Charles Dickens Great Expectations vs. Bleak House
Between Bleak House and Great Expectations I *almost have a two-way tie for first place, in no small part because they are such different types of books...Bleak House was a universe of characters and subplots; Great Expectations fewer characters and not as much intrigue, although the last 1/4 to 1/3 of the book is riveting. And some good comedy also.
But I am going to put GE at #1 and BH at #2...while I loved Bleak House as I read it, and have a few favorite characters, "Great Expectations" will *stay with me* much much longer I think...Bleak House is brilliant (really brilliant) for its commentary on the period and for its settings and for its intricacies; Great Expectations is brilliant because it is simple and timeless.
I'm not nearly vain or clever enough to think I'm the first to recognize this, but three neat things about Great Expectations are: 1) it's a novel which illustrates the old warning "Be Careful What You Wish For...", 2) it is the complete opposite of "Catcher in the Rye" - an earnest, non-cynical first-person narrator who meets so much kindness along the way, and fewer "phonies" (although there are a few), and 3) it's such a personal novel that anyone who dares wonder what they could possibly learn about human nature by reading such an "old" book NEEDS to read it for that very reason.
The characters are just so memorable...if I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be Wemmick...you probably work with him and don't even know it: he's the man (or woman) who is competent at work, works for an insufferable boss, and has a completely different home life than work life. His care of "The Aged" is a remarkable example for any of us in caring for our parents.
The love stories are also very touching - especially the ones that turn out for the best...but no spoilers in this review.
And the story of Pip's unrequited love is so true to life...and although I think it would have been worse for Pip to lose Estella had she been more than just beautiful outside but also beautiful inside, Dickens wrote beautifully and agonizingly of the highs and lows associated with unrequited love as only one who has experienced it can truly identify. One of the worst and most painful aspects is not the fact that you aren’t chosen but that they chose that person. And all you can think is: anybody...anybody but them.