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Publisher's Summary

Considered by many to be Charles Dickens's finest novel, Great Expectations traces the growth of the book's narrator, the orphan Philip Pirrip (Pip), from a boy of shallow dreams to a man with depth of character.

From its famous dramatic opening on the bleak Kentish marshes, the story abounds with some of Dickens's most memorable characters. Among them are the kindly blacksmith Joe Gargery, the mysterious convict Abel Magwitch, the eccentric Miss Havisham and her beautiful ward Estella, Pip's good-hearted roommate Herbert Pocket, and the pompous Pumblechook.

As Pip unravels the truth behind his own "great expectations" in his quest to become a gentleman, the mysteries of the past and the convolutions of fate through a series of thrilling adventures serve to steer him toward maturity and his most important discovery of all - the truth about himself.

(P)2008 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"The most perfectly constructed and perfectly written of all Dickens's works." (Edgar H. Johnson, Dickens' biographer)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Ed
  • Saint Augustine, FL, United States
  • 06-30-11

This Dickens guy has promise

This was a book I was supposed to read 45 years ago as a freshman in high school. Back then I read very little of it. Forty-five years later and it was worth waiting for. I honestly believe this book is beyond the comprehension of an average ninth grader. It should have been reserved for upperclassmen. The story and characters were absolutely fascinating. I didn't want the book to end after nearly 18 hours. Yes, there were 10-20 minute pockets of indecipherable babbling (one very near the end of the book when Pumblechook got to rambling). But the story was otherwise pretty easy to follow and kept me interested. Who knows what's next? Maybe A Tale of Two Cities?

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • PW
  • 11-14-09

Wonderful narration

Enjoyed this audiobook immensely. The narration really adds to the story and the richness of the characters in this classic.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful narration

Simon Vance does a wonderful job with this narration. His voice and delivery seem ideal for brining Dickens' story to life. I especially enjoyed the character development and the descriptions of London. This is a "must-listen" classic.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A Dickensian Masterpiece, Adequately Read

Simon Vance does an OK job overall reading this great novel, but why don't the audiobook producers edit out glaring misreadings and mispronunciations? In the case of this reading, within the first few minutes, Vance ruins the mood with unintentional humor by having the menacing convict snarl at Pip, " Hold your NOSE!" [sic!]--instead of the real exclamation "Hold your NOISE!" (that is, Be quiet!, Shut up!). Did the producers never read Dickens's novel? Did they not care about Vance's gaffe or hope the listeners would not notice? Cannot modern sound recordings be edited? Did the publishers release the audiobook without first listening to it? It is always a bit disconcerting to be slapped in the face by the fact that actors interpreting works of genius (or even just characters who are supposed to be well-educated) really don't understand the words they are speaking.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Fabulous classic

It was like watching a movie. Dickens masterful writing is a masterpiece.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Naomi
  • BRONX, NY, United States
  • 07-06-12

May be the greatest novel in the English language

This is probably Dickens's greatest work -- devoid of the cloying sentimentality that gums up so many of his other novels. The many characters are individuated and the multiple plots, so skillfully intertwined, keep you listening until they resolve. There is not a false note in this book.

The story begins with the terrifying encounter between Pip, a frightened orphan boy, and Magwich, a desperate escaped convict. Without Pip realizing it, Magwich becomes the mechanism, by which Pip may be able to realize his dreams of escaping his lowly marshland village and becoming a gentleman. As we watch Pip mature, we see his relationship with Magwich develop and our sympathies toward Magwich change as do those of Pip,

The novel can be seen as a meditation on love -- something that Dickens was less than successful at in his real life. In the end we see that those who love, even though they may be deeply hurt, are far luckier than those who cannot, like the beautiful Estella, the bitter Miss Havisham, and the secretive lawyer, Jaggers.

As ever, Simon Vance brings this novel and its many characters to life. I wanted to find out what happened to the characters in this book, but I was sorry to have completed it. Listening to it was such a great source of pleasure.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Ilana
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 10-22-11

A Jolly Good Yarn!

In this great classic of English literature, our boy Pip tells the tale of how he came to have "Great Expectations" from what appears to be a series of most unlikely circumstances. One late afternoon on Christmas eve, as he is visiting the graves of his mother, father and five little brothers, a dangerous escaped convict appears on the scene and bullies our boy into promising he'll come back the next morning to bring 'wittles'—or food to eat—and a file so he can free himself of his leg irons, on the threat that if Pip doesn't do as he's told, an associate, much crueller than he will stalk him down and get at his heart and liver. Scared out of his wits, Pip complies by stealing food from his sister "Mrs Joe"'s pantry. The convict is satisfied with the offerings and lets him go, though Pip is weighed down by a heavy conscience. Not very long after in chapter seven, Pip is summoned to Miss Havisham's, a rich and eccentric old recluse, to play with her niece Estella who is close to Pip's age, a haughty girl, though very pretty. The old lady encourages her charge to become a heartbreaker and even as the girl mocks Pip, calling him "a common, labouring boy" and making fun of his lack of refinement and general appearance "He calls the knaves Jacks, this boy! And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots!" the old woman prods Pip repeatedly to find out what he thinks of Estella. Pip can't help himself from falling hopelessly in love with her and from that moment on, becomes more disdainful than ever of his unrefined background and of Joe in particular, a blacksmith to whom Pip is fated to be indentured as an apprentice.

