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Bleak House (Professionally Annotated)

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One of Charles Dickens’s most critically admired novels, this story of a monumental and life-consuming court case features one of his most vast and varied casts of colorful characters. In Bleak House, competing claims of love and inheritance—complicated by murder—have given rise to a costly and decades-long legal battle that one litigant refers to as “the family curse.” Th One of Charles Dickens’s most critically admired novels, this story of a monumental and life-consuming court case features one of his most vast and varied casts of colorful characters. In Bleak House, competing claims of love and inheritance—complicated by murder—have given rise to a costly and decades-long legal battle that one litigant refers to as “the family curse.” The insidious London fog that rises from the river Thames and seeps into the very bones of the characters symbolizes the pervasive corruption of the legal system and the society that supports it, targets of Dickens’s satirical wrath. Displaying Dickens’s familiar panoramic sweep and brilliant characters—including the mysterious orphan Esther Summerson, her gentle guardian John Jarndyce, the haughty Lady Dedlock, and the scheming lawyer Mr. Tulkinghorn—the novel is also a bold experimental narrative that unforgettably dramatizes our most basic human conflicts.


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One of Charles Dickens’s most critically admired novels, this story of a monumental and life-consuming court case features one of his most vast and varied casts of colorful characters. In Bleak House, competing claims of love and inheritance—complicated by murder—have given rise to a costly and decades-long legal battle that one litigant refers to as “the family curse.” Th One of Charles Dickens’s most critically admired novels, this story of a monumental and life-consuming court case features one of his most vast and varied casts of colorful characters. In Bleak House, competing claims of love and inheritance—complicated by murder—have given rise to a costly and decades-long legal battle that one litigant refers to as “the family curse.” The insidious London fog that rises from the river Thames and seeps into the very bones of the characters symbolizes the pervasive corruption of the legal system and the society that supports it, targets of Dickens’s satirical wrath. Displaying Dickens’s familiar panoramic sweep and brilliant characters—including the mysterious orphan Esther Summerson, her gentle guardian John Jarndyce, the haughty Lady Dedlock, and the scheming lawyer Mr. Tulkinghorn—the novel is also a bold experimental narrative that unforgettably dramatizes our most basic human conflicts.

30 review for Bleak House (Professionally Annotated)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Shivering in unheated gaslit quarters (Mrs. Winklebottom, my plump and inquisitive landlady, treats the heat as very dear, and my radiator, which clanks and hisses like the chained ghost of a boa constrictor when it is active, had not yet commenced this stern and snowy morning), I threw down the volume I had been endeavoring to study; certainly I am not clever, neither am I intrepid nor duly digligent, as after several pages I found the cramped and tiny print an intolerable strain on my strabism Shivering in unheated gaslit quarters (Mrs. Winklebottom, my plump and inquisitive landlady, treats the heat as very dear, and my radiator, which clanks and hisses like the chained ghost of a boa constrictor when it is active, had not yet commenced this stern and snowy morning), I threw down the volume I had been endeavoring to study; certainly I am not clever, neither am I intrepid nor duly digligent, as after several pages I found the cramped and tiny print an intolerable strain on my strabismic eyes. Straightening my bonnet, I passed outdoors into the frigid, sooty streets, where shoppers bustled by in a frenzy, now rushing into the 99-cent store, bedecked with PVC Santa Claus banners, now into Nelson's Xmas Shoppe, in search of glistening ornaments. Bowing my head perversely against busy crowds and fierce wind, I stepped into a subway, which conveyed me to a winding street down which I hurried until I reached a peculiar establishment, the shingle for which had been battered by the strain of city winters, by pollution, and no doubt by the small mischievious hands of vandals, who had modified the sign with their colorful signatures and illustrations, but upon which could still be read - with some effort - Amperthump & Hagglestern, Booksellers. I entered to a sound of tinkling bells affixed to the heavy door, the hinges of which creaked as I propelled myself through its narrow passage. Proceeding forward, I heard a sullen voice squeak, "Check yer bag, miss?" and glanced up to see an urchin, nearly lost amidst piles of remaindered volumes, beckoning with one grubby hand while clutching a wrinkled comic in the other; I refused, smiling gently, and passed into the densely cluttered shop, where I was intercepted by Mr. Amperthump, the proprietor, a gentleman of about three and forty, whose thick-rimmed spectacles and corpulent physique recall two of a tragic trinity of dead singers, who upon seeing me took my cold hands in his ink-stained ones and kissed them. "How can I assist, my dear?" he boomed so loudly that a little one-eyed spaniel started from its slumber, and the urchins shelving books glared up at their master with undisguised annoyance. Drawing out my small copy of Bleak House, which I had obtained from the Queens Public Library -- supported, to wonderous effect, by the subsciption of tax dollars, and no doubt supplemented by charitable impulses of certain gentleladies -- and endeavored to explain, as simply as I could, that I desired an edition of the same narrative writ larger and in more mercifully legible print. However Mr. Amperthump appeared distressed and could not remain silent long, flinging my book away. "NO!" he cried. "You are too young and pretty" (at this I blushed and tried to protest, for I am not pretty, in fact I am plain) "to be reading this antiquated rot! Here, instead, is the latest experimental fiction from Rajistan D. McGingerloop." At this he placed in my hands a queer volume, unlike any I had seen before. "Throughout his controversial career McGingerloop has exploded one by one conventions of the novel... in this latest work he has done away with pages!" And indeed, when I examined the book I discovered he was quite right, and that the book I held was a brick of paper, and could not be opened, having as he indicated, no pages at all. I thanked Mr. Amperthump for his solicitude, at which point he pressed that I try Petunia al Gonzalez-Mjobebe's story of a love affair between an Iranian transexual and a Chinese android, a meditation, Mr. Amperthump assured me, on globalization and identity, but also, he said, a suspenseful legal thriller in its own right, albeit one subverting the conventions of that genre - quite, he added, subversively. Finally I was given to understand that in addition to Mr. Amperthump's conviction that I should not be reading Dickens, he had none in stock, and finally I gave my thanks for all his kindness and passed out again into the filthy snow and gloom.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Okay, so this is the 1853 version of The Wire. But with less gay sex. And no swearing. And very few mentions of drugs. And only one black person, I think, maybe not even one. And of course it's in London, not Baltimore. But other than that, it's the same. Pound for pound, this is Dickens' best novel, and of course, that is saying a great deal. I've nearly read all of them so you may take my word. Have I ever written a review which was anything less than 101% reliable, honest and straightforward? Okay, so this is the 1853 version of The Wire. But with less gay sex. And no swearing. And very few mentions of drugs. And only one black person, I think, maybe not even one. And of course it's in London, not Baltimore. But other than that, it's the same. Pound for pound, this is Dickens' best novel, and of course, that is saying a great deal. I've nearly read all of them so you may take my word. Have I ever written a review which was anything less than 101% reliable, honest and straightforward? Well, there you are then. Bleak House gives some people a leetle problem insofar as you have half of it narrated by Esther (Goody Three Shoes, too good for just two) Summerson, who you ache to have a few bad things happen to, because she trills, she sings, she sees the best in everyone, tra la la, tweedly dee dee. This does get on some people's nerves. But I downloaded a dvd called Dickens Girls Gone Wild last week and let me tell you there's a whole other side to Esther Summerson - given the right surroundings (I think it was Malta, and the sangria was flowing) she could be good company. However. Bleak House as a whole does no more than take it upon itself to explain how society works. And it's utterly gobsmacking. There are a lot of words in Bleak House's 890 pages but gobsmacking is not one of them. It's a word that was invented to describe Dickens novels.

  3. 4 out of 5

    B0nnie

    Bleak House. How can it be over? I hold this incredible book in my hand and can’t believe I have finished it. The 965 page, 2 inch thick, tiny-typed tome may seem a bit intimidating. Relax, you can read it in a day - that is, if you read one page per minute for 16 hours. And you might just find yourself doing that. Bleak House is more Twilight Zone than Masterpiece Theatre. However there is enough spirit of both to satisfy everyone. And indeed it should - it has it all - unforgettable characte Bleak House. How can it be over? I hold this incredible book in my hand and can’t believe I have finished it. The 965 page, 2 inch thick, tiny-typed tome may seem a bit intimidating. Relax, you can read it in a day - that is, if you read one page per minute for 16 hours. And you might just find yourself doing that. Bleak House is more Twilight Zone than Masterpiece Theatre. However there is enough spirit of both to satisfy everyone. And indeed it should - it has it all - unforgettable characters, intrigue, plot within plot, ruined love, enormous themes, complications, and description - and what description! it goes so far, a lesser writer would be lost forever trying to find their way back. Above all, it has that brilliant, constant satirical voice of Dickens. That is the thing lost in TV, film and radio adaptations of his work. One merely gets a hint of it in the best of these. The plot, the characters, the very fog that we encounter in the introduction, are all connected to one main thread: a lawsuit, the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case. It involves an inheritance with several wills, and it cannot be decided which one is legitimate. The case is before the Courts of Chancery and has dragged on for generations. Someone stands to gain a lot of money and property, but the long entanglement of the law has made it a curse. While greed and madness consume certain characters (sometimes literally), there are also those who know how pointless and destructive it is to live under such hope. Bleak House is another reminder what an important influence Dickens was on Dostoyevsky, who understood his power very well. Bleak House is alternatively narrated by the orphan Esther Summerson, and an omniscient third person. Dickens's sophisticated juggling of narrative invents a style that really can't be defined, just like the novel itself. Is it a thriller, a romance, magic realism, a murder mystery? Yes and no. Is it a treatise on poverty, domestic violence, false charity, obsession? Again, yes and no. All is mixed into the fog - along with that forty foot long Megalosaurus that Dickens summons in the opening paragraph – and emerges as one of the best novels ever written.

  4. 4 out of 5

    °°°·.°·..·°¯°·._.· ʜᴇʟᴇɴ Ροζουλί Εωσφόρος ·._.·°¯°·.·° .·°°° ★·.·´¯`·.·★ Ⓥⓔⓡⓝⓤⓢ Ⓟⓞⓡⓣⓘⓣⓞⓡ Ⓐⓡⓒⓐⓝⓤⓢ Ταμετούρο Αμ

