Great Expectations brings to mind a Monty Python sketch about Australian table wines. Describing a bottle of Perth Pink they say: ‘This is a bottle with a message in it, and the message is “beware”. This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding.’
I agonized for a long time about negatively criticizing this book – the man is an absolute genius after all. However, I also agonized for an excruciatingly long time just trying to get through the jolly thing. After three months of torture, I decided to call it quits on both the book and my ego. I say my ego because Dickens, being the literary icon that he is, you can’t help but feel that the problem lies with you, and not him. Mind you, I don’t usually have an issue with classic fiction, in fact I love it, but Great Expectations just plods along endlessly, bogging itself down in mind-numbingly boring, tedious, dreary, non-directional trivia.
I tried reading other books in between, thinking that if I had a break from it, I might appreciate and enjoy it more when I came back, but, alas… no. Getting to page 259, which I thought was actually a pretty good effort, was painful. Only one character was enjoyable, Joe, but all the others, including Pip, and especially Estella, were deplorable. I grew to hate them.
There is no doubt that Dickens is the master of his craft. His writing is so indelibly rich and artful, but as I read along, I kept asking myself: Why is he spending so much time telling me this or that? Why are his characters all so awful? and Wouldn’t my mind be better amused cleaning the S-Bend of my toilet?