I’ve probably already mentioned that I used to buy books from the local post office when I was a child, and can definitely remember reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations at the age of eight. The characters both fascinated and scared me. The settings, bleakness, the darkness, the grim world of Victoriana – all made an impression on my young mind.
I couldn’t get over how mean some of the people were and how important money and social standing was and that Pip played along with it. But I could also see how difficult it was for an orphaned child and the reliance on benefactors being a way to climb out of a life of misery.
Miss Havisham is being played wonderfully by Agent Scully in the current BBC drama; a woman who punishes herself for her past mistakes and is afraid of the outside world, her daughter raised as a cold heartless girl who, like Pip, must also climb her way out of a questionable past.
Dickens has always had a brilliant way of depicting fictitious people through very real, human behaviour, which as an older adult, I am understanding more and more. His scenes are also full of the more gothic side of the nineteenth century, a realism that has always been appealing.
I couldn’t find my copy of Great Expectations which I bought in 1973, that along with others such as Kidnapped, seem to have sadly been sent away to the second-hand heaven of books.
But there are still a few left -all hard-back, published by Purnell, Abbey and Bancroft. Inside the price belies their age – 10p or 15p, each one with a note: ‘This book belongs to me’.
Have a good 2012, and keep reading! In 2012 Charles Dickens’ 200th Birthday will be celebrated.