    Το μεγαλειώδες χάρισμα της ειρωνείας που κρύβει λάμψη ψυχής! Η ζοφερή διαθήκη της απόλυτης λογοτεχνίας γραμμένη απο τον ισχυρότερο μυθιστοστοριογράφο του 19ου αιώνα, κατακτάει όλους εμάς. Τους αναγνώστες. Τους απόλυτους κληρονόμους μιας ατόφιας περιουσίας που διαμορφώνει και στηρίζει σκέψεις και αξίες αιώνιες και απαρασάλευτες. Βικτωριανή παράκρουση,φαντασμαγορία και κατάντια του Λονδίνου, το όραμα της Αγγλίας, ο λαβύρινθος των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων,των ατομικών συνθηκών, δοσμένα με ανθρωπολογικ Το μεγαλειώδες χάρισμα της ειρωνείας που κρύβει λάμψη ψυχής! Η ζοφερή διαθήκη της απόλυτης λογοτεχνίας γραμμένη απο τον ισχυρότερο μυθιστοστοριογράφο του 19ου αιώνα, κατακτάει όλους εμάς. Τους αναγνώστες. Τους απόλυτους κληρονόμους μιας ατόφιας περιουσίας που διαμορφώνει και στηρίζει σκέψεις και αξίες αιώνιες και απαρασάλευτες. Βικτωριανή παράκρουση,φαντασμαγορία και κατάντια του Λονδίνου, το όραμα της Αγγλίας, ο λαβύρινθος των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων,των ατομικών συνθηκών, δοσμένα με ανθρωπολογικό περιεχόμενο που φέρνει τρόμο. Μπορεί να καταστραφεί; Μπορεί να λυτρώσει;Μπορεί να ανασυσταθεί η κοινωνία που σαπίζει απο τη διπροσωπία του νόμου και τα ταξικά στερεότυπα; Κοινωνικός ρεαλισμός και ρομαντικά στοιχεία σε απόλυτη ταύτιση. Αφήγηση που απογειώνει, καταρρακώνει. Ατμόσφαιρα και αίσθηση μυστηρίου. Αναπάντεχες συμπτώσεις. Απρόσμενα κοινές μοίρες και οικουμενικά δράματα τόσο κοινά στον αναγνώστη που σοκάρουν. Τόσο σοκαριστικά που μόνο η μεγάλη τέχνη κατέχει και διαχειρίζεται. Μέσα σε μια ιστορία εποχής περιπλέκονται και εξελίσσονται πολλές άλλες ιστορίες, πρόσωπα και καταστάσεις που όλα μαζί τόσο ξεχωριστά και τόσο ειρωνικά σχετικά μεταξύ τους ισχυροποιούν τη βασική υπόθεση και σε κατακτούν. Λάτρεψα τον Ντίκενς για το βασικότερο γνώρισμα στον Ζοφερό Οίκο, την ειρωνεία του. Τη λατρεμένη ειρωνεία του για όλες τις εκφάνσεις των κοινωνικών ηθών και της παρακμής της Βικτωριανής Αγγλίας. Λατρεμένος και αριστουργηματικός είρωνας,στηλιτεύει το δικαστικό σύστημα της εποχής. Ξεγυμνώνει τις προκαταλήψεις,τα στερεότυπα,τον πουριτανισμό,τη σεμνοτυφία, την ανάγκη της επιβίωσης που εφιαλτικά τυφλώνει και υποτιμάται. Μια αρχαϊκή κοινωνία που κρύβεται απο την εξέλιξη και την επανάσταση και παραμένει κομμένη στα κλασσικά πρότυπα που φτάνουν ως σήμερα. Η αριστοκρατία στην ονειρεμένη της φούσκα πλήττει απο ανία και υποφέρει απο την «ζοφερή πολυτέλεια της αδράνειας» και ο λαός πνίγεται στην πνευματική και υλική ένδεια χωρίς πυξίδα, χωρίς σωτήρες, χωρίς ελπίδες. Ο Ζοφερός οίκος εξελίσσεται σε δυο διαπλεκόμενες αφηγήσεις. Η μία αφορά τη ζωή της βασικής ηρωίδας Έστερ Σάμερσον και η άλλη την χιλιόχρονη δικαστική διαμάχη «Τζαρννταϊς και Τζάρννταϊς» ειπωμένη απο έναν αφηγητή με πολυπραγμοσύνη. Εμπλέκονται και σπονδυλωτά αναπτύσσονται δεκάδες ήρωες και καταστάσεις. Άλλοι φαινομενικά άσχετοι, άλλοι σοκαριστικά ύποπτοι,άλλοι μοιραία εμπλεκόμενοι, άλλοι πλούσιοι, άλλοι φτωχοί, άλλοι απάνθρωποι και μισητοί και άλλοι υπερβολικά καλόκαρδοι και συμπονετικοί. Πλέκεται με απόλυτο σαρκασμό το γαϊτανάκι του Ζοφερού οίκου, της ζοφερής κοινωνίας. Εξαιρετικά σύνθετη αρχικά η διαπλοκή των χαρακτήρων σιγά σιγά ξεδιπλώνεται και γίνεται απόλυτα κατανοητή. Συναρπαστική μεθοδολογία γραφής, εξιστόρησης,απεικόνισης όλων των ειδών της ανθρώπινης φύσης σε όλες τις διαβαθμίσεις της. «Όσο κακός κι αν είν’ ο διάβολος ντυμένος με ρούχα εργάτη ή αγρότη (και μπορεί να είναι πολύ κακός και με τα δύο), είναι ακόμα πιο πανούργος, πιο άσπλαχνος και πιο απαράδεκτος απ’ όσο σε οποιαδήποτε άλλη μορφή όταν στερεώνει μια καρφίτσα στο πουκάμισό του, όταν αποκαλεί τον εαυτό του τζέντλεμαν…». Το βιβλίο καταγίνεται με το νομικό σύστημα, τις οικονομικές ανισότητες,τις κοινωνικές ιεραρχίες και φυσικά με τον τραγικό έρωτα. Κύριο μέλημα του συγγραφέα να μας μεταφέρει το βάρος του «χρέους». Και το καθήκον μας για την εξόφληση του. Το οικονομικό χρέος, το διαπροσωπικό,το οικογενειακό, το ερωτικό και αμαρτωλό. Αυτό το τελευταίο είναι άμεσα εξοφλητέο. Μας καλεί έμμεσα στην προσωπική επανάσταση. Δεν μασάει τα λόγια του. Δεν γράφει πολιτικά, δημιουργεί λογοτεχνικά ερείσματα. Δεν παίρνει θέση. Είναι ένας λογικός αναμορφωτής. Μας επαναφέρει στην υποκειμενικότητα και στην απόλυτη εσωτερικότητα. Τα λεει, τα καταδεικνύει ολόγυμνα με την κραταιά τέχνη του λόγου του. «...ούτε μια άγνοια, ούτε μια αμαρτία, ούτε μια κτηνωδία που έχει διαπράξει, που να μην εκδικείται κάθε κοινωνική τάξη, από τους αλαζονικότερους των αλαζόνων και τους ευγενεστέρους των ευγενών. Με τη σαπίλα, το πλιάτσικο και την καταστροφή, το Τομ παίρνει αληθινά την εκδίκησή του». Μετωπική σύγκρουση βούλησης; Έπος; Τραγωδία; Ορμέμφυτες ηθικές επιταγές; Όλα αυτά υποστηρίζουν αυτή την αναγνωστική απόλαυση. Ή ταυτίζεσαι ή δεν το διαβάζεις! Καλή ανάγνωση! Πολλούς εορταστικούς ασπασμούς!

