Havisham – Ronald Frame

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (1 Nov 2012)
  • Source – Library
  • My Rating - 4 stars

Like many other readers I have been fascinated with the character of Catherine Havisham since I first encountered her in Great Expectations at the tender age of 13.  Jilted on her wedding day and frozen in time and bitterness in Satis House, she endeavours to wreak vengeance on treacherous, unreliable men via her ward, the irresistible Estella.  Ronald Frame uncovers the human side of Miss Havisham, revealing an ambitious and vivacious young woman not yet tainted by the trauma of broken relationships.

We see a young girl, an only child doted upon by her widowed father who lavishes her with gifts  “Children, handpicked” are brought to play at Satis House but Catherine remains an outsider, the money coming from the Havisham Brewery marking her as different from the local villagers but still not quite good enough for noble families.  Her one friend is Sally, the daughter of a labourer, but she is not a suitable companion for an heiress so Catherine is shipped off to the Chadwycks, a more socially appropriate setting for someone of her social stature.  However the overriding impression is that Catherine is her own woman, a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, stuck in a limbo between new and old money.  She’s never presented as a paragon of virtue but you feel she’s doomed to be an outsider, living on the periphery of others’ happiness.

In this reimagining of Miss Havisham, Frame forges his own style and gives a realistic background  to a very troubled lady.  It’s a bit of a slow burner but give it time to breathe life into a ghostly figure and you will be rewarded with the compelling story of a much maligned and perhaps misunderstood character.  A must for fans of Great Expectations.

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2 Comments

  1. Ellie says:

    I got this out the library before Christmas but took it back unread. Think I will buy it at some point in the future though.

  2. admin says:

    My copy was from the library too, Ellie. I think you need to be in the right mood for this one.

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