Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas Expectations

'You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line that I ever read.' 

Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is one of my favourite novels and I try to read it every Christmas because everyone knows Dickens and Christmas go together like holly and ivy.  It was first published from 1 December 1860 to August 1861 in serial form and it has been adapted for stage and screen over 250 times. From the most recent 1998 film starring Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert De Niro to David Lean’s 1940s masterpiece, cinematic adaptations of this novel are always captivating and interesting in their own way but nothing beats the book.

Written in first person, the story’s protagonist is an orphan called Pip (I have a guinea pig named after him). I will not spoil the story for those of you who haven’t read this great novel yet but let’s just say it is full of twist and turns, eccentric characters and typically Dickension dark themes. The mad old spinster Mrs Havisham is one of Dickens' most fascinating characters; manically flitting around her house in her faded wedding dress despising all men since being jilted by her fiance as a young lady. As you travel through Pip’s life you are taken on a real rollercoaster but what underpins the story is the question of happiness and truth and where it can be found.

Christmas is all about nostalgia,telling of old stories, the meeting of varied characters and the finding of acceptance in the company of loved ones and familiar surroundings. It’s about enjoying seeing a crazy relative, drinking snowballs with old chums and playing board games with the family. Nobody understood Christmas better than Dickens who encourages us to indulge in sentimentality, be conscious of what we have and embrace the present (no not presents).  

Great Expectations is a novel about growing up and learning the truth whether good, bad or otherwise; but most importantly finding that truth and happiness lies within love and loyalty not greed and wealth. Enjoy the book this Christmas!

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