  5. 3 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Is a lawsuit justice, when it goes on and on ....and on, seemingly in perpetuity ? In Bleak House, located in the countryside, outside of London, that is the center of the story, years pass, too many to count, the lawyers are happy, the employed judges likewise ; the litigants not... money is sucked dry from their bodies...like vampires whose fangs are biting hard, the flesh weakens and the victims blood flows , ( cash ) evaporates and soon nothing is left but the corpses... the gorged lawyers a Is a lawsuit justice, when it goes on and on ....and on, seemingly in perpetuity ? In Bleak House, located in the countryside, outside of London, that is the center of the story, years pass, too many to count, the lawyers are happy, the employed judges likewise ; the litigants not... money is sucked dry from their bodies...like vampires whose fangs are biting hard, the flesh weakens and the victims blood flows , ( cash ) evaporates and soon nothing is left but the corpses... the gorged lawyers are full until the next too trusting suckers walk by . In the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce the quite unimportant truth be told, little known except to those involved in the Court of Chancery, notorious well renowned for its slow pace ZZZ... The court clerks, audiences or should I say spectators, and even the attorneys are amused, laughter frequently heard, not a surprise this British institution, no longer exists... Esther Summerson is a typical orphan in another Charles Dickens book, raised by a cold woman, (and others previously of the same type) that calls herself the child's godmother, Miss Barbary, with a mysterious background too, somehow connected to the young girl but how... Often telling the unloved Esther it would have been better for all , if she had never lived. Nevertheless this enigma which the few people in contact with Summerson, maybe that name is really hers , none will discuss with the teenager. The unfriendly lady, keeps the puzzle a puzzle, from the past... she won't reveal who the Miss is, the old woman Barbary, can keep a dark secret. Sent to a girls boarding school later, Esther bills are paid by an extraordinary kindly gentleman, John Jarndyce, yes the man unwillingly entangled in the detestable lawsuit ( like many others) started by his uncle, ironically deceased , still he inherited the case. Soon the courts give custody to him his two distant cousins, orphans, there are many in Victorian England, set circa the 1830's before the railroads made travel easy. Richard Carstone an amiable but lazy boy and the beautiful, loyal Ada Clare, they are also distant relatives. Bleak House Mr. Jarndyce home is not empty any more, to this rather gloomy place arrives another ward of the court Esther, their guardian is the bright spot, strangely she has somehow, a relationship to the suit also. The three become quick friends all around 17. Richard and Ada fall in love, Esther is their best friend. Sir Leicester Dedlock, the arrogant Baronet (get the symbolism) is a party in the suit, his haughty wife Honoria, pretty and intimidating but there is something not quite clear there. The family lawyer Mr. Tulkinghorn, has unseen power over the proud aristocrats, he is a very capable man, yet somewhat soft spoken and very quiet for his noisy profession... ...but what is it ? And the Inspector Mr. Bucket, of the London police never seems to sleep... hovering over everyone, especially the underworld criminals of the entire city , solving crimes...One of Dickens best novels and I've read ten so far..The opening scene a description of London's famous bad weather is priceless, nobody could have done it better...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    Which house in Charles Dickens's novel is "Bleak House"? It surely cannot be the house which bears its name; a large airy house, which we first visit in the company of the young wards of Jarndyce, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, and their companion Esther. Ironically, this "Bleak House" is anything but bleak. It is a pleasant place of light and laughter. Mr. Jarndyce imprints his positive outlook on life, never allowing the lawsuit to have any negative influence. Indeed, when he first took on the Which house in Charles Dickens's novel is "Bleak House"? It surely cannot be the house which bears its name; a large airy house, which we first visit in the company of the young wards of Jarndyce, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, and their companion Esther. Ironically, this "Bleak House" is anything but bleak. It is a pleasant place of light and laughter. Mr. Jarndyce imprints his positive outlook on life, never allowing the lawsuit to have any negative influence. Indeed, when he first took on the house from a relative, Tom Jarndyce, he says, "the place [had become] dilapidated, the wing whistled through the cracked walls, the rain fell through the broken roof, the weeds choked the passage to the rotting door. When I brought what remained of him home here, the brains seemed to me to have been blown out of the house too; it was so shattered and ruined.” Neither can it be another house, which is to bear its name far later in the novel. So does the title perhaps refer to "Tom-All-Alone's", originally owned by Tom Jarndyce, but now a decrepit edifice inhabited by poor unfortunates who have nowhere else to go, sleeping crammed on top of each other? Tom-All-Alone's certainly represents the worst of society's injustices. Or could it be the immensely grand, laybrinthine mansion, "Chesney Wold", owned by Lord and Lady Dedlock? That is a magnificent abode, complete with its ominously suggestive "Ghost Walk"; much admired, much respected, but devoid of happiness. It embodies a bleakness of spirit; those living in it live a lie, and mourn the past. Or is it more likely to be one of the smaller neglected dwellings, such as that of Krook the rag-and-bone merchant, whose house is packed to the brim with junk and paper - or his neighbour, the mad Miss Flite, herself once a ward of Jarndyce, now reduced to living with her caged birds, "Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want, Ruin, Despair, Madness, Death, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, and Spinach." Or the house inhabited by Mrs Jellyby; yet another neglected house near to falling down, as she furthers her missionary zeal, leaving her daughter Caddy to cope as best she can with the crumbling household? Her self-righteous friend Mrs. Pardiggle's house, is also a candidate, "The room, which was strewn with papers and nearly filled by a great writing-table covered with similar litter, was, I must say, not only very untidy but very dirty. We were obliged to take notice of that with our sense of sight, even while, with our sense of hearing, we followed the poor child who had tumbled downstairs: I think into the back kitchen, where somebody seemed to stifle him." And the hovel lived in by Jenny and her brickmaker husband, is surely a contender; that meagre hut visited with an ostentatious show of charity by the abominable Mrs. Pardiggle with her "rapacious benevolence (if I may use the expression)"? There is no shortage of candidates for a "Bleak House" in this behemoth novel - but it is by far from clear which house is meant. Dickens has given us a surprisingly short title, but it is as well disguised as the sixty-two word long title for the novel we now call, "The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit" or even simply, "Martin Chuzzlewit..." in which throughout the novel we think it is called after one character, but on consideration, it is more likely to be about another. Dickens loved his mysteries, and this is his greatest completed mystery novel. Even the characters are in disguise. One has called himself "Nemo" - "no-one" - and another has taken great pains to obfuscate her history; yet another has never known his own name. In some cases the disguise is not by intention; one of the main characters genuinely does not know who she actually is, and thinks she is someone else. But before this review becomes as baffling as some of the nascent strands in this novel (never fear, with Dickens everything is tied up nicely by the end), perhaps I should set the scene properly. Bleak House was Charles Dickens's ninth novel, written when he was between 40 and 41 years of age. Whilst writing it Dickens's wife Kate gave birth to their tenth child, Edward, or "Plorn". A few months later Dickens himself went on tour throughout England with his amateur acting troupe. He then became seriously ill with a recurrence of a childhood kidney complaint, and was bedridden for six days, but still had 17 chapters to write. He went to Boulogne, France to recover, and celebrated finishing Bleak House by holding a banquet in Boulogne, for his publishers Bradbury and Evans, his close friend, the writer Wilkie Collins, and several others. Each part of the serial was illustrated by his favourite illustrator and great friend Hablot Knight Brown, or "Phiz", with remarkable skill. His illustrations take great care to convey the dark brooding mood of the novel, or the quirkiness of the characters. They even cleverly manage to convey the novel's theme of disguise. Esther's face, for instance, is rarely shown. She is usually turned away from the viewer's eye. This novel is often considered Dickens's finest work although it is not by any means his most popular. His working title for Bleak House was actually "Tom-All-Alone's", which seems to indicate that of all the many themes in this book, the paramount one in his mind was his hatred of the London slums. Dickens loathed both the despicable conditions there, and the governmental practices which allowed them to exist. He tirelessly campaigned for their improvement. But the action itself is intended to illustrate the evils caused by long, drawn-out suits in the Courts of Chancery. Much of it was based on fact, as Dickens had observed the inner workings of the courts as a reporter in his youth. In Bleak House he observes bitterly, "The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble." This, then, is the crux of the story, but it is wrapped in a magnificently complex tale of mystery and intrigue. In fact there are about five major stories all interwoven in Bleak House, and it would be difficult to say which the main story is. Each is connected to the case of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, and the destructive ramifications of two conflicting and contesting wills echo down the generations, and across all strata of society. It is a breathtaking accomplishment to plot, develop and tell such a complex story in such a riveting way. For it has to be borne in mind that this, like his preceding novels, was only accessible to Dickens's readers in small chunks of three or four chapters at a time, once a month, stretched over a year and a half: March 1852 to September 1853. Yet his readers were gripped, entranced, demanding; able to remember the myriads of characters from one episode to the next. Perhaps this is why Dickens gave his characters such memorable tags: Jo, the crossing-sweeper, who "don't know nothink", subject to grinding poverty and ignorance, forever being "moved on"; the languid "My Lady" Dedlock, fashionably fatigued, forever full of ennui and "bored with life, bored with myself", Miss Flite, who "expects a judgment shortly", John Jarndyce, to be avoided if "the wind is in the east" and he is in his "growlery", Harold Skimpole, protesting he is "but a child" in matters of money. The Smallweeds are a grotesque family of caricatures. The miserly money-lender Grandfather Smallweed is a very old man confined to a chair, where he is probably sitting on a large sum of money. His wife is living in fear of him, and permanently panicked by any mention of money. She starts up and talks nonsense until Grandfather Smallweed throws his cushion at her, silencing her but reducing himself to a bundle of clothes, whereupon we get his catchphrase, "Shake me up, Judy!" There is the lawyer Tulkinghorn; the man of secrets, "a great reservoir of confidences", or the lesser lawyer Vholes, the "evil genius". There are many short quips such as these, carefully planted by Dickens, to jog our memories should we need them. Perhaps the easiest story to follow is that of Esther Summerson, a nobody whose "mother was her disgrace". She was a poor child, with a sense of being guilty for having been born, feeling that her birthday "was the most melancholy ... in the whole year". She was offered an education and a home by the benefactor John Jarndyce. Dickens invites us to view her story as key, by alterating passages of the novel, making some chapters by an omisicient narrator, and some by Esther. Unfortunately for a modern audience, we quickly lose sympathy with Esther, who seems to protest her gaucheness and ineptitude rather too much. Perhaps after all it is telling that she is Dickens's only female narrator. In the narrative she makes it very clear how unworthy she is, how unattractive and dull compared with her peers. She also makes it abundantly clear that anyone reading her words knows that everyone in Bleak House argues with her about this, always complimenting her kindness, virtue, wisdom, hard work and her strong sense of gratitude and duty. It is tempting to view this as an ironic depiction of Esther, were we not now to know that a modest, self-effacing woman such as this, was what Dickens himself admired - or at least professed in public to admire. The character of Esther was thought to be based on Georgina Hogarth, his wife's youngest sister, who had joined his household in 1845, and was taking over more and more of the running of the house. She was apparently a self-sacrificing sort of person, who immersed herself in household duties and was dedicated to the welfare of others. Many other characters in Bleak House were also, as was so often the case, based on people Dickens knew, and sometimes they were famous with his readers too. For instance Harold Skimpole, that dissembling, conniving hypocrite, lover of Art, Music, culture and everything that was fine and tasteful, was a thinly veiled portrait of Leigh Hunt, an English critic, essayist, poet, and writer, who continually sponged off his friends, Shelley and Byron. Dickens himself admitted this, "I suppose he is the most exact portrait that was ever painted in words! ... It is an absolute reproduction of a real man". Mrs. Jellyby was based on Caroline Chisholm, who had started out as an evangelical philanthropist in Sydney, Australia, and then moved to England in 1846. Over the next six years Caroline assisted 11,000 people to settle in Australia. Dickens admired her greatly, and supported her schemes to assist the poor who wished to emigrate. However, he was appalled by how unkempt her own children were, and by the general neglect he saw in her household, hence his portrayal of Mrs. Jellyby. Another character, Laurence Boythorn, who was continually at odds with Sir Leicester Dedlock over land rights, was based on Dickens's friend, Walter Savage Landor. He also was an English writer and poet; critically acclaimed but not very popular. His headstrong nature, hot-headed temperament, and complete contempt for authority, landed him in a great deal of trouble over the years. His writing was often libellous, and he was repeatedly involved in legal disputes with his neighbours. And yet Landor was described as, "the kindest and gentlest of men". Perhaps the most poignant character is Jo the crossing sweeper. He has, "No father, no mother, no friends", yet is essential to the plot, and clearly has a lot of innate intelligence. Perhaps Dickens took especial care with this portrayal, as according to Dickens's sixth son, Alfred, Jo was based on a small boy, a crossing sweeper outside Dickens's own house. Dickens took a great interest in the lad, gave him his meals and sent him to school at night. When he reached the age of seventeen, Dickens fitted him out and paid his passage to the colony of New South Wales, where he did very well, writing back to his benefactor three years later. If Jo is the character likeliest to tug at the heartstrings, Inspector Bucket may be the one to admire most; the one who seems before his time, presaging much of the detective fiction we enjoy today. The character of the astute Inspector Bucket, uncomfortable unless he gives "Sir Leicester Dedlock - Baronet", his full title every time, is the first ever portrayal of a detective in English fiction, as he, "stands there with his attentive face, and his hat and stick in his hands, and his hands behind him, a composed and quiet listener. He is a stoutly built, steady-looking, sharp-eyed man in black, of about the middle-age...there is nothing remarkable about him at first sight but his ghostly manner of appearing". Dickens based him on the real-life Inspector Charles Frederick Field, about whom he had already written three articles in "Household Words". Lady Dedlock's maid, Mademoiselle Hortense, is one of Dickens's most powerful females; a prototype of Madame Defarge in "A Tale of Two Cities", full of passion, outrage, and talk of blood. She was modelled on a real-life Swiss lady's maid, Maria Manning, who, along with her husband were convicted of the murder of Maria's lover, Patrick O'Connor, in a case which became known as "The Bermondsey Horror." All Dickens's contemporary readers would have been familiar with the case. Amusingly, one character is named after a real person - though she is not a human being at all but a cat! Krook's cat "Lady Jane", is named after Lady Jane Grey who reigned as Queen of England for a mere nine days in 1533. (She was forced to abdicate, imprisoned, and eventually beheaded.) Although the theme of greed and corruption within the law is bitingly serious, and a passionately held belief by Dickens, and although the mysteries pile one on top of another throughout the book, Dickens provides plenty of comic characters to lighten the mood and pepper his stories. As well as those mentioned, there is the twittery Volumnia Dedlock, a poor relation of Sir Leicester Dedlock, described as "a young lady (of sixty)...rouged and necklaced". And we have the junior lawyer Mr. Guppy, almost too clever for his own good, presented in a ridiculous light, although actually having a sound and loyal moral core. He is one of my personal favourites. There is also Mr. Turveydrop, the owner of a dance academy, and a "model of deportment ... He was pinched in, and swelled out, and got up, and strapped down, as much as he could possibly bear." Esther comments, "As he bowed to me in that tight state, I almost believe I saw creases come into the whites of his eyes." His hardworking, dancing master son "Prince" (named after the Prince Regent) is another humorous portrayal, as is Caddy Jellyby. Albeit a drudge and slave for her philanthropic mother, we are first intoduced to Caddy as a comical crosspatch with inky fingers. The tiny tot Peepy Jellyby is a delight, and Caddy's father too, is almost pathetically comical, finding consolation in leaning his head on walls; any wall seeming to suffice. We do get a slightly different view of the other characters through Esther's eyes, which makes for interesting reading. Harold Skimpole, for instance is, I think, only shown within her purview. But with the comic episodes it matters not whose eyes we are viewing them through; we just enjoy their exuberance as a contrast to the simpering sentiments of Esther, "Dame Durden", "Old Woman", "Little Woman", "Mrs. Shipton" "Mother Hubbard", or any of the other appellations coined by the inhabitants of Bleak House. She herself is irritatingly wont to call Ada "my dear", "my darling", "my pet", or "my love", rarely using her actual name, even in reported speech. My, how tastes do change. So which house do I personally think "Bleak House" refers to? It could well be Chesney Wold, which by the end has itself become a kind of tomb for the ghosts, "no flag flying now by day, no rows of lights sparkling by night; with no family to come and go, no visitors to be the souls of pale cold shapes of rooms, no stir of life about it", But given all the metaphors in the novel, I am bound to conside the title itself as a metaphor. In most of his works, Dickens imbues buildings, particuarly old houses, with their own personality. Each become a character in its own right. Bleak House, in my view, is a metaphor for the High Court of Chancery. So would it be too fanciful of me to suggest that the main character in this novel in the Law itself? Read it and see what you think. You don't need to take 18 months, as Dickens's public had to. But it may be a good idea to not race through this book, if you want to follow all the mysteries. Perhaps you may wish to explore the contrasting themes of antiquity and tradition represented by Sir Leicester Dedlock, set against the ever encroaching Industrial Age; an age of progress, represented by the housekeeper's grandson, the iron-master's son, Watt (such an appropriate first name!) Rouncewell. Or perhaps the theme of being trapped, being a prisoner, being caged calls to you. There are a host of examples within. Or the theme of unhappy families; bad child-rearing is shown time and time again in all its many guises, with equally devastating effects for rich and poor alike. Nearly all the lives of these characters seem to be unfulfilled, and have been blighted by coincidences or misunderstandings. They are people trapped by their circumstances. You may find that you enjoy spotting the codes, or the continuing motifs of paper, birds, disguised faces, fire, and so on; not to mention getting the most out of Bleak House's masterly complexity and thrilling atmosphere. You may love the richness of the language and description. Or you may, in the end, become addicted to the mystery element and read it strictly for the story itself. There are many interwoven plots in this novel and altogether there are ten deaths as it proceeds; all of them tragic in different ways, and most of them key characters. One is due to a hot topic in scientific debate, so contentious that Dickens felt the need to defend it in his preface. In February 1853, just over halfway through this novel, he became involved in a public controversy about the issue of (view spoiler)[spontaneouse combustion (hide spoiler)] . George Henry Lewes had argued that the phenomenon was a scientific impossibility, but Dickens maintained that it could happen. I do not tell the story, it would be well nigh impossible anyway in this space, but I do encourage you to read this masterpiece. A labyrinth of grandeur...an old family of echoings and thunderings which start out of their hundred graves at every sound and go resounding through the building. A waste of unused passages and staircases in which to drop a comb upon a bedroom floor at night is to send a stealthy footfall on an errand through the house. A place where few people care to go about alone, where a maid screams if an ash drops from the fire, takes to crying at all times and seasons, becomes the victim of a low disorder of the spirits, and gives warning and departs.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Nomen Est Omen, in the world according to Dickens! But don’t take it literally, especially not when reading the title of Bleak House. For Dickens also requires you to read between the lines, and letters, just like in an acrostic poem: BLEAK HOUSE Lovely characters Elegant prose Agonising cliffhangers Knowledgeable descriptions Humorous plot Outrageous social conditions Unusual dual narrative Suits in Chancery Everlasting favourite Yes, Christmas is approaching, it’s Dickens time. I spent it in Chancery th Nomen Est Omen, in the world according to Dickens! But don’t take it literally, especially not when reading the title of Bleak House. For Dickens also requires you to read between the lines, and letters, just like in an acrostic poem: BLEAK HOUSE Lovely characters Elegant prose Agonising cliffhangers Knowledgeable descriptions Humorous plot Outrageous social conditions Unusual dual narrative Suits in Chancery Everlasting favourite Yes, Christmas is approaching, it’s Dickens time. I spent it in Chancery this year. And what can I say? Bravo Dickens? No, I stole that Thackeray phrase for David Copperfield last year already! Bravissimo, you fulfilled every single one of my great expectations, as did Great Expectations? Yes, ... I will just say a simple: “Thank you, Sir!” I have spent delightful hours in the company of good and bad, funny and passionate, silly and intelligent characters, brought to life in inimitable prose. Where else can I laugh and cry and bite my nails at the same time, while bowing to the elegance of the sentences that follow each other like pearls on one of Lady Dedlock’s more expensive necklaces? Where else can I hate and feel compassion, and wonder at the immense difference between my contemporary world and the London society of Dickens’ times,- and yet recognise it anyway, for being almost identical? For could not Dickens’ short comment on the state of British politics have been heading a newspaper article in 2016, just as well: “England has been in a dreadful state for some weeks. Lord Coodle would go out, Sir Thomas Doodle wouldn’t come in, and there being nobody in Great Britain (to speak of) except Coodle and Doodle, there has been no Government.” Following my reading itinerary, from start to finish, I realise how much I grew to love the many characters, all different, but equally at home in the Bleak House chocolate box, some nutty, some sweet, some rather plain, others exotic. In the end, they all lived up to my expectations, from the very first encounter with the complicated lawsuit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which gives the novel its unique flavour: "In which (I would say) every difficulty, every contingency, every masterly fiction, every form of procedure known in that court, is represented over and over again?" And what a range of characters I met, circling around the two stable elements of Mr John Jarndyce and Miss Esther Summerson, a young woman who shares the narration of the story with an omniscient voice, so that the narrative is swapping back and forth between her personal experience and impersonal overarching description. Some characters, like Skimpole, get away with sponging ruthlessly on others because of their presumed innocence: "All he asked of society was, to let him live. That wasn't much. His wants were few. Give him the papers, conversation, music, mutton, coffee, landscape, fruit in the season, a few sheets of Bristol-board, and a little claret, and he asked no more." It is not as innocent as that of course, as the story will tell! Many characters have reason to be frustrated, and Bleak House inspired me to rename my workroom as well, in honour of John Jarndyce’s favourite place: "This, you must know, is the Growlery, When I am out of humour I come and growl here. [...] The Growlery is the best-used room in the house." There is no one like Dickens to introduce the reader to a love story in the making, simply by changing the tone used to add a small piece of information at the end of a long chapter on something completely unrelated: "I have forgotten to mention - at least I have not mentioned - that Mr Woodcourt was the same dark young surgeon whom we had met at Mr Badger's. Or, that Mr Jarndyce invited him to dinner that day. Or, that he came." Another favourite feature in Dickens’ novels is the punny sense of humour that appears over and over again, and shows off both his talent for and his pleasure at playing with words for their own sake, as well as his mastery when it comes to giving all his characters their own stage time, beautifully shown in the following short lesson in mental geometry and verbal comedy: "But I trusted to things coming round." That very popular trust in flat things coming round! Not in their being beaten round, or worked round, but in their 'coming' round! As though a lunatic should trust in the world's 'coming' triangular! "I had confident expectations that things would come round and be all square", says Mr Jobling." Sociologists must love Dickens too. There is more than just a little irony in the sermon that Mrs Snagsby takes to be literal truth, directly applicable to her faulty perception of reality. What a comedy show! A victim of her own imagination and jealousy, Mrs Snagsby interprets preacher Chadband's words as a revelation of her husband’s infidelity, which leads to her total collapse during a sermon, completely inexplicable to the rest of the assembled community: "Finally,becoming cataleptic, she has to be carried up the staircase like a grand piano." Meanwhile, Mr Snagsby, "trampled and crushed in the pianoforte removal", hides in the drawing-room. What a marriage! The linguistic pleasure of reading Dickens should not be underestimated either. His vocabulary is diverse, rich, and sophisticated, but he does not shy away from repeating the same word over and over again, if he thinks it has a comical effect and suits the story line. He was clearly on a mission to ridicule the habit of having missions, when he introduced a whole society of different do-gooders who were absorbed in their own commitments and oblivious of the existence of anything outside their narrow field of vision: "One other singularity was, that nobody with a mission - except Mr Quale, whose mission, I think I have formerly said, was to be in ecstasies with everybody's mission - cared at all for anybody's mission."" As always, Dickens has a special place in his heart for his minor characters, and fills them with so much intensity that they could easily lead the whole plot. A favourite example is the Bagnet marriage. Mr Bagnet, knowing that his wife is a better judge of situations than he is himself, and worth more than her weight in gold, has a habit of letting her express "his" ideas whenever he is consulted about anything, for it is important to him that the appearance of marital authority is maintained: "Old girl", murmurs Mr Bagnet, "give him another bit of my mind." And then there is sweet, crazy Ms Flite, who sums up the tragedy of her family in a few lines of incredible suggestive power, showing the effect of long law suits on the dynamics of generations of people living in suspense and frustration: "First, our father was drawn - slowly. Home was drawn with him. In a few years, he was a fierce, sour, angry bankrupt, without a kind word or kind look for anyone. [...] He was drawn to debtor's prison. There he died. Then our brother was drawn - swiftly - to drunkenness. And rags. And death. Then my sister was drawn. Hush! Never ask to what!" Ms Flite herself is also completely guided by Jarndyce and Jarndyce in every aspect of her life. She follows the suit in Chancery almost like a contemporary woman would watch the interminable episodes of EastEnders, always expecting a "judgment", despite knowing that the ultimate purpose of the show is to keep the actors and producers busy, and the spectators in excitement. She cries when the show finally wraps up and she sets free her birds, named after the passions that constituted the essence of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. That’s it for now? No wait, there is more! Dickens is also a master of special effects, almost cinematic in nature: "Everybody starts. For a gun is fired nearby. "Good gracious, what's that?" cries Volumnia, with her little withered scream. "A rat," says My Lady. "And they have shot him." Enter Mr Tulkinghorn, ..." And this shot turns out to be one of foreboding, for nothing happens without purpose and connection in Dickens’ world, and the story turns into a murder mystery. The man whose specialty was using secrets to control others finds his end with a bullet in his cold heart. What a good thing that Hercule Poirot has a worthy predecessor in Mr Bucket, who has the immeasurable advantage of being married to Miss Marple. That’s it, now, finally? No! I can’t leave Dickens to tie up loose ends and make his surviving characters lead the lives they deserve, without mentioning the little boy who broke my heart: "Jo is brought in. He is not one of Mrs Pardiggle's Tockahoopo Indians; he is not one of Mrs Jellyby's lambs, being wholly unconnected with Boorioboola-Gha; [...]; he is the ordinary home-made article. Dirty, ugly, disagreeable to all the senses, only in soul a heathen." The description of how that illiterate, starving child’s heart stopped beating is one of the most touching moments in the whole story, along with the haughty, elegant Sir Leicester’s love and anxiety over his disappeared wife. In Dickens’ world, pity is to be found in very different places! That all? Nope! But I will be quiet now anyway … Just stealing a phrase from Oliver Twist, and applying it to Dickens’ novels rather than food: “Please, Sir, I want some more!”

