Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review - "Havisham" by Ronald Frame

This book is like the anti-Valentine's Day story of the century. I didn't think about it when I was scheduling my posts, but if you're over the incessant commercials for chocolate and roses maybe this book is the respite that you need.

There are very few figures that cut as sad of a figure as Catherine Havisham. A sad old woman in a yellowing wedding dress and crumbling shoes surrounded by an uneaten wedding feast makes for a memorable character. In Charles Dicken's classic (but not a personal favorite of mine for what it's worth) "Great Expectations" we are introduced to this jilted woman, but we don't know know much about her. Ronald Frame constructs a sad and interesting tale about a promising young woman laid low.

Catherine Havisham is born into a prestigious brewing family in a city outside of London. Her mother dies in childbirth leaving her with her Dad. She is a lonely little girl without much human interaction except for the occasional playmate that is brought in by her Dad.One such playmate is named Sally. She's as close to a friend as Catherine has, but she eventually leaves to find work in London.

This fox is named Bevo and he's at the Budweiser plant in St. Louis. Interestingly Bevo is Italian for" I drink". But I don't think this fox is Italian.

Catherine is sent to live with the Chadwyck family for "finishing". They are a nice family with sons and daughters and its the first time that she feels like she belongs and has a sense of family. She is there for several years with trips back home occasionally where her dad finally begins to tell her about how the brewery operates. Her good for nothing half brother (her father remarries the household cook and fathers a child on the sly) antagonizes her and  steals from the family to feed his bad habits.

While spending time with Chadwyck family attending balls Catherine meets the mysterious Mr. Compeyson . He enchants Catherine, even though she is told that Charles is merely tolerated in the polite circles that the Havisham and Chadwyck  family travel. He actually gets caught sneaking into several parties where he meets Catherine.(Red flag Catherine, red flag)

Eventually Catherine's Dad falls ill and Catherine goes home to assume the running of the brewery. Mr. Charles Compeyson being a gentleman agrees to help her shoulder the burden of running a business. If you know "Great Expectations" you know what happens next; and its not pretty. After her betrayal and what could be graciously called an extended mental breakdown Catherine gets back to running the brewery where she finds considerable money missing courtesy of her ex fiancée. She starts to try to put her life back together but it doesn't stay together for long....After this some characters who are familiar pop up, like Pip and Estella.

(Also when I read "Great Expectations" I was amazed that she was in the same wedding dress for all that time. In this book they say she has copies made, which kind of relieved me because they also said she um...peed herself in horror when her wedding day ditch happened.)

The rest of the story is a little bit familiar, but that doesn't keep it from being sad and heartfelt.Even though I am, at best, indifferent to "Great Expectations" I enjoyed this book. It loses a little something that that you know Catherine never really gets a happy ending. I give it 3 out of 5 stars, even if its more sad than anything else.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for your comment. I'd love to talk books with you!