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Paperback review: Haversham, By Ronald Frame


This novel is a prequel to Great Expectations, recounting Miss Havisham's backstory: the daughter of a wealthy brewer, she is sent to stay with a titled family to learn social airs and graces, and meets the attractive but treacherous Compeyson at a series of parties and masked balls, and ... well, we know the rest.

Ronald Frame has done a clever job; Catherine Havisham is believable, and the period is convincingly evoked. But I couldn't help wondering what the point of it all was. Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea is not only a brilliant novel in its own right, but makes it impossible ever to read Jane Eyre in the same way again. The same cannot be said of Havisham; it is consistent with its parent text, but adds nothing to it. It also outstays its welcome; there are about three false endings and the last few pages were a chore to read.