Monday, December 2, 2013

Havisham by Ronald Frame


From the Back Cover!

There was a delicate tracery of gold foil on the back of the dress. How strange that such a consummately made garment should be worn for this one day only. But, as every girl growing up understood, her wedding day was the most significant she would know: a woman's crowning glory.

Catherine Havisham was born into privilege. Handsome, imperious, she is the daughter of a wealthy brewer, and lives in luxury in Satis House. But she is never far from the smell of hops and the arresting letters on the brewhouse wall - HAVISHAM. A reminder of all she owes to the family name and the family business.

Sent by her father to stay with the Chadwycks, Catherine discovers literature, music and masquerades - elegant pastimes to remove the taint of new money. But for all her growing sophistication Catherine is anything but worldly, and when a charismatic stranger pays her attention, everything - her heart, her future, the very Havisham name - is vulnerable.

It is a masterly tribute to one of Dickens's most celebrated and iconic characters.

As a big fan of Charles Dickens, and never having read Great Expectations before, I was eager to read this.
It is the heartbreaking story about a wealthy young woman named Catherine Havisham, the daughter of a nouveau rich man earned his riches making beer and ale. Frowned on by the upper classes, her father sends her off to live with a more noble family to ease her into society. Cathrine is deeply in love with the man she is about to marry, but to her utter shock and devastation, he never shows up for the ceremony and she is left at the altar. This sets off a chain of events as Catherine is left to pick up the pieces of her life and run the family business after her father dies. She does so with a ruthless ambition, growing the business even further. But others thwart her, embezzle, seek to usurp her authority. Betrayal, frayed trust, and resilience are underlying themes in this novel.   

At first, I struggled to "get into" the novel, and set it aside several times. On the 4th try, I persevered, and was glad that I did, because after that, I was thoroughly engrossed in the story. I think my difficulties lay with the writing itself, and not the story. At times, scenes were under explained and too brief and I found myself going back to re-read passages to try to understand the meaning. Other times, the prose sparked with brilliant descriptions and emotion. Other than the unusual writing style, it was a great book. Now I'm eager to sit down and finally read Great Expectations. Don't be afraid to give this book a try, especially if you're a Dickens fan!