In Jasper Fforde's "book world," Miss Havisham is a speed demon who races cars with Mr. Toad. This seems... out of character, based on my understanding of her.

Is it just funny because it's unexpected, or is there a joke or reference I'm not getting?


2 Answers 2


There's nothing in Great Expectations that would suggest that Ms. Havisham would be interested in speed at all: as far as I remember, we only ever see her inside Satis House, wearing her wedding-dress, living in darkness. The closest we get to seeing Ms. Havisham at speed is when Pip is instructed to walk her around her dining table in Chapter 11 of Great Expectations, but even that isn't very fast:

She looked all round the room in a glaring manner, and then said, leaning on me while her hand twitched my shoulder, "Come, come, come! Walk me, walk me!"

I made out from this, that the work I had to do, was to walk Miss Havisham round and round the room. Accordingly, I started at once, and she leaned upon my shoulder, and we went away at a pace that might have been an imitation (founded on my first impulse under that roof) of Mr. Pumblechook's chaise-cart.

She was not physically strong, and after a little time said, "Slower!" Still, we went at an impatient fitful speed, and as we went, she twitched the hand upon my shoulder, and worked her mouth, and led me to believe that we were going fast because her thoughts went fast. After a while she said, "Call Estella!" so I went out on the landing and roared that name as I had done on the previous occasion. When her light appeared, I returned to Miss Havisham, and we started away again round and round the room.

I suspect that you're right that it's meant to be funny because it's unexpected: Ms. Havisham the ex-shut-in who's now become a daredevil and grown a need for speed, and is now a Cool Old Lady. This also fits in with her character in Thursday Next, where she's generally a superspy, pulling off impossible feats to save the day. In this regard, she's a bit like Granny Puckett from Hoodwinked, who turns out to be a little bit more active than you'd expect from Red Riding Hood's Grandmother (who we only see in bed in the fairy tale!).

Just 'cos you bring him up, it is perfectly in character for Mr. Toad to be obsessed with motor-cars (and to be vary of police attention).

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    'ex-shut-in who's now become a daredevil ' Is this right? It's a while since I've read the books, but isn't it the case that the Miss Havisham of Bookworld plays Miss Havisham the recluse in the novel, but that isn't 'who she is' so much as 'what she does. So the bookperson who plays the recluse may always have been a daredevil off-page, just one who had to wait for internal combustion engines to get going to find her true expression.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 15:26
  • @Spagirl Remember how the low-level characters staying with Thursday in ”Lost in a Good Book” started out as amorphous blobs before slowly evolving into proper characters? I think the suggestion is that all characters — including Mrs Haversham — started out like that, and it was becoming “recruited” into a Dickins novel that gave her the complexity that allowed her to become an effective Jurisfiction officer. So while it’s possible that she was different before being “recruited”, I think there’s an aspect of picking characters correct for the role and an aspect of evolving into your character.
    – Gaurav
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 16:43

Gaurav's reply and quote from the book would suggest to me that Miss Haversham did indeed nurture a need for speed, within her self-imposed withdrawal from the world. Also, from personal experience, any fiery spat with one's partner usually ended with a slammed front door and red-lined, wheel-spinning,law-breaking take off in the family car....whether a Porsche 911 or Austin 1100 !!!

Actually, her "hand twitching on my shoulder" makes me think that maybe she had time-travelled and experienced throttling up a motorbike engine!!??

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    Welcome to the site. I'm not quite sure whether this is a stand-alone answer or more like a comment on Gaurav's answer. Did you intend to respond to Gaurav, or to provide your own, separate answer to the question?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 18:23

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