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    Reading Bleak House has had a redeeming effect for me. Before this marvel took place Dickens evoked for me either depressing black and white films in a small and boxy TV watched during oppressive times, or reading what seemed endless pages in a still largely incomprehensible language. Dickens meant then a pain on both counts. In this GR group read I have enjoyed Bleak House tremendously. In the group discussion many issues have been brought up by the members. First and foremost the critique on the Reading Bleak House has had a redeeming effect for me. Before this marvel took place Dickens evoked for me either depressing black and white films in a small and boxy TV watched during oppressive times, or reading what seemed endless pages in a still largely incomprehensible language. Dickens meant then a pain on both counts. In this GR group read I have enjoyed Bleak House tremendously. In the group discussion many issues have been brought up by the members. First and foremost the critique on the social aspects has been put on the tray, but also the treatment of women and/or children, the critique of the Empire and of the Legal profession and institutions, the interplay between the two narrators, he humour, the richness in literary and historical references, the musings on ethics, etc. All this makes for a very rich analysis. For me this book is certainly a reread. And apart from all the aspects above, what have struck me most, because it has surprised me, were the very rich plot and the way it was constructed. That is why, if I read Bleak House again, I will do so while drawing a diagram that, similarly to those charting engineering processes, would plot the plot. Using an Excel sheet as my basis, the graph I have in mind would be a two dimensional chart, with the X or horizontal axis extending up to the 67 chapters of the book, while on the vertical or Y axis I would mark out three different bands. These bands would correspond to what I see as the main threads of the story. I am thinking of: 1. The Chancery, with all the Legal aspects. In this story line belong the Court itself, and the legal offices such as Kenge and Carboy and Mr. Tulkinghorn’s. The characters related to these legal aspects would belong to this band. 2. Esther, with her upbringing and Godmother. And here belong major characters such as John Jarndyce and the two Wards, Ada and Richard. 3. Chesney Wold, with the Dedlocks, Mrs Rouncewell and Rosa, etc. Each chapter would be plotted according to its number and to the story band to which it belongs, and so it would be drawn as a square. To each chapter-square I would give one of two colors, depending on who is narrating it. When Esther is telling the story I would color the square pink, and when it is the Narrator, it would be blue. For the early chapters, Band #2 would be mostly pink, while the other two would be mostly blue; but as the novel advanced, I think the pink would begin to invade other band stories and vice-versa. In each chapter-square I would include little cells, each one corresponding to one character as they first appear in the story. As the chapters advanced and the characters reappeared, I would draw connecting lines for those reappearing cells which would trace clearly how those character-cells started to move from story-band to story-band. I wish I could draw the graph I have in mind in HTML format for this GR box. But to give you an idea, I think it would look like a combination of the following graphs: and this: Then I would also mark when some episodes or stories within the stories, were presented. To these I would give the shape of a sort of elongated bubble or ellipse and they would be superposed on the chapter boxes, since they would not quite belong, nor not-belong, to the three story lines above. In this ellipse category I place the episodes involving the Jellybys, the Badgers, the Turveydrops, etc. Some of the characters, even if they first appear in the context of one of the bands, eventually move from one story to another a great deal. In the end they do not really belong to any one of them in particular. These characters I conceive as major connectors in the plot. I would then mark them with bold big dots linked by lines and would eventually look like a connecting grid. I call these the Connexions, and Jo, Mr. Guppy, Mr. Smallweed, amongst others, belong to this category. Mr. Guppy, one of my favourite characters, has a major “connexion” function although he is succeeded in his ability to precipitate the plot by the most determinant of the connecters, Mr. Bucket. As The Detective, his role is precisely that of connecting everything and thereby reach or propitiate the conclusion. There is another group of characters who have a lighter connexion function, because they do not really advance the plot, but help in pulling it together and make it more cohesive. To this class I place Miss Flint and may be Charlotte (Charley) Neckett. As we draw further to the right of the X-axis, the connecting lines linking the pivotal characters become increasingly busy and tangled as they extend over more and more boxes. The connecting nodes would become something like: By the end, as we approach the final chapters, all the story bands would have conflated into Esther, and the graph would become something like this one in which the central heart stands for the All-Loving-Esther. And Charles Dickens planned all this without a Computer.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Bleak House was Charles Dickens’ 1853 novel that documents the tragi-comic events surrounding the chancery court case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce. Told with an unusual blend of shifting perspectives, the first being a first person narrative and the second an omniscient, present tense narrator, Dickens describes a London where justice is turned upside down and personal values are intertwined with the doleful legal system. ** - Many of you know that I am a Tennessee attorney and let me just say that 16 Bleak House was Charles Dickens’ 1853 novel that documents the tragi-comic events surrounding the chancery court case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce. Told with an unusual blend of shifting perspectives, the first being a first person narrative and the second an omniscient, present tense narrator, Dickens describes a London where justice is turned upside down and personal values are intertwined with the doleful legal system. ** - Many of you know that I am a Tennessee attorney and let me just say that 160 years later, this kind of thing still happens. An estate is completely consumed by attorney fees. Not always the fault of the lawyers either: in a case a few years ago, one beneficiary said while pointing to another "I don't give a damn if I never get a dime, as long as HE doesn't get a thing!" As with most of Dickens novels, Bleak House features an extraordinary cast and the author’s ability to convey a character is his genius. A good book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    I have to say that Goodreads has opened me up to many books that I probably never would have read. Through groups and friends I keep finding books old and new to read and enjoy. Some more so than others. When I started Bleak House in one of my groups reads I had a feeling that I wouldn't understand a lot of what was going on in the book. And I found out through the same group that there was a mini series about the book. I rushed right onto Amazon Prime and watched the whole thing. Let me tell you I have to say that Goodreads has opened me up to many books that I probably never would have read. Through groups and friends I keep finding books old and new to read and enjoy. Some more so than others. When I started Bleak House in one of my groups reads I had a feeling that I wouldn't understand a lot of what was going on in the book. And I found out through the same group that there was a mini series about the book. I rushed right onto Amazon Prime and watched the whole thing. Let me tell you this helped me so very much in understanding some of the things in the book. I'm not that smart so certain things or way things are written go right over my head. This is a beautiful book, but I needed a little help. Upon watching the show I could see some of the things taking shape in the book over the course of a few weeks. No, the show is not exactly the same, but it's almost damn near because hello . . . it's a tome and they made a mini series instead of one movie that cuts half the crap out of a book. Gillian Anderson played Lady Dedlock perfectly in the show, but that is just my opinion. Lady Dedlock is married to Sir Leicester, he is many years older than her but he is very good to her. Even when he finds out some secrets he was going to stand by her side. This part of the book was very bleak and sad. But those were the days when you couldn't have what you wanted in life. You had to let things you loved go. My favorite characters in the book are: Esther, Ada, and Mr. Jarndyce. These were three very caring people. They were fun and nice in the book and in the show. Mr. Jarndyce took in Miss Ada Clare, Richard Carstone and Esther Summerson and he was very good to them. Richard was a little flighty to me. He couldn't settle on anything and then he got all wrapped up in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce court case that had been going on since the beginning of time. If the case was ever settled it could help Ada and Richard forever. Or so they thought. Ada and Richard fell in love and they were so sweet to see. But it was hard to watch Richard put himself through so much and getting sicker and sicker. There are a lot of hard things in the book and they will make you cry. Or maybe it's just me since I cry when I read a lot of books or watch shows. There are evil people in this book. There are killings, lies, hopelessness, disease, death, sadness - but it's not all Bleak. There are some really happy times. The ending it so very happy and it was so wonderful to see some good things happen to these people that went through so much. There are also some funny characters and other fun times. Don't think this is just a bleak, dreadful story. There are revelations made that were happy and sad. I can't give away the spoiler. In any case it made me cry. But through it all Mr. Jarndyce was wonderful to the three people he took in among other things. And in the end I was so glad to see Esther happy with Mr. Woodcourt. So many things she had to go through when she was young, all of the bad things said about her and revelations she found out were just sad. But even through all of that she was a kind person. She did as many good things as she possibly could. I loved her. If you were ever wanting to read this book I would suggest going ahead and take your time. Watch the show like I did if you need to understand what they are talking about at times. I would never have come to love the people I did in the book if I never gave it or the show a chance. MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List

