callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

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Great Expectations

From Mr Pip I moved to reading Great Expectations yet again. I love Dickens but, folks, this is the book for people who think they hate him. Take out Pumblechook and Wopsle and the book seems 'un-Dickensian'. On every re-read I find more in it and it's the style which is so impressive, the beautiful elegiac voice so very modern for a book published in 1860. There's also plenty of excitement: the plot to conceal Magwitch and spirit him away is like a spy story. If you really can't stand reading Dickens, watch David Lean's film instead.

On this reading I felt very let down by the illustrations for the Folio edition, which I picked up recently for a pound. I've known Charles Keeping's work since I read Rosemary Sutcliff's books as a child and the image below shrieks '1960s!' at me.

Now here's Keeping's drawing of Wemmick's house for Great Expectations.

Wrong! And wrong again. All the pictures seem feeble to me and add nothing to the reading of the book, whereas the illustrations for say, Knight's Fee (Sutcliff) are inseperable from my memories of the book. Disappointing but perhaps it just shows how important illustrations are for children's books? Narnia/Pauline Baynes; Ransome/Ransome; Ballet Shoes/Ruth Gervis; Alice/Tenniel; Molesworth/Searle: hard to imagine one without the other.
Tags: book illustration, charles dickens, charles keeping, great expectations, rosemary sutcliff

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