Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I would like to thank my lovely bookstagram friend Mrs D for encouraging me to have a ‘Great Expectations Buddy Read’. This is a book that I remember having a go at about 10 years ago, but I didn’t get very far. I think Dickens has always seemed daunting, so I needed a bit of a push to give it a go.

‘Great Expectations’ is a story that I am sure so many of us think we know. It is certainly a tale I thought I knew from various film and television adaptations. However, there is so much more to the book that I think you would ever be able to transfer to the screen. It also struck me that this always seems to follow set ideas when it is adapted. Pip always seems to be played as an innocent, Miss Havisham as so old and odd, and Estella as simply cold-hearted. That is, of course, part of their characters but not the be all and end all. Dickens has such a creative way of crafting his characters that they are never so simple.

The story of Pip and his coming of age is a great adventure but also highlights some real flaws in human nature. Especially some of the expectations we and society place place on ourselves and, sometime, there expectations are also our undoing. However, there is also the ease with which some people are manipulated or moulded into a certain way of being and thinking about themselves or others.

Dickens’ writing style brings every single moment of this story to life. You really feel you are on the marshes and in London – and especially when you are in the walls of ‘Satis House’, that famous home of Miss Havisham. The settings are as much part of the story as the characters and the action.

Reading this has certainly given me the bug to read more Dickens. Although, I cannot deny that I am still a little intimidated by some of his larger books.

Do you have a favourite Dickens novel?

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

One of the wonderful things about the bookstagram work is that it can encourage you to read books you may not usually read or that have been on that to-be-read pile for quite some time. So, when one of my bookstagram buddies, Mrs D, suggested a buddy read for ‘Vanity Fair’ I jumped at the chance (especially as we can’t do our usual fun of sharing photos of our lovely manicured nails and pretty books).

Now, ‘Vanity Fair’ looks pretty daunting at nearly 900 pages, and I was really hoping that I would enjoy it. I had basic knowledge of the story from TV and film adaptations and had enjoyed those, so I was hopeful, but you can never be sure with these classics.

However, I had nothing to fear once I started. Although it takes a while to get used to the writing style (it is very much of its time), once you have embraced it, there is no stopping you. It is simply beautifully crafted with excellent chracterisation to represent the best and, at times, the worst of society. Becky Sharp must be one of the greatest characters ever created for readers to love to hate (or thoroughly dislike).

The book has all the best themes interwoven into the narrative: romance, scandal, humour, and at moments, sadness. However, this thing it does best is present a satire of society, and really comments on the weaknesses that are created by vanity, especially the vanity of men. And how easily those that suffer from such a ‘curse’ can be manipulated, especially by the fairer sex.

However, Thackeray does allow true goodness to eventually triumph in this wonderful piece of classic literature.

So, if there is that book on the shelf that you have been a bit unsure about tackling, take a chance and pick it up. You may be missing a great adventure!