  11. 3 out of 5

    Laura

    I know, something about a 900 page book with bleak in the title doesn’t exactly scream “summer fun”. Nevertheless, this was a page-turner with more laugh-out-loud moments than any book I've read in recent memory. Who could have seen that coming?? And it's gripping enough that I can understand why it was a bestseller, in spite of Dickens’ harsh social criticism and his rather daring innovation of dual narratives. But the story is a winner largely because of the dual narratives, which bob and weav I know, something about a 900 page book with bleak in the title doesn’t exactly scream “summer fun”. Nevertheless, this was a page-turner with more laugh-out-loud moments than any book I've read in recent memory. Who could have seen that coming?? And it's gripping enough that I can understand why it was a bestseller, in spite of Dickens’ harsh social criticism and his rather daring innovation of dual narratives. But the story is a winner largely because of the dual narratives, which bob and weave around each other like boxers before becoming hopelessly entertwined. It opens with a grim, omniscient narrator describing the thick fog that pervades every part of London, suspending the city in a static morass of mud and smoke. In the center of the pestilence, where the fog is thickest, lies the High Court of Chancery — a place where cases become trapped in the quagmire of self-perpetuating legal proceedings, suffocate, and die. The most Byzantine of cases is JARNDYCE AND JARNDYCE, which has been going on so long that at least one generation of Jarndyces has expired while waiting for a judgment, and not even the lawyers have any grasp on its intricacies. The second chapter describes the similarly static aristocracy, specifically the wonderfully named Lord and Lady Dedlock, who seem to be existing in a state of suspended animation. Then, out of this somber drone of diseased stagnation emerges the other narrative, told with preternatural peppiness by Esther Summerson. At first her story, related with so much self-deprecation that you begin to wonder if she’s for real, seems to be the sort of story Victorian audiences were familiar with: a sweet young orphan overcomes her sad situation, finds a family, and lives happily ever after. Sigh. However, this sweet young orphan is introduced as being tied obscurely to JARNDYCE AND JARNDYC, so even before the two narratives get underway we know the melodrama narrative will be infected by the social criticism narrative. (To see how the one narrative literally infects the other, you'll have to read the book; it's a masterful stroke, even for Dickens.) My favorite aspects of this novel, besides Dickens’ ability to turn a phrase better than anyone else, are the interwoven story lines, the very clever character doubling, and the unexpected depth he gives characters who could easily have remained garden variety. In fact, the most poignant moments were courtesy of totally unlikely minor characters, not the poor people/dying babies situations that you’d expect from a Dickens novel (and they’re in Bleak House a-plenty). Of course I cried at the poor people/dying babies moments also, but the others were better. Dickens goes for broke with his humorous characterizations and bizarre names (the creepy small-fry Mr. Guppy; the detective Mr. Bucket; the thwarted suitor Mr. Woodcourt, who would court if he could - ha!). However, where this book really stands apart is the thematic relevance of its structure — what looks like a traditional melodrama being embedded in a social criticism. Read it and watch genius at work. Also fun is the way Dickens presents all sorts of “detectives” in the story, but makes the reader into the real detective. Not that the central mystery (Esther's parentage) needs much detection unless you're really not paying attention, in which case you should find something else to read, but keeping track of all the characters and their web of relationships does. Again, read it and watch genius at work, which, for $12, is a bargain. (Personal note: Dickens’ hatred of the law — and especially lawyers — was born of his own experience clerking as a youth and wrangling over copyrights as an adult. Though Bleak House is an actual house in the story, it's really a metaphor for London, where multitudes of people lived in squalor and poverty just steps away from the oblivious middle-class. But it’s also a metaphor for a court system so tangled and corrupt that plaintiffs got sucked in for years, never to emerge with both health and sanity intact. Spookily relevant as I read the novel while dealing with the absurd mess of my grandfather’s estate. I felt like mailing copies of it to the more appalling members of my extended family, but of course cautionary tales are never understood by the people they’re meant to caution.)

  12. 3 out of 5

    Matt

    I get why people dislike the legal system. It’s slow, complicated, and costly. And the only time you hear about it is when an apparently horrible decision is reached. (I shudder at how many people were ready to scrap the jury system after the Casey Anthony verdict). As a lawyer, though, I see the legal system’s virtues (and as a public defender, its virtues, for me at least, do not include a hefty paycheck). For one, lawsuits are a better alternative than self-help justice. If your neighbor build I get why people dislike the legal system. It’s slow, complicated, and costly. And the only time you hear about it is when an apparently horrible decision is reached. (I shudder at how many people were ready to scrap the jury system after the Casey Anthony verdict). As a lawyer, though, I see the legal system’s virtues (and as a public defender, its virtues, for me at least, do not include a hefty paycheck). For one, lawsuits are a better alternative than self-help justice. If your neighbor builds a fence on your property, it’s far more civil to take him to court than starting a blood feud that will echo down the generations (though of course I understand the instant gratification attendant to a good ole blood feud). One of the misconceptions of an adversarial legal system is that you get to walk into court and holler at the judge. At least, that’s the conception most of my clients have. In truth, the Anglo-Saxon legal system’s seemingly-Byzantine rules and procedures are meant to bring us closer to the truth. It attempts to cull the good evidence (this is what I saw, from close distance, in good light) from bad evidence (this is what I heard from a hobo, who got it from a witch, who heard it whispered by a talking pear). Separating the good evidence from the bad can be a struggle (by struggle I mean a vicious, lawyerly fight to the death). And it can lead to outrageously tangled cases. My first job out of law school was as a clerk for a district court judge. One of the cases I worked on for her (it involved the accidental destruction of an old building) had been going on since I was in college. We were talking half a decade. The case had been filed back when Thursdays still meant Pint Night at the local watering hole. It had sputtered forward during that period in my life when Thursday nights were just another night at the law library. And it was still going on when my Thursdays were reserved for NBC sitcoms and a bottle of cheap wine. The events in Charles Dickens’ famous Bleak House springs from just such a lawsuit. The case is Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a probate matter concerning a large estate that is shrinking daily due to attorneys fees. (Dickens certainly has no love of the legal profession, as some of his most notable characters, including the creepy Mr. Jaggers from Great Expectations, are members of the bar). In Dickens’ description, Jarndyce is of a case in which no two lawyers can speak for more than a minute without disagreeing as to its purpose. [Warning: there are spoilers ahead…If spoilers are possible in a novel 158 years old]. In Jarndyce, the testator (a.k.a. the rich, dead guy) has left numerous wills, leaving it to his heirs (and their lawyers) to determine the actionable document. The characters that populate Bleak House are the same ones circling this case. This, of course, allows Dickens to make a full frontal assault on the Chancery system. So yes, to answer your question: this is the trenchant deconstruction of Britain’s 19th century civil law process that you have been waiting for. (Among the many problems I had with Bleak House is the shelf-life of satire. It goes bad faster than roast beef). Bleak House defies brief summarization. It was a serial publication and Dickens had a lot of mouths to feed. The result is sprawling, ambitious, and messy. Apparently, Dickens missed the irony: that Bleak House is as convoluted as any case before Chancery. The novel centers around an orphan (Dickens loves him some orphans) named Esther. If you thought Pip from Great Expectations was insufferably bland, be prepared to want to gouge your eyes out with the sheer banality of Esther's existence. Esther is sent to live with Mr. John Jarndyce, who owns the wonderfully named manor, Bleak House. Two cousins, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, both heirs to the Jarndyce estate (under one of the wills, at least), also move into Bleak House. Esther quickly becomes the head of the household. The identity of her parents is one of the novel’s central (though transparent) mysteries. For awhile, though, we are left to assume that Esther is the love-child of Jesus and Mother Theresa. She is perfect in every way, and lives only to serve others. Under her benevolent gaze, the two cousins, Richard and Ada, fall in love. But that’s okay, because this is Mississippi. Oh wait, it’s not? Gross. No matter, before things get too Appalachian, Richard falls in love with the Jarndyce case; throughout the latter stages of Bleak House, he nurtures a health-sapping obsession with obtaining the estate’s riches. To this end, he retains a lawyer, Mr. Vholes, who, in good lawyerly fashion, screws Richard out of most of his money. (Rule of thumb: never trust a guy named Vholes). Dickens is a guy getting paid by the word, and he spins out storylines with reckless abandon. At times, Bleak House is narrated in the first person, by St. Esther, while at other times is told from a third-person omniscient point of view, which allows the story to hop, skip, and jump all over the place. These two narrative tracks never intersect, are never integrated, and are not explained. It creates a complex, interesting structure, one that has been critically lauded. (Since I hated Esther, and her voice, it also created a situation in which I longed to escape her story, and return to the all-knowing, disembodied third-person narrator). The spine of the book is Jarndyce and Jarndyce. A great deal of time is also devoted to various love stories. Besides Ada and Richard’s hillbilly attraction, there are various men vying for Esther, that ultimate paragon of beauty, innocence, and sacrifice. One of these is William Guppy, a law clerk. Another is Dr. Allan Woodcourt, whose lack of any human frailty makes him a good match. Finally, there is John Jarndyce himself, who falls in love with his young ward. This might be creepy were Dickens’ world not so uniformly sexless. There is never any indication of passion or lust, just idealized, put-your-partner-on-a-pedestal love. Sex is nothing more than sitting in a room together, staring into each others eyes. As I mentioned before, one major subplot involves the identity of Esther’s parents. This “mystery” is dragged out over hundreds of pages, and requires the inclusion of dozens of peripheral characters. These include Lady Dedlock, the mistress of Chesney Wold; her husband, Sir Leicester; and their scheming lawyer (yes! another one!) Mr. Tulkinghorn. Mr. Tulkinghorn is consumed with concealing Lady Dedlock’s secret, even though anyone with half a brain knows exactly what she’s hiding. (I won’t tell you straight out, but you’ll probably figure it out by the end of the first page. It’s simple math, really. One character has a question, another character has an answer. Riddle solved). Towards the end of Bleak House, in order to heap complication atop complication, Dickens decides to murder one of his characters. This allows him the opportunity to introduce English literature's first detective character, Inspector Bucket. (Hopefully it will not surprise you that Inspector Bucket is both dogged and clever). Dickens has his tropes, which appear in many of his writings. Those tropes show up here. These include orphans and bland protagonists and questionable attorneys. There is also a character who has been left at the altar and is now ossified by the grief of that moment. (Of course, I might be drawing these parallels too close, since I jumped straight from Great Expectations to Bleak House). The ending is not entirely satisfying (the end of serials never are). But at least it’s not all happiness and loving gazes. Some characters die, others end up unhappy (though not Esther, of course, everything works out for her). The case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is resolved in what is meant to be a darkly comic fashion, though anyone with a trace of wit knew exactly what would happen from the start. As should now be apparent, I was not entirely taken by Bleak House’s charms. The major characters tended to be bores and squares. The dozens of storylines are of wildly varying quality and interest. For long periods, reading Bleak House felt like running in place: I weren’t getting anywhere; it wasn’t pleasurable; yet I somehow sensed it was good for me. What pleasure I derived came from the secondary characters, many of whom are lively, quirky, and wonderfully realized. These cameo roles serve their purpose, enlivening certain scenes so that Dickens’ central cast can continue moralizing at will. For instance, there is Mr. Skimpole, who tells everyone he has the mind of a child and doesn't understand money; therefore, he keeps going to others for help paying off his debts. Just at the point where you want to reach into the pages and kill Skimpole yourself, it's hinted that he's not as naive as he sounds, but is perhaps running a devious long con. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I also liked Mr. Tulkinghorn and Mr. Vholes, the two cunning attorneys with sharp minds and black hearts. (They may be evil, but you have to admire their intellects. Besides, I’m assuming they have massive student loan debt that needs repayment). I also loved the characters’ names. There is no author in history better than Dickens for creating wildly entertaining, wildly improbable names. Setting aside the wildly meandering plot, the unrelenting onslaught of characters late into the book, and the endless digressions, the thing that bothered me most about this book is Esther, the milquetoast center of the novel. I get that she is supposed to embody the Victorian feminine ideal, outwardly modest, chaste, and discrete, but secretly capable, effective, and hot-blooded. She just didn’t work for me. It was like I was viewing a wonderful solar system, with beautiful stars and planet. But instead of orbiting the sun, all these stars and planets orbited a big black hole. Esther is that black hole. Nothing about her is recognizably human. I don't know what's more irritating: her endless charity, goodness, and selflessness, or the fact that all the other characters continually tell her how charitable, good, and selfless she is. I have a love-hate thing going with Charles Dickens. On the one hand, I like that he is accessible, that he works on such a vast canvas, and that he is formally daring. On the other hand, I feel like I have to separate a lot of chaff to get to the wheat. (With the wheat being the good stuff and the chaff, whatever that is, being the bad stuff). Maybe I’m a philistine (it might almost be certain), but I think Dickens’ best work is A Christmas Carol. Unlike his serialized behemoths, it is short, crisp, and to the point. It is a marvel of elegant structuring, with clean symmetries and a natural arc. It might seem clichéd now, but A Christmas Carol essentially invented the modern Christmas holiday. It has been remade in hundreds of movies, television shows, cartoons, and theater productions, but no matter what changes are made by modern creators, its framework (and most of its dialogue) remains unchanged. That is a wonderful testament to A Christmas Carol’s lasting quality. (At the same time, it neatly embodies many of Dickens’ themes, which are belabored in his longer books). Bleak House resembles a sprawling English country house, added onto over the decades. There are many wings and a lot of rooms; some of them are grand, some are average, and some are populated with Esther and her cloying, ostentatious humility.

