Sunday, December 22, 2013

Retellings: Havisham by Ronald Frame

I'm back! Two weeks is a long time for me to be quiet on the blog, but I was studying for final exams (and, what occupies even more time, procrastinating on studying for final exams) and then recuperating from a busy semester. And of course, my family continues to stay busy throughout the break, which doesn't help matters any. But on to more relevant things, like book reviews...

Publisher: Picador
Date: November 2012 (UK); November 5, 2013 (US)
Format: ARC
Source: publisher
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 356
Reading time: about four days

From GoodReads: Before she became the immortal and haunting Miss Havisham of Great Expectations, she was Catherine, a young woman with all of her dreams ahead of her. Spry, imperious, she is the daughter of a wealthy brewer. But she is never far from the smell of hops and the arresting letters on the brewhouse wall—HAVISHAM—a reminder of all she owes to the family name and the family business. Sent by her father to stay with the Chadwycks, Catherine discovers elegant pastimes to remove the taint of her family's new money. But for all her growing sophistication, Catherine is anything but worldly, and when a charismatic stranger pays her attention, everything—her heart, her future, the very Havisham name—is vulnerable.

My review: I read and reviewed Great Expectations last semester, so the original story is fairly fresh on my mind. I found that Havisham did not seem to really add much to Dickens' novel. Yes, it gives a greater backstory for this most eccentric character, but it did not provide anything that I found particularly innovative or insightful. I thought that the details that were different were just that - details - though some metafictionally bits about Pip writing a novel over all of this were kind of cool. I ended up seeing Havisham less of a retelling and more of just a period novel. The descriptions of material culture were great, and I got a wonderful sense of upper-crust culture and society during the time period. That, for me, was more enjoyable than Great Expectations from the perspective of another character.

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