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Great Expectations
By Charles Dickens
Read by Michael Page

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Great Expectations

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Great Expectations
By Charles Dickens
Read by Michael Page
Brilliance Audio; Unabridged edition, (2002)
Audio Cassette - ISBN: 1590861531
Genre: British Literature

An Review, by Alix Wilber

Dickens considered Great Expectations one of his "little pieces," and indeed, it is slim compared to such weighty novels as David Copperfield or Nicholas Nickleby. But what this cautionary tale of a young man raised high above his station by a mysterious benefactor lacks in length, it more than makes up for in its remarkable characters and compelling story. The novel begins with young orphaned Philip Pirrip - Pip - running afoul of an escaped convict in a cemetery. This terrifying personage bullies Pip into stealing food and a file for him, threatening that if he tells a soul "your heart and your liver shall be tore out, roasted and ate." The boy does as he's asked, but the convict is captured anyway, and transported to the penal colonies in Australia. Having started his novel in a cemetery, Dickens then ups the stakes and introduces his hero into the decaying household of Miss Havisham, a wealthy, half-mad woman who was jilted on her wedding day many years before and has never recovered. Pip is brought there to play with Miss Havisham's ward, Estella, a little girl who delights in tormenting Pip about his rough hands and future as a blacksmith's apprentice.

I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt for me was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.
It is an infection that Pip never quite recovers from; as he spends more time with Miss Havisham and the tantalizing Estella, he becomes more and more discontented with his guardian, the kindhearted blacksmith, Joe, and his childhood friend Biddy. When, after several years, Pip becomes the heir of an unknown benefactor, he leaps at the chance to leave his home and friends behind to go to London and become a gentleman. But having expectations, as Pip soon learns, is a two-edged sword, and nothing is as he thought it would be. Like that other "little piece," A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations is different from the usual Dickensian fare: the story is dark, almost surreal at times, and you'll find few of the author's patented comic characters and no comic set pieces. And yet this is arguably the most compelling of Dickens's novels for, unlike David Copperfield or Martin Chuzzlewit, the reader can never be sure that things will work out for Pip. Even Dickens apparently had his doubts - he wrote two endings for this novel.

Book Description

In what may be Dickens’s best novel, humble, orphaned Pip is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman—and one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of “great expectations.” In this gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, the compelling characters include Magwitch, the fearful and fearsome convict; Estella, whose beauty is excelled only by her haughtiness; and the embittered Miss Havisham, an eccentric jilted bride.

No other novel in the English language so epitomizes upward mobility, the rise from poverty to wealth, as Great Expectations. Often considered to be one of Dickens's best novels, it tells the story of young Pip who is mysteriously helped by two people: escaped convict Magwitch and the eccentric dowager Miss Havisham. Here is storytelling at its best, alive with bigger-than-life characters, plot twists that turn on a dime, and scenes that burst off the page with color.

About the Author

Charles Dickens was born in England in 1812. Believing that if he worked hard enough he could achieve his dreams, he was shattered when his father moved the family to London in 1823, encountered financial disaster, and was arrested for debt and placed in debtor's prison. Dickens was forced to go to work at a blacking factory, labeling bottles. His memories from that period haunted him for the rest of his life.

After the family's financial situation improved, Dickens was able to return to school, and later to become an office boy, a freelance reporter, and finally an author. The Pickwick Papers brought Dickens instant notoriety; within a few years he was already the most popular and respected author of his time. In 1841 he went to America and was received with great enthusiasm. He is the author of such classics as Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol, Hard Times, and A Tale of Two Cities, among others. Due to his powers of observation, his sympathy with the humble, his sway over the emotions, and his incomparable gift of unalloyed fun, his works remain beloved by millions. Dickens had ten children before his marriage ended in separation in 1858. He died after suffering a stroke in 1870.

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