Estella’s Revenge | Barbara Havelocke

Barbara Havelocke and her book Estella's Revenge


Based on the character of Estella from Dickens’s Great Expectations, this is the story of a woman’s existence in a man’s world.

Barbara Havelocke brings to life what might have happened before, during and after the original text. This isn’t a retelling, but Estella’s side of the story as she is relentlessly educated by Miss Havisham in becoming hard-hearted and unfeeling. There are echoes of Great Expectations in some key moments and familiar characters, but there’s no need to know Dickens’s work to be completely absorbed in this fantastic feminist tale.

Estella’s Revenge: book review & synopsis

The plot is fast-paced and riveting. There are some moments that are recognisable, such as Pip’s arrival at Satis House, and some that are breathtakingly new and audacious, but totally believable as Estella emerges into society.

Estella is a complex, beguiling and multifaceted character. At times it’s hard to like her disdainful attitude and her malevolent streak. She can be emotionally and physically cruel. At other times it’s hard not to love her for her unflinching honesty, her fortitude and her attempts to keep her emotions in check, especially when she is most vulnerable after her marriage to Drummle.

Her story ranges from 1821 to 1835 in a dual timeline that reverberates with Estella’s strong voice. She mesmerises, entertains, attracts and repulses in equal measure.

What is most impactful, however, is the way themes are developed. Havelocke considers nature and nurture and the way we are shaped by those who impact our childhood. There’s a compelling feminist strand that is sometimes brutal, adding drama as Estella finds herself in an abusive marriage. Society and convention are depicted to perfection, with everything including fashion and food; revolution, crime and politics; and love and servitude woven into the story.

Estella’s Revenge is a triumph. Its dark, Gothic story deserves rereading, as there is so much to discover about Estella. I have a feeling this is going to become a modern classic every bit as lauded as Great Expectations. It’s not to be missed and I hope we’ll see more of Estella in the future.

Estella’s Revenge by Barbara Havelocke is out now (Canelo Hera, HB, £18.99) and available from Amazon.

Read more fiction reviews by Linda Hill including My Favourite Mistake by Marian Keyes, The Intruders by Louise Jensen, A Lesson In Cruelty by Harriet Tyce, Every Move You Make by C.L. Taylor and Every Smile You Fake by Dorothy Koomson.