Despite the fact I have an English lit degree, became a high school English teacher, am a book addict AND a writer, I barely read any of the required books in high school! They BORED me senseless. Books that may be good if I picked them up now, were not at ALL interesting to my teenage self who thought Sweet Valley High should have been on the curriculum. But there was ONE book that grabbed me – Great Expectations by Charles’s Dickens.
And I’d go further and say that it was one particular character in this book that captivated me. Already a true romantic at fifteen years old, my heart went out to Miss Havisham.
(NB. For anyone who hasn’t been lucky/sensible enough to read Great Expectations, Miss Havisham is a wealthy spinster who lives in an old ruined mansion with her adopted daughter Estella (love THAT name too). She is not depicted kindly. Dickens called her “the witch of the place”. The truly fascinating thing about Miss Havisham is that she was stood up twenty-nine minutes before she was due to marry the love of her life. She was of course already dressed in her wedding gown and alas, she then refused to take it off and spent her life wearing it.)
Fascinating character don’t you think? That’s if you don’t start to think about how she would have SMELT or LOOKED after wearing the same dress for so many years. It’s TRAGIC actually.
In my newest release JILTED, the heroine did to the hero what Miss Havisham did to her. She left him at the altar and then she fled town. BUT, when she left town, she left her wedding dress draped across her bed and her godmother (whom she lived with) never moved it. When the heroine returns ten years later, she finds the dress, tries it on and then falls asleep wearing it. Now a spinster herself, she recognises her likeness to Miss Havisham and all but rips the dress off not wanting to become this character.
I had a lot of fun with this image and love it when an old text is referred to like this in a modern novel I’m reading. Would love to hear of any books you’ve read where this has also occurred? Or just tell me your favourite classic and maybe I’ll work a way of putting that into my next book!
If you’d like to read excerpts or find out more about my novels, please visit my website at www.rachaeljohns.com (NB. At this stage Jilted is only available to purchase in bookstores in Australia and New Zealand or on Kindle in Australian/New Zealand territories).