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Sunday, July 01, 2007

1001 Book Challenge - Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

A rags-to-riches tale with both a moral and a heart.

Pip Pirrip is standing in a cemetery, visiting the graves of his parents when an escaped convict lunges at him, desperate for food and clothes. This meeting, which opens the book, will resonate in ways neither character could imagine. The convict is caught again and Pip becomes a companion for a rich, though eccentric, old lady named Miss Havisham. His position in life changes when he comes into a small living and as his benefactor prefers to remain anonymous, he assumes it is Miss Havisham. Moving to London, flushed with his change in circumstances, Pip begins to change. No longer a sweet child, but arrogant and proud, soon his past comes back to teach him that people are not always what they seem.

Dickens is a famous social and cultural commentator and sometimes his novels tend to focus on this aspect instead on character depth and roundedness. Not so in Great Expectations. There is pain and pathos, but also comedy and a gently irony. Pip as hero is often far from likeable, but his noble heart ultimately triumphs.

What's even more interesting is that I've just finished reading the highly regarded new(ish) release Mr Pip. I daresay it would be illuminating to read them conjointly. Just suggesting....


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