I recently read Donna Tartt’s most recent novel, The Goldfinch, which I absolutely loved. Reviews had referred to The Goldfinch as “Dickensian,” and I enjoyed it so much that it led me to read my first Dickens novel. My father has urged me to read Dickens for years; one of his favorite authors, he just has never been able to believe that I didn’t have any interest in the author. Now that I’ve finally crossed that bridge and read my first Dickens novel, I have to admit that my dad was right, and Charles Dickens is right up my alley. I just finished Great Expectations, and thought I’d share a few of my thoughts:
- I had an idea that reading Dickens would be time-consuming, and I just don’t have a lot of time. That turned out to not be the case at all. Because Great Expectations was originally written as a serial, it was incredibly easy to read a chapter at a time here and there, and I wound up finishing it pretty quickly after all.
- Despite the fact that I wouldn’t exactly call this a humorous book, there were some really funny passages. One of my favorites describes the owner of a seed shop and his colleague: “I discovered a singular affinity between seeds and corduroys. Mr. Pumblechook wore corduroys, and so did his shopman; and somehow, there was a general air and flavor about the corduroys, so much in the nature of seeds, and a general air and flavor about the seeds, so much in the nature of corduroys, that I hardly knew which was which.”
- Humorous bits aside, wow- talk about melodrama! Between Miss Havisham’s hysterics and Pip’s constant anxiety over absolutely everything (except for his mounting debts, for some reason), Dickens barely needed to come up with drama in the plot: his characters provided enough on their own! And of course, there is plenty of drama in the plot. Each time things start to become a bit too neatly wrapped up, somebody is arrested, or falls ill, or is in a fire, or a fight, or getting married. There’s no shortage of Big Events in this novel.
- I once read that people who read a lot are inclined to have a big vocabulary, but don’t always know the proper pronunciation of words because some words are used so infrequently that they’ve only read them in books. This book was full of those kind of vocabulary gems, if you like that kind of thing: farinaceous, peppercorny, farthingale, slime-washed, and purblind were among the words that jumped out at me (just don’t ask me to pronounce them).
Have you ever read a book that turned out to be entirely different than you expected (in a good way)?