poignant psychological questions long before Freud was ever heard of.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon April 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have absolutely no doubts whatsoever that Charles Dickens, if he lived today, would still classify as an author's author. He's a master of all the things that make for great writing and storytelling. Dickens has an ear for dialogue most authors would kill their own mothers to possess. He also is a master of creating vivid scenery, another sign of excellence essential to great writing and one which many authors lack. Finally, but not least in importance, Dickens knows character development. He REALLY knows how to develop intriguing characters, to the point where many of his books spawned figures that have become literary archetypes. Not bad for a guy who grew up in extremely adverse circumstances. He even spent some time in a factory sticking labels on bottles after his father's imprisonment for debt. Most people wouldn't recover from such poverty, but Dickens did. He went on to a successful career in journalism before settling down as an author of serial novels. This format, which allowed Dickens to write and release his stories piecemeal, made him a great success with the public. The anticipation for the latest chapter or two of his stories often led to near riots. Not many writers can elicit such a response today.

Many consider "Great Expectations" a seminal work by a master. Millions have read it, most unwillingly, but most consider it one of Dickens's most accessible stories. It's a tale about a youngster named Phillip Pirrip, known throughout the story as Pip, and his rise from relative obscurity to the heights of wealth and privilege. As the story opens, we see Pip lamenting the passing of his parents in the local cemetery. Their deaths resulted in Pip living with an older sister and her blacksmith husband Joe. Life is tough in Pip's village. His sister wields a heavy hand against her younger brother, relatives like Uncle Pumblechook berate him, and they live in a place where convicts often escape from barges floating on the river nearby. In fact, Pip has a frightening encounter with one of these prisoners at the beginning of the book. His actions, undertaken at the command of this felon, result in a series of incidents that lead Pip to the home of the local recluse, a dour old woman by the name of Havisham. This woman, as rich as a lord but as unhappy as one could ever be, takes a liking to Pip and keeps him around for entertainment.

It is during his tenure as Havisham's court jester that Pip comes into contact with several important figures that feature prominently in the story's later episodes. He meets the cold yet beautiful Estella, Havisham's adopted daughter, and falls in love with her. He also makes an initial contact with the old lady's lawyer, the highly successful Mr. Jaggers, and an odd young man named Herbert. All play an integral part in what is to follow, namely the announcement (through Jaggers) that Pip has suddenly come into fortune, or great expectations, that require him to move to London in order to train as a gentlemen. In London Pip spends time with Jaggers, his assistant Wemmick, Herbert, and even Estella. He spends his money, helps his best friend in covert ways, and wonders who in the world set him up with this money and property. Jaggers makes it clear that he isn't supposed to dig too deep concerning the origins of the fortune. Instead, he is to wait until the day when the individual responsible steps forward. When that happens Pip's world as he knows it nearly collapses. He must move heaven and earth to avert disaster while at the same time coming to terms with who he is and what his future holds.

"Great Expectations" is, in a word, great. It contains all of the hallmarks one associates with Dickens. The characters, everyone from Wemmick to Jaggers to Havisham to Joe, sparkle brightly as fully formed individuals living and laboring under very real problems. Atmosphere is divine: Pip's village and London come to life under the writer's pen. Even the author's penchant for examining social ills moves to the fore in a chapter that looks at the horrific conditions in London's main prison. Another real plus is the humor. If you haven't read Dickens, you don't know what your missing in the humor department. This author has an amazing sense of what is funny, and it is nowhere more apparent than in the scene in which Pip and Herbert take in a play starring one of our hero's relatives. This short chapter along with the ones describing Wemmick's abode are absolute masterpieces of hilarity, and they're actually bright spots in what is otherwise an occasionally dark piece of writing. And last, but not least, there is the downbeat conclusion. There are actually two conclusions to "Great Expectations". Make sure you pick up a copy that has both of them.

About the only thing "Great Expectations" lacks is length; it's one of Dickens's shortest novels, which is probably the reason millions of teachers assign this book to their students. That's unfortunate because most kids want nothing to do with this book once it's forced upon them when in fact they could actually benefit from reading it. Why? Because "Great Expectations" teaches us a lot about love and identity, two things that matter quite a bit (or should matter) to young people. The teachers ought to assign something like "Hard Times" and let those who want more seek out "Great Expectations". The prevailing opinion on this book is that it is semi-autobiographical. It doesn't really matter whether the story is about the author's life or not. What is important, I think, is that this story attains a perfection that few books ever reach. That's why it's a classic, I guess. If you haven't read Dickens before, you should start right here.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
I chose to write a review of Great Expectations because I wanted to be able to rate a novel "five-stars" without an ounce of hesitation.
Context: I'm not by any means some sort of an intellect. Like many people who have read Great Expectations, I was assigned this book in high school. I remember looking to the end of the book, first, to see how many pages there were. I cringed. Then I began to read that first chapter about a boy named Pip who meets the convict looking for vittles.
I won't give anything away about the plot. I only want to say that this was the first book that I ever read that I had me truly absorbed. I remember a kid in my class who read ahead a few chapters and had us all in wonder as to what twists transpired. He just smiled and said, "you won't believe how this thing turns out."
After reading other Dickens books I realized that his greatest strengths was populating his books with amazing, odd, likeable, and despicable characters who found there way in and out of his stories.
If you haven't read this book, do so.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is not the full version, despite the length. There's no indication of this until you get inside the book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2000
Format: Audio Cassette
I got the "cover-to-cover" book on tape for a long road trip, never having heard the story before. I loved every minute of it. The things that Dickens does with the English language is endlessly entertaining, the story he tells fascinating and fast-paced. The highly talented Martin Jarvis reads wonderfully, giving great characterization to the many people appearing in the story, allowing me to see them all as completely distinct.

It's a shame that people feel such resentment when forced to read something. Most of the bad reviews this book gets are from young people who were forced to read it for a class. When taken at one's own leisure, and in one's own time, it is quite entertaining. I'm not sure that the teachers who assign the book are pointing out all the things that make the book great, such as Dickens's flair with the language, the point he's making about a society that places birth above worth, and his ability to make abstract arguments that enhance the story. I'd be interested in hearing from literature teachers to find out how they use the book in their classes.

One of the best books ever written, this reading is one of the best investments of my time I've ever made.
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