At what age should young readers be introduced to the delights of Charles Dickens? Never one for skimping on his sentences, Dickens’ renowned wordiness and convoluted plots present a challenge for even the most determined bookworm. Welcome then to Great Expectations by Jack Noel, a humorous reinvention of the classic novel.
The adventures of young Pip and accompanying band of characters, including household names Magwitch and Miss Havisham, are practically ingrained in our collective consciousness and here their tale is depicted with great gusto in a colourful comic style adaptation.
Growing up in rural Kent, Pip’s sedate life is utterly turned on its head by a terrifying graveyard encounter with an escaped convict. Behold Magwitch, one of Dickens’ most memorable characters, whose fierce demands for sustenance and a file to saw off his iron manacles will have sensitive souls agog.
Pip’s compliance here is a decision that proves to be momentous. When Magwitch is subsequently recaptured, he exits the stage but remains lurking in the wings of Pip’s life.
Dickens’ epic novel is presented in bright cartoon illustrations. Although Jack Noel admits that the original 1861 text has been ‘cut down a bit,’ snippets of Dickens’ own words are interspersed throughout. This is particularly potent in scenes featuring the marvellous Miss Havisham, the famously cobwebby wealthy spinster who asks Pip to be a playdate for her adopted daughter, Estella. Miss Havisham wishes Estella to capture Pip’s affections, for her embittered soul loathes all men.
‘Break their hearts, my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy.’
Eek! From here Noel’s revised narrative picks up and becomes a rattling read, as an unknown benefactor steps in and sweeps Pip off to new adventures in Victorian London. A novel that was originally 544 pages long is condensed into child friendly text and comic doodles.
Ideal for fans of the Tom Gates and Wimpy Kid books and a fun first step into Dickensian drama.
Great Expectations by Jack Noel is published by Egmont, 272 pages.