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Great Expectations is one of Dickens' later works and considered one of his best. It is notable for it's more naturalistic depiction of characters; here motivations and personal viewpoints form the heart of the narrative. The story follows the arc of a young orphan's life as he first tries to raise himself to a higher station in life and finally discovers the solution to some mysteries and comes to terms with himself.
Widely seen as Eliot's greatest work, it is almost unanimously acclaimed as one of the great Victorian era novels. George Eliot (aka Mary Anne Evans) interweaves the diverse lives and changing fortunes in a provincial community to create a richly nuanced and moving drama. Hailed by Virginia Woolf in The Times Literary Supplement, 1919 as 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people'.
The novel tells the story of Tess whose fate is changed when her ne'er-do-well father tries to improve the family fortune via a misguided association with a local well to do family. Hardy's writing produces such empathy for Tess that one is compelled to continue reading even though it is unbearable to imagine where the story will go.
When first published in 1899 the work received a mixed critical reception; praise for its outstanding writing style and condemnation for it's frank presentation of the limits of a woman's role and its sexual openness. At the time the book only had one printing. After it's rediscovery in 1969 the book has been praised for its treatment of issues facing women and its wonderful style.
The Bleak House is Dickens' satire of a decaying society. Its story draws together a group of disparate people through the interminable suit of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce at the Court of Chancery. Often described as a savage, though also comic, critique of Victorian society.
Another classic Dickens satire, this time at the expense of America where he had recently travelled (see Dickens' "American Notes"). This is the story of the Chuzzlewits - plenty of cunning, intrigue, greed and bucket loads of selfishness embellish this brilliant story not to mention a dose or two of moral appreciation.
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