Wednesday, September 11, 2013

HAVISHAM by Ronald Frame

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

The literary world is often split on its opinions about authors using the worlds and characters of other authors to write their own novels.  I happen to like it.  I think it is the best kind of fanfiction when an author imagines a backstory for a famous character or speculates on "what happened after."  In his new novel, Ronald Frame explains to readers why Miss Havisham of GREAT EXPECTATIONS fame became the vengeful madwoman in the wedding dress.

Catherine Havisham is the only child of a wealthy brewer who has high hopes for his daughter. In order to make sure that his daughter learns to mix with the highest in society, Catherine's father sends her to live with a down-on-its-luck noble family.  While there, Catherine meets the man who will change her life forever.

For the most part, I really enjoyed Frame's novel. I think his portrayal of Catherine in the early years was pretty spot-on.  I didn't particularly care for the fact that Frame switches from scene to scene so abruptly. It can make it hard to follow the narrative.  His backstory for Catherine Havisham is completely believable, though.  Until the wedding. The book fell apart for me when Frame's story meets up with Dickens' story.  It just felt so much weaker than the rest of the book and I found myself losing interest. Catherine's descent from promising young woman into the Miss Havisham of Dickens fame feel a bit forced and too quick.  Still, I thought Frame was very creative and I enjoyed the book overall.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended with reservations. Some readers may find Frame's style of writing a little frustrating but his backstory for Catherine Havisham is creative and interesting.  The ending may be a disappointment to some.

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