Great Expectations is one of the Dickens books I never read because I was sure I had read it. I knew all about spooky Miss Havisham in her wedding dress with her moldy, spider-filled wedding cake, so I must have read it, right? No, I must have watched the dreary 1970s movie version somewhere along the line and missed out on the real thing.
Too bad it took so long to get around to this one because Great Expectations is a whale of a good read. It is chock-o-block full of Dickens’s extraordinary characters, it is clever and funny, and there are exciting adventures, like prison breaks, murders, and a kidnapping. Orphan Pip goes from helping escaped convicts on the moors to keeping Miss Havisham company before being taken up by an unknown benefactor and taught to be a London gentleman. All goes awry before adult Pip can win the heart of his beloved Estella, but he learns important lessons and all comes right in the end.
As it turns out, all came more right in the end of the version I read than originally planned by Dickens. He changed the original melancholy ending in subsequent editions and mine used the later, happier ending. Having gone back and compared the two, the original seems more integral to the story. Either way, what a wonderful book. I wish I had read it 25 years ago, like I thought I had.
Dolce Bellezza (warning: contains spoilers)