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The Mould of Time by Robin Dermond Horspool (Austin & Macauley, £8.99)
JANUARY, 1882. An article in the London Pictorial Intelligencer reports on the death, by accidental burning, of a wealthy widow and “patroness of charitable and philanthropic concerns”, Mrs Estella Eldon. Mrs Eldon, the notice continues, was the only adopted daughter of the ‘wealthy but eccentric Miss Estelle Havisham…’
Lovers of Dickens will, at this point, feel their skin begin to tingle with excitement. Because Miss Havisham is, of course, the wealthy, embittered recluse who, for reasons very much of her own, appears to take the young Pip Pirrip, hero of Dickens’ Great Expectations, under her wing. And Mrs Eldon is Estella, the young woman for whom Pip forms a hopeless passion.
In Great Expectations, Miss Havisham’s heart is shrivelled and shrunken, broken years ago when she was jilted at the altar. She lives a withered, worn-out life amid the ruins of her wedding feast in a decaying, cobweb-shrouded Kentish mansion. And she plans to use Estella as the beautiful, heartless instrument of her revenge against men… But how did she become the embittered old harridan of Great Expectations?
In this murkily Dickensian novel, Yorkshire artist and writer Robin Dermond Horspool tells, through the voice of a Victorian journalist researching the early life of Mrs Eldon’s adoptive mother, the story of Miss Havisham’s younger days. And what a tale it is; one of love, heartbreak, deception, revenge … and even murder.
Dickens would have loved it.