Meet Miss Havisham

If your image of Dicken’s Miss Havisham is one of an ancient crone, you are in the majority. When Helena Bonham Carter, who is 46, was approached to play the role in the new adaptation of Great Expectations, she tells the Telegraph, it was “like a slap in the face.”


But the film’s director, Mike Newell (who has led dozens of films, including Four Weddings and a Funeral and the fourth Harry Potter), explained, “if you read the book she’s actually in her 40’s.” She took the role.

Released last fall in the UK, it was recently announced that it will debut in the US this coming October 11th.

HavishamShortly after, another U.K. import, a novel that imagines Havisham’s early life will be released. It’s a fall pick by Kansas City P.L.’s Kaite Stover, who described it at the recent BEA as,

Blending two of the human race’s greatest cultural productions—Dickens and beer—Ronald Frame’s Havisham, (Macmillan/Picador) explores Catherine Havisham’s privileged upbringing as the daughter of a brewer, her jilting at the altar, and her devolution into the bitter, love-scorned woman generations of readers have grown both to loath and ultimately pity. Frame successfully transforms Catherine from simply a bitch into a lover, a child, a mother (of sorts), a sinner, and possibly a saint.

Reviewing it, The Times of London said,

Dickens provided a perfectly adequate backstory for Miss Havisham, but this re-imagining will delight readers who (like another Dickens icon) have always wanted more. You might think you know how it ends, but Frame has a talent for thrilling Victorian melodrama, and he tackles the controversial ending (Dickens wrote two versions) with superb assurance. Best of all, he’ll send you back to the original.

Great Expectations has inspired other spin-offs, most notably, Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs and Lloyd Jones’s Mister Pip (which was also made into a movie), but this is the first to be based on Havisham.

The following “featurette” includes a comment by Carter that in Dickens’ novel, “the older generation uses the younger generation to heal their own heart.”

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