Great Expectations

By Charles Dickens,

Book cover of Great Expectations

Book description

'His novels will endure as long as the language itself' Peter Ackroyd

Dickens's haunting late novel depicts the education and development of a young man, Pip, as his life is changed by a series of events - a terrifying encounter with an escaped convict in a graveyard on the wild…

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Why read it?

10 authors picked Great Expectations as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

You cannot mention a coming-of-age novel without mentioning this classic.

Pip is an orphan who meets an escaped prisoner in a graveyard, does him a good deed, then is made a gentleman from an inheritance he knows nothing about. All of us enter our youth with great expectations and some of us are lucky enough, or unlucky, to meet our own beautiful Estella or the damaged and doomed Miss Havisham or the worldly and wise attorney Mister Jaggers.

Set in London where the worlds of extreme poverty and privilege co-exist side by side, we experience this world firsthand as Pip…

There is so much that is magical, mysterious, and surprising in this delightful tale. But at its heart is a story we all can learn from.

The young hero of the novel, an orphan named Pip, wishes to become a “gentleman” in order to overcome the shame he feels at his treatment by a haughty but beautiful girl with whom he falls in love.

When Pip unexpectedly comes into money, he mistakenly thinks that this is what will make him a gentleman, win the girl, and help him achieve all his big expectations.

The lessons he learns about what it…

While I sometimes find Dickens' characters overdrawn and his endings too tidily wrapped in his other novels, I love these qualities in Great Expectations and how the specific setting in which we meet a character shapes our (and Pip’s) assumptions. The Gothic decadence of Miss Havisham's wedding feast and the monstrous spectre of Magwitch appearing among the graves are fabulous scenes for this. But what I like most is how Pip changes in response to the manipulations and ambitions of the supporting cast; how he's shaken out of impoverished innocence into a world of expectations, and his trajectory as a…

I could relate to the character who fails to appreciate what other people have done for him. Like many of us, he fails to see his true benefactors because of prejudice against them. He even fails to see that one of the people who he believes is his benefactor is really seeking revenge for a wrong done to her. It takes him a long time to learn the truth and to appreciate his real benefactors, and by then it’s almost too late. He seeks redemption through love for a woman he really doesn’t know.

From Tom's list on redemption and forgiveness.

I’ve already said how I want the characters in the stories I read to grab my attention, so much so that I want to learn how to write the great ones. In pursuit of my ambition, is there anyone as good as Dickens to learn from? There are so many Dickens described in his writing, but as I’m only allowed one of his to choose then it has to be—Magwitch. He was a gigantic monsters rising up from the mud in the graveyard that’s always smothered in a dank, cold mist and where the light from the lantern dances in…

From Daniel's list on the best character driven stories.

Dickens always has a fabulous range of characters—in this book the orphan Pip, who thinks he’s going to someday apprentice with his dear uncle the blacksmith, meets up with an escaped convict and then with a jilted heiress, and their roles in his fate are beautifully confused throughout. This is my favorite Dickens—it’s the most well-shaped—and it has held up for me. I had just re-read it in 2016, when I went to teach English in Laos for a month, and was thrilled to discover that one of my students, a novice Buddhist monk, was reading it, and Pip’s disasters…

Great Expectations is a cracking story full of twists and turns, fantastic characters, and races along as fast as the horses that pull the coach that carries Pip to London. It is a wonderful tale, rich in description for the mind’s eye and nose! In addition, Dickens provides subtle social commentary, revealing class divides and the power of money over social mobility. It is a touching story about love, friendship, loyalty, and kindness which contrasts with the darker elements of snobbery and revenge. It never fails to move me.

Yes, I know it lacks the sea, but Off The Map has a female lead for a reason and this book is it. I didn’t like Pip. He was arrogant, rude, and selfish. But Estella was so enchanting! She might have been an early crush for a 12-year-old me and I wanted a book that was about her, not Pip. She was a huge influence in how I created Chanel in Off The Map – the power and confidence in herself, and yet that sense of claustrophobia and isolation because the time and the place just don’t work for her.

From Max's list on adventure on the High Seas.

Pip, the narrator of Great Expectations, is one of the great conscience-torn protagonists in literature. He ages in the novel from a (roughly) seven-year-old boy to a young man, and he matures in the course of events from valuing the shiniest objects and people in his orbit to appreciating honesty, generosity, and love—even when they are found in the least outwardly attractive characters. What I like best about the book is that when Pip does eventually center his moral compass, when he tries to do the right thing, he does not arrive at a happily-ever-after. Doing the right thing…

From Mark's list on the power of conscience.

When we think of Dickens and orphans, we tend to think of Oliver Twist, of course. But Great Expectations is a much more thought-provoking and satisfying book and features not one orphan but two: Pip, the protagonist, and his heartthrob, Estella. She and her adoptive mother, Miss Havisham, are two of the most memorable and fully realized (and infuriating) characters in literature. 

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