  13. 3 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Between Thanksgiving and Christmas my reading pace ground to a halt. Thanks a lot Dick...........ens! This is a long book, but I've read longer ones that didn't seem half as long as Bleak House. Saharan-esque stretches of plodding plot didn't help. But more than that, this book suffers from having too much character, and characters with character, characterful characters with character to spare and well, you get the point. By the time Dickens had written Bleak House he'd experienced almost every Between Thanksgiving and Christmas my reading pace ground to a halt. Thanks a lot Dick...........ens! This is a long book, but I've read longer ones that didn't seem half as long as Bleak House. Saharan-esque stretches of plodding plot didn't help. But more than that, this book suffers from having too much character, and characters with character, characterful characters with character to spare and well, you get the point. By the time Dickens had written Bleak House he'd experienced almost every spot on England's social strata, so he knew people, he liked people, and he liked to write about the people he knew. There are some great, fully-formed fictional folks herein that seem more alive than a few real people I know. But that doesn't save this book for me. There are also some two dimensional signposts added just to point the way. But that doesn't ruin this book for me. The tangents some of these characters go on is what kills the story dead. Dickens resuscitates the plot with a tasty little tidbit now and then, such as giving you hope that the unending Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit might be resolved, but then along comes a longwinded lawyer or a humorous scene with some silly old people babbling and throwing pillows at one another. It's too much of a good (and occasionally bad) thing. It's hard to fault the author and the quality of the writing for my low rating on this one. Dickens' craft is at its craftiest, but he focused too much of it on one aspect of writing, and for that the writer is at fault.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    One of the pleasures of reading a few books of an author's work is to see the parallels and changing style. Here in this huge late Dickens slice of life social commentary is combined with comic grotesques. Political commentary is given depth with sentimentality. The Jarndyce and Jarndyce case, a gigantic legal cog wheel whose teeth catch up one smaller wheel after another. All of society seems to be caught up from the street sweeper to the noble Baronet in a single huge mechanism driven by avari One of the pleasures of reading a few books of an author's work is to see the parallels and changing style. Here in this huge late Dickens slice of life social commentary is combined with comic grotesques. Political commentary is given depth with sentimentality. The Jarndyce and Jarndyce case, a gigantic legal cog wheel whose teeth catch up one smaller wheel after another. All of society seems to be caught up from the street sweeper to the noble Baronet in a single huge mechanism driven by avarice rather than Christian charity. Agape is the counter force in the novel, but sadly it appears to require sacrifices. The obligatory deaths of children, mothers and fathers for me don't stand up on repeated reading. You can see how Dickens produces his effect. You can see him get the organ grinder ready, watch the monkey put on his sad suit and take out a little violin, a barrow load of freshly peeled onions is on standby on the page, waiting for that last gasp as an innocent soul dies with a sigh and goes off to meet its maker. I found it so overwrought on re-reading that it became comic. This misses the point. My reading experience is not similar to the original reader. They consumed the novel in monthly instalments over two years. One can imagine each one read aloud by the paterfamilias, the materfamilias pausing in her needlework, the children doubly determined to say their prayers at bedtime - just in case - as another death occurs. It is theatre in your living room. As an aside this sentimentality is very interesting. A few decades before Bleak House average life expectancy in Liverpool was fifteen years and in Manchester maybe as high as eighteen years if you were working class. The 1848 cholera epidemic saw over fifty thousand people dying with diarrhoea and vomiting, yet a couple of years later Dickens is giving us very individual deaths and perhaps unrealistically clean deaths. Rereading it struck me how long Bleak House is and how much could be stripped away. But again the point is the reading experience. The length and indulgence in the minor character is the fun of the book. In fact it is the minor characters who are fun. The major characters are the heart of the narrative are resolutely not comic. "We are not rich in the bank" says our heroine Esther (a name that should alert us to the theme of self sacrifice) towards the close of the book. Yet this seems in the context of the novel to be not true. Although not as wealthy as the Dedlocks, money is never an issue for John Jarndyce and his wards. They don't pause to travel by post coach - an expensive way of getting about, money is available to purchase property, money is never a matter of concern. However for many other characters money and the need to earn it or horde it is a constant issue. Something that Dickens does well in an understated way is make clear just how central every shilling can be and how precarious life gets. The comfortable life is the thin skin floating atop a pot of economic misery. Avarice is not simply a sin, it is a basic survival mechanism that distinguishes the unpleasant Smallweeds and Vholes from the ill fated Gridleys and Necketts. Something that you can see here that comes to fruition in A Tale of Two Cities is the notion of Saxon, Norman and Hortense. Sir Dedlock represent the Norman elite, proud, conservative but perhaps, like the carriages assembled in the novel's funeral cortege, empty. His virtue is chivalric and harkens back to an earlier age. By contrast the younger Rouncewell son has a Saxon face and represents a newer, modern educated and industrialising Britain, a bucolic place of full employment. Dickens' descriptions of the mill town and Rouncewell's industrial town are strikingly cheerful and pleasant. Not something you'd expect after reading Hard Times. No dark, satanic mills here. London by contrast comes across in this book as Cobbett's "Great Wen". But it is Hortense who is the surprise in the book. Despite the romantic elements in the story and proposals of marriage she is the one truly passionate character. Although present in only a few pages her passion drives a good chunk of the story. Her refusal to be bought off with a few coins will be echoed a few years later in A Tale of Two Cities. There is so much power in that one figure that I can't help but imagine her as embodying Dickens. The violence of her passion and its powerful effect on the narrative pull the story towards her. At the other extreme from Hortense are the trinity of self-effacing characters who are the centre of the book, Esther Summerson, John Jarndyce and Lady Dedlock. Their love is self denying and at various point and with varying degrees of success they manage to sacrifice their own happiness for the the good of others. Esther seems to be a perfect "Angel in the House". Each part of the trinity embodies Agape, even at the cost in Lady Dedlock's case of that honour uniquely feminine that should be preserved for the aftermath of legal nuptials, if one may be so bold as to suggest such a delicate matter on a family website. This then takes us to a central concern of the novel - good and bad charity. The good charity of our trinity, is dignified, individualised and with one possible exception, helpful. By contrast charity is for Mrs Pardiggle a continuation of politics by other means. Mrs Pardiggle's aggressive charity which seeks to police the poor seems particularly resonant. Perhaps rather like the poor themselves, it has always been with us. Even more extremely painted is the quixotic Mrs Jellyby. Her African colonisation scheme aims to 'educate' the Africans in plantation work and provide English settlers with employment as overseers ends not just with the local King wanting to sell the survivors for rum but also, since she is not an Angel in the House, the bankruptcy of her husband. If Esther is the ideal woman then Mrs Jellyby is her opposite. In Mrs Jellyby charity is actually shown as destructive to her 'proper' role as housekeeper. Mrs Jellyby's activities are really very interesting because here we have a woman entirely focused on political activity, quasi-Imperial colonisation and poverty relief - but Dickens uses this as a source of humour. For him this is fundamentally ridiculous activity for a woman to undertake. Votes for Women is the last crazy cause she embarks upon. I wonder if John Stuart Mill was a fan of Dickens, or for that matter what did Mrs Gaskell make of this? The central message is a Christian one. The hypocritical Christianity of Chadband or the judgemental faith of Miss Barbary are presented to us only to be disapproved of by the author. In the face of a legalistic and judgemental world in which avarice is a means of survival only the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity offer a more palatable alternative and more importantly an alternative that Dickens doesn't poke fun at.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    "Crust upon crust of mud..." and "Fog everywhere" Though made a bit uneven by Dickens' use of two narrators, I think this is his best novel (with David Copperfield his best book). Esther Summerson, a sweet and modest orphan, tells her tale in the first person present, as Dickens used for David in Copperfield and Pip in Great Expectations; and, the other narrator is an omniscient, largely dispassionate third person. The novel has mystery, romance, comic elements, an intriguing cast of characters a "Crust upon crust of mud..." and "Fog everywhere" Though made a bit uneven by Dickens' use of two narrators, I think this is his best novel (with David Copperfield his best book). Esther Summerson, a sweet and modest orphan, tells her tale in the first person present, as Dickens used for David in Copperfield and Pip in Great Expectations; and, the other narrator is an omniscient, largely dispassionate third person. The novel has mystery, romance, comic elements, an intriguing cast of characters and superb social reformist themes of care for homeless children and the dilatory English chancery justice system via the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce (involving a decedent who wrote a number of conflicting wills). I thought it so good, I read it again. To this day, most states in America's legal system, patterned on English jurisprudence, have two judicial systems running concurrently: one, the legal courts, or courts of law, which try traditional civil and criminal cases with juries (and by bench, when appropriate); second, the courts of chancery, also called equity courts and probate courts, which traditionally decide issues relating to real property, wills, trusts and estates, and involuntary commitments for danger to self and others. Dickens had touched on the legal side in The Pickwick Papers, lambasting its inherent greed and specious civil lawsuits. Here, he absolutely excoriates the chancery system which could keep a dispute over a will entangled for decades, literally, in which dispute the lawyers, the likes of Tulkinghorn (a most evil bastard) and Mr. Vholes (worried more about his reputation than the interests of his clients), are enriched, to the point that the property at issue is completely eaten up by legal fees. Bleak House led to a reform of the chancery judiciary in the 1870s. The beginning is one of the most memorable in all literature in metaphorically describing the chancery court system in terms of mud and fog. I don't include quotes nearly this length in my reviews, but this one is worthy of a sole exception: LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest. Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds. Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongy fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time — as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look. The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lawyer

    Bleak House: Charles Dickens on Fog and Fossils "The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine. Issue One, Bleak House, March, 1852 Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of this review or whether that station shall be held by another will depend upon the lines on this page. For, you see, although I was not born a lawyer I became one. I would beg the reader's attention to hold a moment. For, as Charles Lamb has told us, "Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." I was--an innocent Bleak House: Charles Dickens on Fog and Fossils "The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine. Issue One, Bleak House, March, 1852 Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of this review or whether that station shall be held by another will depend upon the lines on this page. For, you see, although I was not born a lawyer I became one. I would beg the reader's attention to hold a moment. For, as Charles Lamb has told us, "Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." I was--an innocent one, too. And it was with that degree of innocence I embarked upon an education in the law with the intent to see justice done. I had great expectations of it. However, to my shock, which led to a general state of appall, I discovered that not all those who obtain the license to practice law seek what is right, but an end that serves to line their wallets. Their clients were but a means to that end. Thank Providence those of that rank were in the great minority. At one time those of our profession were considered not merely lawyers, but counselors, meaning that a meeting of the minds was a better outcome than long and bitter litigation, where costs mounted, the ire between the parties increased, and I understood the meaning of the old adage which serves as an epigraph to these lines. The wheels of justice ground so slowly and so finely and the final ruling was obtained, there was nothing left to fight over. Now, Charles Dickens understood just how slowly and finely the wheels of justice turned. During the time Mr. Dickens wrote Bleak House the Court of Chancery had become the scene of many a case for which the parties waited for a ruling for literally years. Quite an odd court it was. It was the court of jurisdiction for the appointment of guardians for minors, the care of the mentally infirm, and the administration of wills and estates. Now the matter of its jurisdiction was not odd, you understand. It was the manner in which jurisdiction was exercised. You see, there was no testimony of witnesses. None! All proceedings were based on the affidavits of the parties and any witnesses material to the matter. You would be quite correct in thinking that in most occurrences, the witnesses were not the mutual friends of the respective parties. Then there was the matter of all those affidavits having to be copied. Hand copied. Oh, the parties had to pay for those, too, whether they gave a fig for them or not. Then, of course, the case in hand had to be docketed. Well. You can imagine how many a Chancery Clerk supplemented income by accepting, uhm, gratuities, shall we say, to set down the matter to be heard. Dickens was such a brilliant man, capable of producing the most wonderful allusions and metaphors. Ah, the opening of the novel, in the fog, the structure of the Inns of Court appearing as some teetering fossil of a Megalosaurus. Oh, yes. Dickens knew of what he wrote. After all, that was the first dinosaur discovered. And where should it be dug up but in England in 1676. It would only take the dunderheads another hundred and fifty years to name it. It means "giant lizard." Lets see-1676 plus 150. That would make it, why, 1826. Young Dickens would have been fourteen. But I cannot do it justice. Why just look at it. “LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest. Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds. Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time — as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look. The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.” Sublime. It is simply sublime. But, if I might be allowed to digress a bit. Consider the man. Has it occurred to you, dear reader, how many English novelists there were when Charles Dickens became a publishing sensation in 1836 with The Pickwick Papers? Well, there were none. He was it. Here he is as we are accustomed to seeing him. No, of course, he's not smiling. One did not smile in Victorian photographs. Ah, but he did laugh. A lot. He loved theatrics and performing as an actor. He was known to walk every street in London, sometimes twenty-five miles a day. His children tell us he would return home to write. They would witness him mugging in the mirror, making strange faces, speaking in different voices. In the process he brought every level of English society to every level of English society through his writing. To be continued...After all, it is a Dickens review.

