Saturday, April 11, 2015

Day 101 of Feminist Joys: Reading Havisham

Havisham is the second book by a man that I've read finished recently (the first, of course, was Funny Girl). It is a retelling -- a prequel -- of Great Expectations, focusing on (of course) Miss Havisham. Ronald Frame takes a character that was always somewhat of a caricature and gives her a backstory. He gives her a lonely childhood, and an adult life that's one disappointment after another, making her the bitter old woman in Dickens' novel. Yet she's never as bitter as Dickens portrayed her -- if she is abusive to Estella, keeping her isolated and teaching her to take revenge on men -- it's because the tragedy of her life has deranged her. She is still capable of compassion, even for her best friend who betrayed her, and of love for Estella.

But I found Havisham most satisfying when I wasn't reading it like a prequel to Great Expectations -- as a story of a young woman who has a difficult childhood and grows up to manage her father's alcohol business.

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