Dickens is always a rich literary feast. That richness is not always to every reader’s taste, of course. However, for those readers willing to devote the time and attention, Dickens returns the investment on many levels. Great Expectations is just such a challenging but rewarding reading experience.
The story is sprawling and circuitous, with many seeming detours in plot and character that eventually all converge and resolve, as Dickens always satisfyingly does for the most part. The cast of characters is broad and lively, almost to a fault, but Dickens has an unerring way of taking figures that initially appear to be caricatures or cartoonish and evolving them into intriguing, fully dimensional human beings. The ending is ambiguous, tinged with remorse but possibly some hope, and haunting in all the best senses. (The Penguin edition includes in its endnotes and appendices the original ending devised by Dickens, with a much clearer resolution of Pip’s and Estella’s relationship – but the more ambiguous one with which the book was published actually makes the book that much more powerful and memorable.)