  17. 3 out of 5

    Dave Russell

    Finally finished it and it only took me four months [pats self on back, does a little victory dance and then weeps,] but I'm so glad I read it. This is a book--like The Brothers Karamozov--that makes the subsequent books the author wrote seem superfluous. It contains multitudes. All of humanity is represented here (well, all of Victorian English humanity at any rate.) The truest--and shortest--sentence of the book is the first one: "London." The organizing metaphor of the book is the Chancery Co Finally finished it and it only took me four months [pats self on back, does a little victory dance and then weeps,] but I'm so glad I read it. This is a book--like The Brothers Karamozov--that makes the subsequent books the author wrote seem superfluous. It contains multitudes. All of humanity is represented here (well, all of Victorian English humanity at any rate.) The truest--and shortest--sentence of the book is the first one: "London." The organizing metaphor of the book is the Chancery Court where people come to await judgments that never seem to come, or when they do come, come too late to be of any use. Kurt Vonnegut summarizes the point of the book when he said (in a completely different context, not talking about this book,) "A purpose of human life is to love whomever is around to be loved." The paragon of this idea is John Jarndyce who has a big stake in the outcome of a court case, but completely ignores it, instead spending his time coming to the aid of whomever needs his aid. He is the goodliest, most charitable character in any book I've ever read. His antipode is Mrs. Jellyby, who spends all her time on a hopeless scheme to aid Humanity at the expense of those who really need her--her poor forlorn family. Dickens calls this Telescopic Philanthropy (a great phrase.) To me, the most interesting character is Mr. Bucket, detective. When it comes to his job, he posses an almost god-like perspicacity, and does it with amazing compassion, but even he can't save everyone. That's what makes Dickens a great artist. He's cynical about "officialdom," tender towards the frailty of humans, but ultimately realistic about mankind's chances for perfect happiness. He further illustrates this in his depiction of Sir Leicester. Leicester's an upper-class twit, but one capable of great suffering. His fate broke my heart. All that being said, what I didn't like about the book was the "sweetness and light" of some of the Esther episodes. Early on it made me want to put the book down (or throw it at a puppy,) but eventually I got swept along by the amazingly complex narrative. I realize this review is long and rambling (and getting longer and more rambling by this little postscript) and I could go on and on about fifty different scenes in this book that elated, saddened or otherwise moved me, so I'll just leave it at this: This book is sad, funny, tender, thrilling, heart-breaking, and Mr. Smallweed is kind of a dick.

  18. 3 out of 5

    TheSkepticalReader

    At the center of ‘Bleak House’ we have the Jarndyce and Jarndyce court case and supposedly, Dickens wrote this novel as a part commentary of the English justice system. I do not know, nor do I care a bit, about what he intended to achieve in terms of discussing the law and the government’s failure to deliver justice. What I was most engrossed with was the story. Because…wow. What most amazes me is the detailing of the novel and how masterfully it is written. I am not a writer so I don’t know how At the center of ‘Bleak House’ we have the Jarndyce and Jarndyce court case and supposedly, Dickens wrote this novel as a part commentary of the English justice system. I do not know, nor do I care a bit, about what he intended to achieve in terms of discussing the law and the government’s failure to deliver justice. What I was most engrossed with was the story. Because…wow. What most amazes me is the detailing of the novel and how masterfully it is written. I am not a writer so I don’t know how hard writers have to work, but I cannot imagine the amount of work put into producing this novel. I adore Dickens’ writing style and the way he weaves one story into another as we progress. I’d be lying if I said sometimes the innumerable characters gets to be stressful, but they all have a purpose and when you read the last page of the novel and close the book…you’ll love it. I have rarely ever been as deeply embedded into such a large work and despite all its complexity, this novel was incredibly difficult to put down. (Really, I can’t stress this enough—I’m a coward when it comes to big books. I don’t do big books.) I did have to reflect more thoroughly on the way the novel is structured—in a dual narrative, with one side following a unidentified narrator and on the other, Ester Summerson. I loved Ester’s chapters much more then the other ones but in the end, I did struggle with understanding why she had to have her own narrative (and why she couldn’t be replaced by anyone else residing in the Bleak house). I have since dug deeper and realized that Ester’s instinct to want to heal others is a much-required contrast to the chaos which ensues in the other narrative. Ester herself I truly loved. Her compassion was honorable and there were times when I just wanted to hug her for her sweet and admirable gestures, in attempts to keep everyone at peace. Mr. Jarndyce himself quite surprised me in the end with his supportive gesture towards Ester. I was saddened by the ending some of the other characters receive but knowing at least one of my favorite characters gets her own happy ending, I am content with it at this point. Although it’s hard not to feel disheartened by Lord and Lady Dedlock’s fates. I can go on for a while here but I’ll end it there. Apologies for any errors, I am speed-writing this review and haven’t the time to recheck everything.

  19. 3 out of 5

    Sara

    It always feels a bit presumptive when I am trying to review the masters of the novel, a Dickens, Hardy, or Eliot. What can someone like myself contribute, that might matter, to the appreciation of a masterpiece like Bleak House. And yet, I want to effuse about it, I want to praise it, I want to say how completely effective it is and how strangely relevant to our society if you merely put the characters in cars instead of horse-drawn conveyances. I want to tell everyone that within its pages you It always feels a bit presumptive when I am trying to review the masters of the novel, a Dickens, Hardy, or Eliot. What can someone like myself contribute, that might matter, to the appreciation of a masterpiece like Bleak House. And yet, I want to effuse about it, I want to praise it, I want to say how completely effective it is and how strangely relevant to our society if you merely put the characters in cars instead of horse-drawn conveyances. I want to tell everyone that within its pages you will find the human condition has changed less than the progress we have made might indicate. At their hearts people are in want of love and understanding, food and warmth, that they are greedy or kind or confused or evil in the same way regardless of the era of their birth. One of the major characters, Esther, might be painted a bit too perfect and faultless, too sweet and grateful and considerate; but I find myself quite happy with her and wanting to believe that there might exist people who at least strive to be this good. John Jarndyce is one of the finest characters in fiction--a man who does good wherever he can and expects nothing in return, including thanks. And what can one say of Harold Skimpole? He is despicable because he never takes any responsibility for his actions and lives the life of a leech by cloaking himself in the guise of a child. He is a universally harmful person, at whom one chuckles in the beginning, but loathes by the end. A host of fascinating characters (Lady Dedlock, George the Trooper, and Inspector Bucket all shine) people this novel and keep the suspense and interest alive throughout. Because this is Dickens, you can be sure there are villains aplenty, innocents in danger of being squashed by society, and poverty of a level that is appalling. If there is anything Dickens understands it is class division and the inability of the ordinary man to lift himself out of the gutter once life has flung him there. Then there is the condemnation of the legal system and the sad injustice that is built into its operations. The suit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce that is at the heart of the novel exposes in how little measure the legal system exists for the good or benefit of those who find themselves in its grasp. How sad, we are told, to wrap your life up in any expectation of justice or relief from the courts, what a waste of time for anyone but the lawyers who alone seem to profit from the venture. Dickens knows his craft and provides just the right mix of sentiment, humor and mystery. In turn, I laughed aloud, cried a bit and neglected chores to get to the end of a chapter and the possible nugget of information that might help to solve one of the myriad mysteries presented. He plays with words and images and I could not help noting that the least “bleak” house of all was John Jarndyce’s home that officially carried the name. Every time I read a true classic, I have to stop and kick myself for having been so long getting around to it. There is a reason these stories have lasted through centuries. There is a reason they do not fade into oblivion along with so many of their fellows. They spoke to the audience they were written for, and, they speak just as eloquently to the audience that finds them today. If I live long enough, I hope to be able to say I have read every Dickens novel. At least now I can say I have read Bleak House, and it was an experience worth having.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Evripidis Gousiaris

    ΕΞΑΙΡΕΤΙΚΌ. ΕΠΟΣ. ΑΡΙΣΤΟΎΡΓΗΜΑ. Γενικα ό.τι και να πω για αυτό το βιβλίο θα είναι λίγο. Αξίζει κάθε δευτερόλεπτο που θα του αφιερώσετε. Δεν έχω να πω κάτι άλλο. ΔΙΑΒΆΣΤΕ ΤΟ! (Όσοι το διαβάσετε αξίζει να δείτε την μεταφορά του στην μικρή οθόνη από το BBC.) (view spoiler)[Αγάπησα τον κύριο Tulkinghorn και μίσησα τον κύριο Skimpole. ΝΑΙ, Είμαι περίεργος!  XD (hide spoiler)]

