Monday, November 25, 2013

Bringing the Ghost of Miss Havisham To Life: Mini-Review of "Havisham" by Ronald Frame

Ronald Frame has done what many writers have intended to do for many decades: put a credible back story behind the ghost that is Dickens' Miss Havisham.  He has done so while remaining true to the Dickens' style of emphasizing place and idiosyncratic characters while adding his own special spice to the punch.

In this prequel telling of the story of the bride left at the altar, Miss Havisham begins life as the pampered and sheltered daughter of one of London's most successful brewers and pub owners.  Each character who enters her life sets her up to inch further and further toward becoming the embittered and manipulating harridan we meet so memorably in "Great Expectations."

This book, "Havisham," was particularly timely for me to read.  In a recent visit to London, I was enjoying some fish and chips at a pub on Carnaby Street in Soho.  As I looked up from my meal, I saw before me slowly making her way through the crowd the very embodiment of the iconic Miss Havisham - a wizened old woman dressed .in an off-white, discolored ivory dress that resembled a superannuated bride's gown, tattered at the hem (think of Grizzabella from "Cats"!) She was shuffling along in a pair of worn down at the heels cream colored pumps and she was clutching a bouquet of desiccated flowers - white roses.  At first I wondered if she were an actress leading a Dickens Walking Tour, but it was clear that she was merely the latest generation of lost souls wandering the cobble stone streets of London as if Victoria Regina were still seated upon the throne of the British Empire - upon which the sun never set.  The sun had certainly set upon this dear soul long ago.

This book, "Havisham," is a delightful read for Dickens fans in particular and fans of good writing in general.



No comments: