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TV Review: Great Expectations, BBC 2011


As a recently born Dickens fan I was highly excited about the new BBC adaptation of Great Expectations. I have heard my dad natter on and on about how both the original film and the book are brilliant but I never really got round to them. BBC dramas are usually absolutely brilliant as they really capture the essence of ‘period-drama’. Some say that they’re quite dull and boring because they’re all the same but I had a feeling that Great Expectations was going to be different.

Without having ever read Great Expectations I was quite surprised at the ease at which I was able to follow the plot. At the moment, I am reading Bleak House, another Dicken’s novel, and whilst it’s not too complex it is insanely long and you can really hear Dicken’s point of view of society at the time shining through. I suppose applied to Great Expectations as I could really sense Dicken’s views on the classes and the way children were brought up.

In short, Great Expectations is about a boy, Pip, who lives in the marshes. The story begins with Pip helping an escaped convict by stealing him a file and a piece of pie. The convict is soon captured though he touched by the boy’s good heart and does not say who helped him get the file. Close to his home is Satis House, where Lady Haversham and her adopted daughter live. One day, quite out of the blue, Pip is invited to Satis House and is told to come and play with Estella once a week. Pip is under the impression that Miss Haversham intends Pip to marry Estella and that is why he is invited round and is very disappointed when suddenly Miss Haversham gives Pip ‘what he wants’ and pays for his apprenticeship at the forge. Pip goes back to his life as a blacksmith until one day he is called back to Satis House. He is told that Estella is to leave for London and realises that Lady Haversham has just been stringing him along, when in fact, she had abosutely no intention of letting him wed Estella. Not long after, Pip receives a letter telling him he has a benefactor who is going to pay for him to go to London and learn to be a gentlemen. Pip is convinced that it is Lady Haversham’s work and again, it is so that he will be a good suitor for Estella. So Pip departs for London and his new life as a young gentlemen of Great Expectations, but things are plain sailing, nor are they as they seem.

I have to say, the thing that struck me most was just how beautiful Douglas Booth is. He is far to hot for  Dickens adaptation though that was a ploy by the BBC to encourage teenagers to watch it. Douglas booth is a fairly unknown, British actor/model, though after this adaptation he’s sure to have the job offers rolling in. In addition, Booth is all set to star in Romeo and Juliet in 2012 alongside Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick. He fitted the character of Pip perfectly, transforming effortlessly from a blacksmith to a true London Gentleman. Pip doesn’t get treated very well throughout this story and his face and mannerisms just made your heart melt and you couldn’t help but love him and his good and pure heart.

Lady Haversham was played by Gillian Anderson, and at 43, she’s the youngest actress to play the character on screen. Her interpretation of Lady Haversham was truly chilling and she captured the character perfectly. Every movement and every word was eerie and ghostly. The makeup was fantastic, she looked as white as a sheet and the burn on her hand looked disgustingly real, even her lips were just perfect. Kudos to the costume and make-up department. Ray Winstone portrayed Abel Magwitch and at the beginning he was absolutely terrifying but by the end he had softened by heart – the mark of a truly brilliant actor. There were also appearances from David Suchet and his hardened attitude was very different from the Peppy Poirot that I’m used to. Vanessa Kirby played Estella and she was the only character who I thought didn’t look the part even though she acted it very well.

I cannot say how accurate the television adaptation is in relation to the book; however, if you just take the short three-part series by itself it was absolutely superb. I was captivated from the very beginning and each day I found myself waiting for the next part. This series had me shocked and astounded and I even broke down in tears at one point. It is an absolutely beautiful drama that touched my heart and is easily my favourite BBC adaption to date. The costumes, the music, the acting – everything was superbly British and Dickens-esque. This was the perfect Christmas drama and if you haven’t already watched it, catch up on BBC iPlayer now! In fact .. I think I’ll be off to watch it again.

If you liked this post, check out these:
Book Review: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
6 Chilling Classics to Read this Halloween

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Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

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  1. Jen
    2nd January 2012 / 3:27 PM

    I will deffo have to give this a watch!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Great review ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy New Year btw!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ xox

  2. Mozzypop
    2nd January 2012 / 5:36 PM

    I thought this drama was great aswell… I was glued to it! It did the book justice I thought ๐Ÿ™‚

    Dayner x

  3. 9th May 2016 / 3:59 PM

    I have to admit I don’t think I have seen this adaptation of Great Expectations – I shall perhaps have to try and look it out. x

  4. 9th May 2016 / 4:33 PM

    I haven’t seen the adaptation but in all honesty I don’t think it’s my kind of thing, x

  5. 9th May 2016 / 5:56 PM

    I have not seen this adaptation of Great Expectations, I do love this type of thing but I have to be in the mood to watch it. I will look out for it and save it to my things I want to watch

  6. Corinne C
    9th May 2016 / 7:40 PM

    This sounds fantastic, also the photos are stunning, it looks like a very powerful adaptations. The BBC do some amazing dramas!

    Corinne x

  7. 9th May 2016 / 8:55 PM

    Great Expectations was one of the books I used for my Dissertation ‘ The Representation of The Fallen Woman In Nineteenth Century Literature’ and it was a fascinating read. The first chapter was Great Expectations and Oliver Twist and I examined the concept of capitalism and how it created two constructs the bourgeoisie fallen woman – GE and the fallen prostitute- Oliver Twist. Dickens is a great author to critique and analyze.

  8. Victoria Jenkins
    9th May 2016 / 9:10 PM

    Oh my goodness, I didn’t even know this existed. Once upon a time when I was studying I would of done anything to not have to hear that title again but now I am intrigued!

  9. Reclusive Fox
    10th May 2016 / 12:38 AM

    I’ve not read the book but it is on my (massive) to read list. I’ll give the show a watch though, it looks really good.

  10. 10th May 2016 / 1:24 AM

    This does sound like a series I’d like! I’ll have to check it out. They picked some great actors!

  11. 10th May 2016 / 8:48 AM

    I have read the book but not seen it on TV. Great review.

  12. 10th May 2016 / 11:59 AM

    I have read the book but I’ve never actually seen the TV show, definitely going to put it on my to watch list! xx

  13. Harriet @ Toby&Roo
    10th May 2016 / 12:06 PM

    I have read the book but not seen the TV series – and the other one I just can’t watch because anything with “haunted” terrifies me haha! H x

  14. Cassandra Mayers
    10th May 2016 / 12:59 PM

    Oh im so glad you posted this or I would have never known and its totally my sort of thing to watch ๐Ÿ˜€ Thankyou

  15. Melanie Edjourian
    10th May 2016 / 1:52 PM

    I didn’t even know this was on, will see if i can find it on catch up, thanks for sharing.

  16. 10th May 2016 / 7:20 PM

    This would be a great series to watch thanks for the thumbs up.

  17. Beth
    10th May 2016 / 10:25 PM

    This sounds like a great series. I have never watched it

  18. Leanne Dolan
    10th May 2016 / 11:05 PM

    I studied this at school so it would be good to watch the screen adaptation!

  19. Kira L Curtis
    11th May 2016 / 12:34 AM

    I loved this version of great expectations! Douglas Booth again woop! It really gripped me and I really want to watch it again!

  20. 11th May 2016 / 11:35 AM

    I love the Great Expectations book but often find tv/film adaptations disappointing. I do remember enjoying this one though!

  21. Subhadrika Sen
    11th May 2016 / 12:01 PM

    It was one of my fav books. i have not seen this adaptation it. But am eagerly waiting to get hold of it .

  22. Lana Lytwyn
    11th May 2016 / 1:56 PM

    I am a huge British literature fan and I now need to see this adaptation! Thank you for the recommendation.

  23. Ashley Chase
    11th May 2016 / 2:57 PM

    This is one of my favorite novels! How have I not heard about this series?! I think I will give it a try to see what I think.

  24. Amy Scott
    11th May 2016 / 4:18 PM

    I’m not usually one for period dramas but seriously after watching Downtown Abbey I find myself trawling netflix for mini series like this! Great review, I’m kind of ashamed to have a to-watch list as long as I have…

  25. Cheyenne Skyeforest
    11th May 2016 / 6:25 PM

    I am not really one for dramas, I prefer fantasy & sci-fi. I prefer Dr. Who over Dickens. lol

  26. So far so Sabine
    11th May 2016 / 7:39 PM

    That a series can touch you like that is beautiful. It must be worth it to watch in that case. Especially after reading the book. http://www.sofarsosabine.com

  27. Kalliopi Sakellariou
    12th May 2016 / 2:44 AM

    Uhh I can feel you here. I am in love and when I say in love I literally die for every episode. Thank’s for sharing I am a huge fan.

  28. CourtneyLynne Storms
    12th May 2016 / 3:07 AM

    What?!?! Great Expectations is a favorite book of mine!!!! I’m so jealous y’all overseas have a tv show! I wish it would be picked up here in the states.

  29. 12th May 2016 / 3:54 AM

    I have to admit I have never heard of Great Expectations. I will have to check it out for sure!

  30. Karla Pitzen
    12th May 2016 / 4:54 AM

    I read the book many, many years ago. I would have never thought of Gillian Anderson. I think it would be interesting to see her in that role.

  31. Alison
    12th May 2016 / 8:21 AM

    You totally sold me on the show! It looks and sounds so good! I may need to read the book again before watching it though! http://www.cheerykitchen.com

  32. 12th May 2016 / 8:44 AM

    this is a great movie tip! I’ve never heard of the book and I think I should start with it before watching the film ๐Ÿ˜‰

  33. 12th May 2016 / 9:55 AM

    I love BBC dramas! I don’t think I ever watched this one when it was on, will have to keep an eye out for repeats.

  34. Shanna Rogers
    12th May 2016 / 1:35 PM

    I hope it comes to netflix! I haven’t been able to catch any BBC dramas (mainly because I don’t know where to catch them here in the states.)

  35. 12th May 2016 / 1:39 PM

    I have seen a lot of Great Expectations movies but I haven’t seen this BBC drama. My favorite Great Expectations was the one that has Gwyneth Paltrow as the main character, I simply loved the modern take on the book.

  36. Rodanthi Dimou
    12th May 2016 / 10:21 PM

    I haven’t seen that BBC drama series that you are describing, but I am sure it’s great! BBC is well known for its great tv productions, I have watched many of them. I will surely watch this one, when it will become available to my country.

  37. 13th May 2016 / 2:07 PM

    Oh I had no idea there was a Great Expectations drama, this seems like a fantastic one and glad you had a great time watching (and re-watching it!?). I am a huge Netflix person off late and if Netflix plays it I will be sure to watch it haha.
    xx, Kusum | http://www.sveeteskapes.com

  38. Jessica
    13th May 2016 / 5:19 PM

    Book has been always the unbeatable version. TV adaptations then received bigger expectations but still makes everyone keen on it.

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