Havisham, by Ronald Frame: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. (See what I did there?) Okay, I know. Wrong Dickens book. But still, I found myself having a love-hate relationship with Havisham, much as I often do with Dickens. I'll get an urge to read one of his books and spend half of it wondering what the hell I was thinking. Miss Havisham is absolutely my favorite Dickens character. I'll never forget when I met her, sitting in her yellowed silk gown among the rotting remnants of her wedding feast. I wanted Ronald Frame, in Havisham, to create magic for me. Bring me into that cobwebbed world of hers and tell me how she got there. And, for the most part, he did.
Let's get the bad out of the way first. For about the first half of the book (I know that seems like a lot), I found myself getting impatient. I was bored by Catherine's description of her childhood, and the time she spent with the Chadwyck family. There were some good parts here and there (the Hermitage, for one), but mostly I felt like if I had to read one more scene about acting out some play or attending a masked ball, I was going to give up on this book. I'm happy I didn't, because when Catherine returned home, Havisham gave me everything I'd been hoping for, and I was not disappointed. I loved the wedding and everything that followed, even though I'd figured out exactly what happened before Catherine did.
In looking back at my time spent reading Havisham, I'm reminded of a quote by Mark Twain: A classic is something that everybody wants to have read, and nobody wants to read. Like Great Expectations (or any other Dickens novel), reading Havisham was hard work at times, but in the end I'm happy I did. One thing that helped me get through it was to tell myself to treat it as I would a classic. I tend to give those more leeway when reading them, because I think if it's a classic surely there must be something worthwhile to keep reading for. That's what I did, and I was well rewarded.
*I received a free copy of this book through Net Galley.