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  • Great Expectations

    Do you fancy some Dickens in the raw? A drop of the hard stuff? A chance to get back to the pure thing? Or have you tried Dickens two or three times and never really got on with him? Too big, too old, too wordy?

    This blog is for you.

    You are looking at a record of a reading project which united readers all round Kent as they tackled Dickens’s greatest work, reading it in the instalments in which it was first published. The project ran until August 2011, but you can still take part.

    How it works

    1. Get yourself a copy of the novel - any will do.
    2. Check the instalments page of the blog. This will tell you how much to read each week.
    3. Use the blog Archive button to select December 2010. Here you will find the first of a series of weekly posts to accompany your reading.
    4. Browse the blog Pages for background information about Dickens, the novel and north Kent.

Return to Shorne marshes

Great Expectations in instalments – part 36

A number of phantom endings haunt Great Expectations, published and unpublished. The story of Bulwer Lytton’s intervention (after which Dickens added a last chapter  – 59) is well documented in most editions, and modern readers have the luxury of enjoying Dickens’s first thoughts as well as his final decision. But even in the complete novel as … Continue reading

Sunset at Gravesend

Great Expectations in instalments – part 35

Pip’s physical reaction to his financial and emotional collapse is the death that leads to a re-birth that allows him to visit again some of the key themes of his own childhood. The narrative examines the moral development of the young Pip by placing the older Pip in an analogous situation: physically weak, financially dependent, … Continue reading

The view from the Ship and Lobster

Great Expectations in instalments – part 34

Dickens thought nothing was so appropriate for the ending of a novel than a good wedding. It is a measure of his almost faultless judgement in Great Expectations that he manages to squeeze one in here without disrupting either the flow or the tone of his narrative. His considerable ally in the squeezing of it is of course Wemmick … Continue reading

The Ship and Lobster

Great Expectations in instalments – part 33

John Forster, Dickens’s first biographer, highlights this chapter. He notes the parallel with the gripping chase at the beginning of the novel and cites it as an example of careful preparation and the power of Dickens’s acquisitive eye: To make himself sure of the actual course of a boat in such circumstances, and what possible … Continue reading

Lock at the canal basin, Gravesend

Great Expectations in instalments – part 32

There is a strong feeling of role-playing in this instalment. Of course we are certainly to believe that Orlick is in earnest, and Dickens has no scruples about using every trick in the book to increase the tension. Pip foresees in detail the manner of his death (and indeed his complete bodily extinction) and has vivid premonitions of what … Continue reading

The Thames at Gravesend

Great Expectations in instalments – part 31

Pip’s strategy for breaking down the formidable barriers to what he calls the ‘bare truth’ in Mr Jaggers’ office amounts to something of a mini-campaign. He notes the importance of approaching dis-armed – injured as he is, he seems entitled to an attention a shade less rigorous than usual. He is thus able to approach … Continue reading

Reading group at Cooling churchyard

Great Expectations in instalments – out and about

A momentary break from our headlong narrative, just to share our day out at the churches of Cooling and Higham. Around 19 readers met at St James’s, on a very hot day, and we spent 40 minutes or so looking round the late 13th/early 14th century church. It is a pleasingly coherent building, with many … Continue reading

The paddle tug John H Amos

Great Expectations in instalments – part 30

‘I shall die if you hold me! Let me fall upon the ground!’ The desperate words of Louisa Bounderby to her strict utilitarian father in Hard Times. The married Louisa has been driven to arrange a secret meeting with a man who wishes to become her lover: unable to fulfil this engagement she confesses all … Continue reading

Kingsnorth power station

Great Expectations in instalments – part 29

A quieter instalment perhaps, but another one with that effective mix of the habitual and particular that gives such a depth to Pip’s narrative. It is also one with a good old-fashioned chill in it, and a further revelation to add to those we have already encountered. Anthony Trollope was well-known for indulging one of his … Continue reading

A buoy on the River Medway

Great Expectations in instalments – part 28

Wemmick’s message haunts Pip as effectively as it does the reader; a wonderful description of a sleepless night ensues. We get the works: ‘wide-awake’ lights to stare at, rambling nightmarish thoughts that spring from memories half-recalled in the darkness, getting up and getting back into bed, the racket that a silent room makes – and … Continue reading