A rags to riches story - for more than one character. Like Dickens’ other novels, it was originally published in chapters in periodicals, so it’s broken up into manageable chunks, with most chapters ending at a turning point, so you want to read on.
Pip is an orphan being raised by his strict sister and henpecked husband Joe, a blacksmith. A wealthy woman (who was left standing at the altar and has lived in her bridal gown ever since) invites him to play with her ward, Estella, each week. She is a little older than Pip, and mocks him and toys with his affections.
**** SPOILERS FOLLOW ****
When a few years later, Pip receives an unexpected inheritance, he goes to London to become a gentleman, and hopes his new found position will enable him to woo Estella. However, he becomes arrogant and feckless and is embarrassed by Joe – who is the kindest character in the novel.
It transpires the inheritance was actually from a convict Pip gave food to when he was a child, and who was transported to Australia where he eventually became a respectable wealthy man. Pip struggles to accept this unsavoury fact, though in the end he risks much to help his benefactor one last time.
It’s a good yarn, but part of the interest is that whilst Pip is ostensibly the hero, he’s not a very likeable character, which gives it an interesting edge.