The Greatest of Expectations

Once upon a time…

…back in the mid 80’s when I was slightly more interested in boys and ra-ra skirts that great literature, I was made to read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for English lessons. I hated it! I came to dreaad those lessons where we would be expected to disect this book to within an inch of its life and gained no enjoyment from it whatsoever – in fact the only thing I did gain was  an aversion to anything Dickens-related for the next twenty years!

About four years ago, I was browsing in Borders (ahhhh, remember those days?) when I came across a copy of Great Expectations: it was staring at me from the shelf. I half-smiled as I picked it up for old times sake and flipped to the front page. Within 5 minutes I found myself sunk into one of the comfy chairs and completely and utterly engrossed in this wonderful (and so FUNNY!) tale. How did I miss the fact that Dickens was a comedy genius? Perhaps it was because we (the class) were trying to work out if the colour of Pip’s underware was a reflection on Dickens’ mood (or some such nonsense). Seriously, who’da thunk? That copy of Great Expectations found its way home with me that day and in the days ahead it had me howling with laughter at all the stuff I had missed all those years before.

That year I went on to read A Christmas Carol (while snuggled up on the sofa on Christmas Eve) which rapidly became one of all-time favourite books. I remember being so in awe of Dickens and his ability to suck me into the book so entirely that it was often a surprise to surface for a moment and realise that I wasn’t flying through the air hand-in-hand with a ghost and was, in fact, still in my front room.

So why haven’t I read any more Dickens since? THAT is a very good question! I actually don’t know. The only reason I can come up with is that most of his books are soooo long that I know I will have to sacrifice at least 4 other books in the time it would take me to read one of his.

A month or so ago, I received a gorgeous hardback copy of Clare Tomalin’s new Dickens biography – Charles Dickens: A Life – from the lovely Riot Communications girls (they know my love of Victorian lit) and I have been dipping in and out of it ever since. I haven’t read the whole thing yet so I can’t do a proper review but it was awakened my passion for wanting to read more Dickens – and soon!

Also, I am so looking forward to the new Great Expectations drama from BBC that is coming out in the UK on 27th December. It looks like it’s going to be fantastic – and the brilliant Gillian Anderson as Miss Haversham is sure to steal the show once again. This is definitely one show I will be settling down to with a glass of mulled wine and plate of mince pies.

It must be because it’s Dickens’ 200th birthday in February but it does look like 2012 is going to be the year of all thing Dickens. It appears that the BBC will also be doing The Mystery of Edwin Drood (the book he never quite finished before dying). I haven’t read this book and actually don’t know very much about it so I am excited to see this one too. I wonder what else is in the pipeline? I would love to see some of his longer books made into a series (maybe Our Mutual Friend or Dombey and Son – the ones that don’t seem to get as much attention as the others).

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

   Dickens in 2012

I am going to make an extra special effort to read more Dickens in 2012. I keep meaning to pick up Oliver Twist or David Copperfield but are there any others that you recommend or insist that I absolutely MUST read?




29 thoughts on “The Greatest of Expectations

  1. Louise says:

    I think Bleak House and Little Dorrit are other Dickens must reads. I haven’t read Great Expectations or the other books you mentioned in your post, but I do plan on having a Dickens fest in the new year. The Old Curiosity Shop is just little wonderful 🙂


  2. Katherine says:

    OK – I confess. I have never read any DIckens! Shameful, especially since I have read lots of the other classics. You have inspired me! I know my mum has loads of Dickens, so while I’m home for Christmas, I’m going to read one.


  3. Delia (Postcards from Asia) says:

    Great Expectations is one of my favorite books! I’m glad you liked it and it’s true that having to read and dissect books for literature classes can take the joy out of a book.
    I have Our Mutual Friend on my TBR list and I look forward to reading it next year.
    Another book I really enjoyed was Drood by Dan Simmons, a story about Dickens and Wilkie Collins (author of The Woman in White), it was an amazing read. I had no idea these two writers were friends in real life.


  4. Karen K. says:

    I’ve read about half of Dickens’ works so far, and my favorites are Oliver Twist and Bleak House. They’re very different since they’re from different periods of his career, but both are WONDERFUL. Little Dorritt is good too. I’m also hoping to read more Dickens this year. I’m reading Martin Chuzzlewit with an online group and hope to finish Our Mutual Friend as well.

    But please do yourself a favor, don’t be fooled into thinking Hard Times is a good choice because it’s short. It’s short because Dickens left out all the good stuff. I hated it.


  5. Heather Godbout says:

    I’ve often said that we make students read/analyze “classics” that they aren’t really ready to appreciate due to their age, just because they are “classics”. I have a teen in my youth group at church that was asked to read Macbeth in 8th grade, which would have been at the age of 13 or so. Who can appreciate Macbeth at 13? At any rate, I’m excited about the new BBC series, which of course will take forever to get to BBS America, but at least I know to look out for it.


  6. Virginie M says:

    “Great Expectations” stands among my favorite books of all times ! I am glad you ended up being drawn into it and loving it, Boof!
    I too am planning to read more Dickens for 2012, as well as his biography.


  7. Suzanne says:

    My classics book group will be discussing Bleak House in January; I’m about halfway through and I’m not thrilled with it so in my opinion it’s not an immediate must read.
    I did enjoy Oliver Twist, especially because it was not what I expected at all.


  8. Leeswammes says:

    I don’t think I read Great Expectations, but I could be wrong. If you need to choose between Copperfield and Twist, go for the former, it’s great. I must pick up Charles again sometime. It’s been awhile.


  9. Katrien & Ellen says:

    I haven’t read anything of Dickens yet, but I love the bbc series of his books. I started David Copprefield, but I had to bring it back to the library. Maybe I’ll pick up my copy of Olive Twist soon…


  10. FleurFisher says:

    Me too! I hated Dickens in my teens but in recent years i have come to love him. I’ve been watching the BBC trailers wanting to read every single book right now, but the more sensible side of my brain is saying A Christmas Carol this weekend, one of the little Christmas book reissued by Hesperus next week, and next year I must finish The Old Curiosity Shop. ten maybe something else …


  11. winstonsdad says:

    I ve read alot his books as we had them at home I m loving the essays on radio three this week writers on dickens ,I will watch most of the dickens things over xmas hopefully Boof ,my favourite is david copperfield ,all the best stu


  12. carolinareads says:

    I must be really nerdy because I loved dissecting books in classes 🙂
    Dickens is great isn’t it ? I love how most of his characters are slightly cartoonish 🙂 You really should read more Dickens in 2012.


  13. Helen says:

    I’m hoping to read more Dickens next year too. So far I’ve only read four of his books – I struggled with Bleak House but loved A Christmas Carol, Our Mutual Friend and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (which is a great story despite being unfinished). I’m looking forward to watching Great Expectations next week and hopefully reading the book in 2012!


  14. Tea Time with Marce says:

    Wow definitely looks like a Dickens year for 2012. I downloaded A Christmas Carol on the weekend, look forward to reading it this weekend. It will be my first by him. I have decided not to read over 500/600 page books so not sure about his others.


  15. deslily says:

    I have read some of Dickens Christmas things and I read The Old Curiosity Shop, a rather large Biography of him, and of course have seen many movies of his books… A book I read a few years ago excited me about boy Dickens and Wilke Collins called Drood. It’s a “fiction ” story and the “narrator” is Wilke Collins and the book surrounds Dickens writing of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It’s written by Dan Simmons and it’s a rather large book, but so well written that even I (slow reader) could not put the book down.. it mentions books by both authors and the historical parts are spot on… you might want to check out Drood and see if it might interest you.


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