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Monday, November 4, 2013

Havisham: A Novel

While I would not categorize myself as the biggest Great Expectations fan on Earth, I have always found myself intrigued by Miss Havisham. So when I found out Ronald Frame had written a prequel of sorts to the classic novel exploring the history of Miss Havisham I jumped on it like a hot donut.

Catherine Havisham is the privileged only daughter of a respected brewer with an educated and bright future ahead of her. She lost her mother during childbirth and has always been the apple of her father's eye. She is a sheltered girl, and after she is sent away to be educated she finds herself enchanted by a charming young stranger--who, in time, abandons her at the altar. The betrayal cuts even deeper than being left; the reasons behind his abandonment will destroy Catherine forever.

I was utterly, completely, and lovingly charmed by this book. I am not usually a fan of period pieces, but I have been thrilled lately by the gems I have found (this and this, for example), Havisham included. I was having a conversation with my favorite professor just today based on our frustration with finding beautiful prose. I would put this book in the category of "beautiful prose," and I enjoyed the story immensely as well. Catherine, the first person narrator of her own story, is positively charming and an incredibly interesting character.

I also enjoyed Frame's depiction of Estella's early years and her introduction to Pip. But most of all I loved Frame's desire for us to know the character of Miss Havisham as Catherine and not just the crazy, rich old woman in a tattered wedding gown and a table full of old food. Catherine is a whole person with a past that defines who she is, and her character arc in this book is so full and authentic. I am so glad I picked up this book and spent time in it for a bit.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

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