A masterpiece in the study of corruption, guilt, revenge, obsession, ambition, class snobbery and redemption. Dickens, I dare say, at his best. The characters are brilliant both as individuals and as symbols -- Miss Haversham, Magwitch, Estella, Joe, and of course Pip. This is about as gritty as one can get. (I'm always surprised when someone says to me, "Your novels are so dark!" I can only assume they didn't read Dickens, or Hardy, or George Elliott. Snort.)In Miss Haversham's rotting mansion, Satis House, (word play on satisfy? Stasis?) Dickens created the perfect Gothic setting to explore the corrosive power of self-pity, revenge and narcissism. As though no one save her has ever been hurt by love and its misuse, Miss Havisham nurses her pain and uses everyone around her as props for her own revenge. Her body decays, the wedding dress she never removes decays, the wedding feast decays, the house decays around her like a rotting crust. A portrayal of decadence which has no parallel, and which symbolizes Dickens' feelings about the aristocracy. Much has been written about this book, and its many layers of meaning, and it all adds pleasure to the book, but really, it's one of those novels that is just such a pleasure to read. Enjoy.