By chapter eighteen, Pip is in the fourth year of his apprenticeship to Joe when they are both approached at the local pub by Mr Jaggers, a lawyer who tells Joe he has an offer to make which will greatly benefit the boy, and asks the blacksmith if he is willing to release Pip of his indenture for "the communication I have got to make is, that he has Great Expectations. I am instructed to communicate to him, that he will come into a handsome property. Further, that it is the desire of the present possessor of that property, that he be immediately removed from his present sphere of life and from this place, and be brought up as a gentleman,—in a word, as a young fellow of great expectations." The only condition being that he must always keep his name, Pip, and that his benefactor's name is to remain a secret until that person chooses to reveal it. Once he has been properly outfitted with new clothes, Pip then moves to London and is taught how to behave like a gentleman. Throughout, even as Pip gains a whole new circle of friends and acquaintances, misbehaves and accumulates enormous debt which even his steady large income can't cover, Estella is never far from our boy's mind. He assumes his benefactor to be Miss Havisham and that she has in mind to mould him into an acceptable husband for the love of his life. But as we are only at chapter 34 at that point (out of 59) and that Dickens wouldn't be Dickens if his stories were anything less than epic sagas, and that his fiction, in imitation of life thrives on many twists of fate, it's fair to assume that things are unlikely to turn out as Pip's—or the reader’s—imagination would have it.

I can't help myself from making a bad play on the title, so I'll go ahead and say that I had Great Expectations about this novel, and that as these things go, I was not wholly satisfied on that count. Although Pip goes through inevitable transformations as he grows up, for the better part of the novel he is a proud boy who thinks himself better than most, and certainly than the people he has been brought up with. One of his greatest offences to my mind is the shame and abhorrence in which he holds Joe once he has come in contact with Miss Havisham and Estella. Joe is one of my favourite characters in the story; he's a good man of great simplicity with a big heart, and is probably one of Pip's most dedicated friends, yet Pip feels ashamed of him and neglects him completely over the years even though he knows better. I thought his supposed great love for Estella was puerile, acceptable when he is a child and is more or less manipulated into it, but the fact that he then uses his unrequited love for her as a reason to remake himself in an image he thinks she will approve of, when he knows her own character is wanting, was truly sad and pathetic to me. Because most of Dickens' novels were first published in serialized form (probably one chapter at a time) the author had good reason to keep the story going for as long as was decently possible. Even though I kept this firmly in mind, there were many times while I listened to this audiobook version (very well narrated by Simon Vance) that I grew impatient with the lengths and detours through which Dickens takes us. But there were also moments when I was completely taken with Dickens' great skill as a storyteller and his fine observation of human nature, which are always accompanied by a fine and subtle irony and humour.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.


Probably Dickens' most critically-acclaimed novel, Great Expectations is the bildungsroman of the orphan Philip Pirrip, known as Pip, who is also the novel's narrator. As a boy, he unwittingly aids the escaped convict Abel Magwitch in trying to make his getaway. Shortly thereafter, the elderly and uber-eccentric spinster Miss Havisham summons him to be the playmate of her adopted daughter, the exquisite but aloof Estella.

Pip comes into a fortune from an anonymous benefactor which permits him to obtain a genteel education and entry into a world of commerce. Pip assumes that Miss Havisham is the source of his great expectations.

Pip was unaware, though, that Miss Havisham harbors some deep-seated resentments toward all males arising from being jilted on her wedding day by her fiance' Compeyson, who turned out a fraud. She keeps her ruined mansion as it was on that fateful day, wearing her wedding dress all the time and looking 'like the witch of the place.' She raises Estella to break all men's hearts, including Pip's.

The novel is definitely Dickens' most Gothic work, with its dark mood, haunted by a graveyard, a fire, prison ships, poverty, and of course the most macabre of all Dickens' thousand plus characters by far, Miss Havisham, who must have inspired, at least in part, the haunting Norma Desmond from the Hollywood film 'Sunset Boulevard.'

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Brain
  • Cage 13, Acme Lab #107
  • 12-03-17

Top Ten Books of all time,.......

.......best of Dickens,

, and narrated by THE greatest professional book narrator of the 21st century.

'Nuff said

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Totally awesome, in every way.

Totally awesome, in every way. Great story, great narrator. An excellent way to travel to another time and place.

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  • Katie
  • 07-25-10

A very theatrical novel

Miss Haversham is my favourite character, she lives in a world that is both enticing and repulsing - both to Pip and the reader. She leads a strange existence. We buy into her world as we travel the story with Pip. We also buy into his great expectations as he does. An unusual story and a very theatrical novel in one. Simon Vance is perfect as the narrator.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful