Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Havisham” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,396 ratings  ·  284 reviews

Before she became the immortal and haunting Miss Havisham of Great Expectations, she was Catherine, a young woman with all of her dreams ahead of her. Spry, imperious, she is the daughter of a wealthy brewer. But she is never far from the smell of hops and the arresting letters on the brewhouse wal
Hardcover, 357 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Picador (first published January 1st 2012)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Havisham, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Havisham

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,396 ratings  ·  284 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Havisham
Katie Lumsden
Sep 24, 2020 rated it liked it
A slightly mixed read. I really liked the writing style but I feel like a retelling really needs to say something new about the original story, and I didn't feel this did necessarily. So I enjoyed it, but I don't think it'll stay with me. ...more
Feb 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Dear Mr. Frame:

I recently read Havisham, your prequel and retelling of Charles Dickens Great Expectations, one of my favorite Victorian novels. Your choice to expand the back story of minor character Miss Havisham, the most infamous misandry in literary history, was brilliant. Jilted at the altar she was humiliated and heartbroken, living the rest of her days in her tattered white wedding dress in the decaying family mansion, Satis House. Few female characters have left such a chilling impressio
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Ronald Frame's Havisham opens with a great scene in which a young Estella meets Miss Havisham for the first time and is shocked by what she sees - the dress, the veil, the slippers - all important details from Great Expectations reiterated here. This vignette is in short, clipped sentences, and almost like a brief running-commentary snapshot into Miss Havisham's mind. It's a brilliant way to kick off a story of one woman's descent into madness and 24-hour bridal gown wearing.

Unfortunately, this
Apr 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, arcs
I should start by saying that I came in with GREAT EXPECTATIONS HAR HAR. Sorry. Now that that's out of the way ...

I went to Book Expo America last year and Havisham was one of the two books I was most excited about receiving (I might as well add that the version I read is actually an ARC). I adored Great Expectations, and Miss Havisham is such a wacky character (a wealthy woman jilted on her wedding day, she stops all the clocks in her home at the time she found out, and eventually adopts a youn
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

Arguably one of Dickens' best known characters, Miss Havisham has intrigued readers since the release of Great Expectations. I'm not a fan of the book itself, but even I am not immune to the eerie mystic that clings to the tattered remnants of her dilapidated mansion and decaying wedding dress. Like the novel or not, it's hard not to wonder how one could end up as psychologically grief-stricken as the mistress of Satis House
Diane S ☔
Oct 21, 2013 rated it liked it
I read Great Expectations in high school, which I am sure many of us did, and it is actually do for a re-read, well someday. I do remember Miss Havisham as being a nasty and bitter old biddy.

In this remarkably well written novel, the author tries to enlighten the reader on what made her the mean old character she was. The story starts when she is young, only her father bringing her up, a brewery providing the family fortune. I enjoyed this story, did feel sorry for her in places but always felt
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like many other readers I have been fascinated with the character of Catherine Havisham since I first encountered her in Great Expectations at the tender age of 13. Jilted on her wedding day and frozen in time and bitterness in Satis House, she endeavours to wreak vengeance on treacherous, unreliable men via her ward, the irresistible Estella. Ronald Frame uncovers the human side of Miss Havisham, revealing an ambitious and vivacious young woman not yet tainted by the trauma of broken relationsh ...more
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an experiment in imaginative writing that works admirably.Telling the story of Catherine Havisham from her childhood -- a prequel to 'Great Expectations' -- it is clear,at least in Ronald Frame's fantasy, that Miss Havisham once had great expectations herself! Using his literary skills to some effect,Frame delineates the whole sorry story which leads the self-contained brewer's daughter Catherine to the fateful morning of her 'phantom' wedding to Charles Compeyson,and its deathless after ...more
Scottish author Ronald Frame brings readers the story behind one of the most intriguing aspects of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations: Miss Havisham’s madness. In an accomplished first-person voice (adapted from Frame’s original play for BBC Radio 3), Catherine Havisham tells of her early life, from the hop-soaked streets around the family’s Kent brewery to the austere halls of Durley Chase, where Catherine is sent to be ‘finished’ as a proper lady. Her life seems rich – filled with her father ...more
Anne Tucker
well, I read it just after finishing Great Expectations (and Mister Pip, another excellent novel inspired by GE) and was intrigued to find 'another weay of looking' ast Miss Havisham. It was fine, enjoyable but somehow didnt really add anything for me. I had presumed we would think her less 'mad' and unhinged ... but for me the TV film last Xmas with the much younger Miss Havisham did do that. She came over as a real person, who could well have lost it following such dreadful treatment, loss of ...more
I picked Havisham in a bookstore in Paris, during our holiday. Being a fan of Great Expectations I was all excitement that such a book should exist and I couldn't wait to dive into its story, Catherine Havisham's story. However, the more I read, the more disappointed I grew. The book resembles a poem to me, but one that sounds flat and evokes no feelings in the reader's heart. It was as if I watched everything happening to Catherine from a great distance and heard the words she spoke through a t ...more
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book!! Really well written and makes you feel things! Pretty sure I took the wrong lesson I was supposed to take from this book which was don't trust anybody!! Very complex characters and gives good psychological background. Lots of haunting lines:

On Compeyson's death (this is not a spoiler if you've read Great Expectations which I would recommend doing before this book):

"A destroyer such as he, who is destroyed in his turn, he's owed no grief" (347).
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A haunting and eery portrayal of the psychology of the girl who became the woman who became the ghost in GREAT EXPECTATIONS.
Modern and readable but paid homage to Dickens in its eccentricity and character.
Felt very absorbed into the narration, you just kept turning page after page.
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Havisham, Ronald Frame has taken inspiration from the Charles Dickens’s classic novel Great Expectations and has recreated the supposed life of the ill fated spinster Catherine Havisham. There has always been much speculation into the mystery of Satis House, and the portrayal of Miss Havisham left in her decaying mansion surrounded by the ghost of her wedding paraphernalia presents an iconic image of English literature.
Catherine Havisham is such a fascinating character that any story that can
Marilena Reutzel
Nov 23, 2013 rated it liked it
When I heard that someone was finally telling Ms. Havisham's story, I was absolutely thrilled. I don't think many would disagree when I say that she is the most captivating and mysterious character in Great Expectations. I was very much hooked when I started the book, and I found the story Frame created to be very much believable. I enjoyed sympathizing with her and seeing her as a human being, not just a heartless man-hater.

However, my enjoyment waned when she declined into madness. It all see
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Wide Sargasso Sea set the bar really high, in my opinion, for this type of character-centric prequel. When there is such a wonderful and iconic character, such as Miss Havisham, and you hear someone is writing their back story it is easy to get excited about it. Unfortunately, this book does not live up to such great expectations. A character like this deserves a thorough psychological exploration so you can see how they became the person you already know them to be. This felt more like snippets ...more
My favorite genre of fiction is historical fiction and I like a good Victorian yarn, especially one rich in period details. I was expecting this book to be able to stand on its own as an enjoyable work of fiction without the need for the reader to be familiar with Dickens's, Catherine Havisham.

However, I'm not sure how well this novel works for readers who aren't familiar with Charles Dickens's 'Great Expectations'. The prologue opens with the narration of a brief scene, less than two pages lon
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. As you may have guessed by the very title of this book, this book is the story of arguably one of Charles Dickens' most memorable characters. Who didn't wonder about the story behind old Miss Havisham and her tattered wedding clothes. Even if you haven't read "Great Expectations" you still may be familiar with the character of Miss Havisham in her massive decaying house surrounded by things that showcase what was meant to be or at least what Miss Havisham thought was meant to be. This ...more
Jul 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I was disappointed, overall, in the way the narrative differed from what Dickens actually wrote in Great Expectations, particularly in the ending scenes. And there just wasn't enough psychology involved. While the reasons for her breakdown after the jilting were fairly clear (I thought the fact that she was (view spoiler) was a smart idea, story-wise,) the reasoning behind what she did with Estella was never really examined, and I'd say that's about 50% of the al ...more
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm sorry, but I was hoping for a less, um, boring novel explaining why Miss Havisham went totally batshit crazy. Dickens didn't bother to make his characters believable. I'm not sure why this author did, unless the impetus was to present a real-life scenario that could have happened to actual humans. This book starts out like a Jane Austen novel, but midway through, the table full of rotting uneaten wedding food is supposed to speak for itself. But it doesn't. Dickens created one of most unforg ...more
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book had such great promise, but half the way through, I am still waiting for it to hook me. The character of Miss Havisham lived in such madness, I expected some seriously bad stuff to happen. But we've already met Compeyson, and no one around Catherine trusts him. How will this be utter destruction for her? Seems like it's just a big 'told you so." Additionally, the writing style is off-putting for me. I most enjoy books where the writer's style disappears into the story, but this book se ...more
Emi Bevacqua
Jun 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Great Expectations was my favorite from English Lit in high school, so I enjoyed the opportunity to revisit Miss Havisham, Mr Jaggers, Estella, and Pip. Reading this didn't fill me with the same awe as in reading Copperfield, but Ronald Frame is a celebrated Scottish writer, and he's come up with a thorough back story for spooky, haunted Miss Catherine Havisham.

This book's graphic cover art is what first got my attention, but I wished the big blocky chapter heading font had been more in keeping
May 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Miss Havisham growing up in wealthy middle class England and then how when jilted at the altar she falls into a descending madness. I enjoyed the story but felt it frustrating read as well. Even though Miss Havisham led a sheltered life, she came across as totally naïve and un intelligent ( in the way of human relationships). Also the story line stretched the imagination into ridiculous territory (Mr. Havisham had married a cook, and there was a half brother similar in age t ...more
2.75 stars
I never would've finished a paper version of this book
The first half is very slow and boring
Kai Charles(Fiction State Of Mind)
I enjoyed the first half of this book. Learning about Havisham's childhood was interesting as well as how her brother was introduced into the story. But I struggled a lot with the second half. Mostly because in Great Expectations it seemed Havisham snapped immediately after the jilting while in this book she plods around a bit and then seems to decide to go "mad" after discovering a secret about her jilted lover. The ending chapters just are a retelling of the original story which I didn't enjoy ...more
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bea-arc-2013

Dear Reader,

I suppose the first question should be: does one have to have read Great Expectations before one reads Havisham? The answer, largely, is "no", but I think that you can't really get as much enjoyment or understanding out of the book if you haven't. Plus, Great Expectations is just SUCH a good book, why NOT read it?! :) However, much in the vein of Wicked alongside The Wizard of Oz, there will be plenty of characters and situations you will recognize almost like old frien
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
This is a highly plausible and sometimes heart-wrenching account of the life of Miss Havisham prior to and during the events of Dickens’ Great Expectations.

Through that novel, we know her as a woman unhinged, determined to wreak her revenge on the male sex through her adopted daughter, Estella. But in Havisham, Ronald Frame fleshes her out to show us different facets of her character, and through a very clever, first person narration, conveys much to the reader of the deceits which surround her
The classic image of Miss Havisham in her decaying wedding dress, entombed in the mausoleum of Satis House, is surpassed by an even more disturbing image in Ronald Frame’s imagining of her back story: that of a young Catherine masturbating.

When we finally get to the epochal Wedding Day scene, I roundly cursed Frame for planting a seed of a thought in my mind, that Catherine Havisham responded in such a Grand Guignol fashion to being jilted because she instinctively knew she would now never be fu
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was so excited to read Havisham and the cover drew me in even more. Finally, we get to see a glimpse of the young Ms. Havisham and the mysterious man who broke her heart, causing her to become the famous recluse we’ve all come to know and love! Ms. Havisham is arguably the best female literary character of all time. She’s rich, unhinged, unapologetic, and set on destruction. Ronald Frame was given some of the greatest literary material to work with and unfortunately he dropped the ball.

Susan Trofatter
Jan 07, 2014 rated it liked it
I love Dickens' Great Expectations which I reread from time to time. As I also taught it, I have probably read it 40-50 times. To say that I was excited to learn that a well-regarded Scottish author had written a prequel focusing on the early life of Miss Havisham is an understatement, to say the least. She is one of the most interesting characters ever created for a novel, and I have always thought that the mystery of her background made her so. I couldn't wait to read it, and it was on the top ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Book Giveaways: Win Havisham by Ronald Frame! 1 4 Dec 04, 2013 09:17AM  
Free Books, .99, ...: Win Havisham by Ronald Frame! 1 10 Dec 04, 2013 09:16AM  
Book Haven: Win Havisham by Ronald Frame! 1 2 Dec 04, 2013 09:16AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Always Young and Restless: My Life On and Off America's #1 Daytime Drama
  • The Silk Thief (Convict Girls #3)
  • Behind the Sun (Convict Girls #1)
  • Credo
  • Vile Bodies
  • Twice a Wish (Goddess Isles, #2)
  • The Love Square
  • Once a Myth (Goddess Isles, #1)
  • White Like Her: My Family's Story of Race and Racial Passing
  • The Dressmaker's Secret
  • Daddy
  • The Hunt (The Twisted Kingdoms, #1)
  • The Bass Rock
  • Strands of Truth
  • Too Much Lip
  • Third a Kiss (Goddess Isles, #3)
  • Superlife
  • Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You
See similar books…
Ronald Frame was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1953, and educated there and at Oxford. He is the author of thirteen internationally published works of fiction, is an award-winning television and radio scriptwriter, and has recently received international recognition for his short stories set in the fictitious Scottish spa town of Carnbeg.

In 1984 he was joint-winner of the first Betty Trask Prize f

Related Articles

'Tis the season of the beach read, that herald of summer sun and vacation vibes! Whether you're the type of reader who has very strict rules...
4 likes · 1 comments
“Life is an enigma. We have to approach it not scientifically but poetically.” 6 likes
“We were perfectly decorous together. It took the will of both of us. I trusted him with me, and myself with him.” 5 likes
More quotes…