  21. 3 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    I can't say that this is my favourite Dickens, and I found the first two hundred pages or so rocky going, with a few misunderstandings on my part that served to baffle rather than inform. But as the novel started to come together, and the disparate characters started to interact more strongly, I ended up very much liking it. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, I can't say that this is my favourite Dickens, and I found the first two hundred pages or so rocky going, with a few misunderstandings on my part that served to baffle rather than inform. But as the novel started to come together, and the disparate characters started to interact more strongly, I ended up very much liking it. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  22. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Call it by any name Your Highness will, attribute it to whom you will, or say it might have been prevented how you will, it is the same death eternally—inborn, inbred, engendered in the corrupted humours of the vicious body itself, and that only—Spontaneous Combustion, and none other of all the deaths that can be died. For better or for worse, I read this novel through the lens of two critics: Harold Bloom and George Orwell. In The Western Canon, Bloom calls Bleak House Dickens’s finest achievem Call it by any name Your Highness will, attribute it to whom you will, or say it might have been prevented how you will, it is the same death eternally—inborn, inbred, engendered in the corrupted humours of the vicious body itself, and that only—Spontaneous Combustion, and none other of all the deaths that can be died. For better or for worse, I read this novel through the lens of two critics: Harold Bloom and George Orwell. In The Western Canon, Bloom calls Bleak House Dickens’s finest achievements; and he considers the novel to be among the central novels in the titular canon. This opinion is based, in part, on Esther Summerson’s narrative (which comprises half of the book; the other half is told from an omniscient narrator). Bloom agrees with the conventional opinion that Dickens’s modus operandi is to create static and cartoonish characters, far removed from the constantly changing and evolving characters of, say, Tolstoy or Shakespeare. But in Esther, Bloom thought Dickens had transcended his art: he had created a genuinely Shakespearean self, a narrator who could overhear her own narration, and who engaged in a constant dialogue with herself—a mercurial and growing consciousness. This opinion is far from popular. I'm not sure I agree with it; certainly she doesn't strike me as "Shakespearean," and she would not be at home in any of Tolstoy's works. Unlike a Shakespearean or a Tolstoyan character, it is difficult to see myself in her. This isn't just me. Esther has irked critics from the beginning. She is too good for her own good. She is passive, forgiving, unconditionally loving, self-negating, dutiful, hardworking, dreadfully kind, painfully virtuous, devoid of malice, thankful to a fault—someone who lives exclusively for others. It’s hard to like her, because it’s so hard to identify with somebody like that, and such a selfless ideal of feminine behavior strikes us nowadays as both sexist and untenable. And yet, for me, she is ultimately sympathetic, at least from a distance. I think this is due to her resilience. Her childhood as an orphan is harsh and loveless; she is so thirsty for affection that every slight kindness reduces her to tears. As she grows, she is formed by an ethos of feminine subservience and duty, modesty and virtue, an ethos which she embodies as perfectly as possible. In Esther, however, this is not a sign of passivity and weakness, but of independence and strength. She does not let the world, so often cruel and unfair, make her spiteful; she does not become bitter and resentful from the blows of misfortune. She is determined to be happy; and she realizes that happiness cannot be achieved through selfishness, but requires generosity, forgiveness, and identifying oneself with others. She realizes, in short, that selflessness is the wisest and best form of selfishness, since it leads to the greatest fulfillment. Nevertheless, I should immediately add that this ethical ideal is so tinged by Dickens’s patriarchal worldview and sickly sweet sentimentality that Esther becomes more of a fairytale heroine than a religious figure. It is hard to admire her, since she is so painfully self-effacing; it is hard to imagine being her friend, since she always puts others above herself, and friendship is based on equality. She is independent and strong, but only in the context of a world where women are expected to be passive to the point of invisibility. On second thought, perhaps it is wrong to attribute this irksome self-sacrificing nature purely to sexism; for Dickens also gives us a masculine embodiment of this virtue in the form of Mr. Jarndyce. Jarndyce is almost equally self-sacrificing and self-effacing; his one selfish act is his marriage proposal to Esther, which he eventually retracts; everything else he does for the good of his kith and kin. Granted, he is far more active than Esther, being the masculine patriarch; but this activity is oriented exclusively to the good of others. All this notwithstanding, I found Jarndyce far less sympathetic than Esther, because his personality is nothing but a benign vacuum. A person—at least for me—is partly defined by what he or she wants; and someone who only wants to help others is not a person, but a kindly automaton. With Esther, selflessness is made to seem, if not desirable, at least viable; but with Jardynce it is neither. He is palpably a figure of the infantile imagination, a kind of idealized father, protective, caring, loving, and in the end such a fantasy that he vanishes altogether into a ray of sunlight. Esther’s foil is Mrs. Jellyby. She is a picture of selfish selflessness. Mrs. Jellyby abuses her family, neglects her children, and ignores her husband, subordinating everything to her plans for a small tribe in Africa. On the surface, she is an immensely charitable person, living purely for the sake of this tribe. Her “charity,” however, is manifestly an implement of extreme egoism, reducing everyone else in her house to servants and assistants, directing all attention to herself and her own seeming goodness. She talks incessantly about helping others but never actually does. In his essay on Dickens, Orwell divides up do-gooders into moralists and reformers. Moralists try to improve people’s behavior and values, and see society’s ills as flowing from personal failings. Reformers take the opposite view; they try to improve the structure of society, seeing individual moral failings as products rather than causes of social ills. Dickens is a classic moralist, and Mrs. Jellyby is his portrait of a misguided reformer. For Dickens, all goodness is personal—flowing from one individual to another—while reformers, like Mrs. Jellyby, mistakenly believe that goodness is impersonal, which is why she concerns herself with the lives of people she has never met. She cannot make society better because she herself is full of vices; while Esther improves society without even trying, by her every virtuous action and her inspiring example. Again, it must immediately be said that Dickens’s portrayal of Mrs. Jellyby is also tinged with sexism. Aside from a rash reformer, Mrs. Jellyby is a meddling woman—a woman who thinks she can be a man, a woman who doesn’t know her place, a woman who fails to be a wife and a mother. It is impossible to imagine Dickens using the same tone with a male character. This sexism is something to keep in mind, of course; but it does not, for me, negate his wider point about charity and goodness. Perhaps Orwell’s best insight into Dickens is this: “The outstanding, unmistakable mark of Dickens’s writing is the unnecessary detail.” This novel is long; it is unnecessarily long. For the first four hundred or so pages, it seems to still be trying to get going; the plot clanks and clunks into motion like an old steam engine. A partial explanation for this is that the book was at first a serial, the 19th century equivalent of a sitcom, spinning out plots and subplots to fill episodes and seasons, entertaining its readers piecemeal. But it is also due to Dickens’s perspective. He sees life always in the concrete, never in the abstract, and with a vividness of vision and a relish for daily life that fill his novels with energy and color. The plot serves the detail rather than the reverse; the story is just a conveyance for brilliant particulars. Many things irked me about this book. Dickens’s sentimentality is often nauseating and sometimes comes across a cheap trick, like the overwrought string music playing in the background of a bad soap opera. The transition from an omniscient narrator to Esther’s narration was a brilliant device, but also made the book a bit difficult for me to follow, and easy to put down. Dickens’s characters are always exciting, but his descriptive language can be soporific. He has a tendency to let himself get carried away into prose poetry, all written in the passive voice. Occasionally, these are masterful, such as the famous beginning paragraphs of this novel; but just as often they make me drowsy. What is miraculous about Dickens is that his books are so apparently simple and straightforward, and yet they can be endlessly analyzed. Perhaps this is because he effortlessly combines so many contradictory elements: social realism with imaginative fancy, sentimental prettiness with grotesque horror, moral preaching with biting satire, advocacy with art, propaganda with poetry. Dickens’s flaws leap to the eye—his inability to create three-dimensional characters, his lack of intellectual curiosity, his superficial view of the world, his insensitivity to the sublime, his clumsy plots, his mountains of petty details, his deadening prose style—and yet his appeal is nearly universal. That the same writer could entrance both Harold Bloom, the enemy of political art, and George Orwell, the champion of political art, is a sign of his genius. And in the end, when faced with somebody as universal and powerful as Dickens, all analysis can do is reveal the limitations of its method.

  23. 3 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Bleak House, Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870) Bleak House is a nineteenth century novel by English author Charles Dickens, first published as a serial between March 1852 and September 1853. The novel has many characters and several sub-plots, and the story is told partly by the novel's heroine, Esther Summerson, and partly by an omniscient narrator. At the centre of Bleak House is a long-running legal case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which came about because someone wrote several conflicting wills. Dick Bleak House, Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870) Bleak House is a nineteenth century novel by English author Charles Dickens, first published as a serial between March 1852 and September 1853. The novel has many characters and several sub-plots, and the story is told partly by the novel's heroine, Esther Summerson, and partly by an omniscient narrator. At the centre of Bleak House is a long-running legal case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which came about because someone wrote several conflicting wills. Dickens uses this case to satirise the English judicial system. Though the legal profession criticised Dickens' satire as exaggerated, this novel helped support a judicial reform movement, which culminated in the enactment of legal reform in the 1870s. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: هجدهم ماه فوریه سال 1970 میلادی عنوان: خانه قانون زده (بلیک هاوس)؛ نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز؛ مترجم: ابراهیم یونسی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، امیرکبیر، 1345؛ در هجده و 891 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1356؛ در 907 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، سحر، 1368، دو جلد در 942 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، نگاه، 1387؛ شابک: 9789643515256؛در 941 ص؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی سده 19 م عنوان: خانه قانون زده (کوتاه شده)؛ نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز؛ مترجم: بابک تختی؛ تهران، دبیر، 1395، در 88 ص؛شابک: 9786005955941؛ عنوان: خانه قانون زده (کوتاه شده)؛ نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز؛ مترجم: نیلوفر زارع؛ تهران، کیان افراز، 1396، در 58 ص؛شابک: 9786008854340؛ خانهٔ متروک یا خانه غمزده (خانه قانون زده) نهمین رمان چارلز دیکنز است که در سال 1853 میلادی نگاشته‌ شده‌ است. این داستان زندگی غم‌ انگیز طبقه کارگر فقیر انگلستان را نشان می‌دهد. خانه غمزده نخستین بار بصورت داستان دنباله‌ دار از اول ماه مارس سال 1852 میلادی تا روز بیستم ماه سپتامبر سال 1853 میلادی در هفته‌ نامه ای چاپ شد. در رمان «خانه قانون‌ زده»، «بازرس باکت» ماجرای قتل وکیلی به‌ نام «تاکینگ هورن» را رمزگشایی می‌کند که در دفترش به قتل رسیده است. او هم مانند کارآگاه «دوپن» در داستان‌‌های «ادگار آلن پو» خود را عقل کل می‌داند و گرچه آدم متواضعی به نظر می‌رسد اما در ماجرای بازجویی از «کنت ددلاک» کمی از خود راضی نشان می‌دهد. با این حال، باکت کارآگاه خیلی باهوشی نیست و حل معمای داستان بیشتر به‌ علت شناخت او از محلات لندن ناشی می‌شود. در حقیقت به‌ رغم این‌که بازرس فیلد در تحقیقات خود خیلی قرص و محکم جلو می‌رود اما در رمان «خانه قانون‌ زده»، لیدی ددلاک از چنگ بازرس باکت می‌گریزد. با این همه، او نقصی ندارد و به وظایفش خیلی دقیق عمل می‌کند. تحقیقاتش کاملاً منطقی است و می‌کوشد تا الگوی نسبتاً مثبتی از یک کارآگاه پلیس را به خوانشگر ارائه دهد. ا. شربیانی

  24. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    Bleak House the novel is – as you would expect – pretty bleak, but Bleak House the eponymous house in the book is one of the happier places to be found therein. In any case this being a Dickens novel you should not expect a wall to wall bleak fest. You would need to pop over to Hardyverse (also called Wessex) for those. Bleak House is difficult to synopsize, it is about so many things and so many people. It has a very large cast of characters and a lot of intrigues. However, don’t let that put yo Bleak House the novel is – as you would expect – pretty bleak, but Bleak House the eponymous house in the book is one of the happier places to be found therein. In any case this being a Dickens novel you should not expect a wall to wall bleak fest. You would need to pop over to Hardyverse (also called Wessex) for those. Bleak House is difficult to synopsize, it is about so many things and so many people. It has a very large cast of characters and a lot of intrigues. However, don’t let that put you off Dickens knew how to structure and narrate his novels in such a way that it can be followed without much confusion. At the centre of the novel is a lawsuit called “Jarndyce and Jarndyce” (the “Vs” is not used in those days), a case that just drags on and on for decades with no end in sight. The details are so serpentine that nobody can make head or tail of and several interested parties are driven insane by the wait for its conclusion. The protagonist of Bleak House is Esther Summerson who narrates at least half the novel in the first person. The rest of the book is narrated by an omniscient narrator (but you can call him Charles). Esther is from Dickens’ stock impossibly nice ladies who seem to always put the interest of everybody else ahead of herself. In spite of a sad and lonely childhood and not knowing who her parents are she is mostly quite chirpy and optimistic. A major aspect of the novel is the secret identity of Esther’s mother. I won’t tell you anything about her except that in the recent BBC adaptation she is played by Gillian Anderson, best known as “Scully” from The X-Files, just so you know she is not to be trifled with (she is also on the book cover). There are so many plots and subplots in this book and I would be here all day if I were to mention them all. The book is highly flavored with myriad elements, comedy, tragedy, whodunit etc, there is even a spontaneous human combustion! That last one knocked me for a loop. As usual Dickens populates Bleak House (the novel not the house) with a cast of colorful characters, many of them with funny names like Jellyby, Pardiggle, Skimpole, Smallweed etc. Dickens is often accused of creating unrealistic cartoonish characters usually defined by one quirk. However, he actually based most of those on actual people he knew and satirized them, and they are very entertaining to read about. I must make a special mention for a Harold Skimpole. Initially I thought he was a prototype hippy or freeloading surfer dude, but as the novel progresses he becomes increasingly pernicious, with an “ingenous (not ingenious) simplicity” that is quite infuriating when you realize what his game is. There is also a policeman called Inspector Bucket that reminds me a little of Hercule Poirot (though he is not French). In spite of being quite tragic at times I find Bleak House vastly enjoyable and would recommend it to fans of Victorian fiction. Those new to Dickens should start with the shorter and less complex Great Expectations. My enjoyment of the book is much enhanced by the freebie audiobook from Librivox. This one is read “solo” by the wonderful Ms. Mil Nicholson who has graciously read several Dickens novels for the public domain. She is one of the very few Librivox volunteer readers who can match the best of professional readers from Audible.com, with voices galore. I must remember to send her a thank you note. Dana Scully Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock. Addendum: A word about the prose style, I think Dickens' writing skill is not so much a talent as a superpower. However did he come up with those turns of phases? The quotes I have chosen are not the pithy, inspirational ones people tend to highlight, just the ones that made me laugh: ""Upon my life," said Mr. Skimpole, shrugging his shoulders with his engaging smile, "I have not the least idea what he is to do then. But I have no doubt he'll do it". This is Skimpole's way of saying that he does not give a shit about whether a sick boy will live or die if left in the street uncared for. "Writing was a trying business to Charley, who seemed to have no natural power over a pen, but in whose hand every pen appeared to become perversely animated, and to go wrong and crooked, and to stop, and splash, and sidle into corners like a saddle-donkey. It was very odd to see what old letters Charley's young hand had made, they so wrinkled, and shrivelled, and tottering, it so plump and round." Esther's lovely description of teaching her maid to write. “I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies.” Ha! Skimpole for President! Note: Most of your favorite Dickens tropes are present and accounted for!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mala

    Dickens is all about sentiments– you may run down his books as melodramas, tear-jerkers, 'poverty-porn' & so on but there is no denying their visceral appeal, for what are we without sentiments? Bleak House, Dickens' masterpiece, has all of his staple/ trademark ingredients– an inheritance, a missing will, a mystery, angelic damsels, fairy godfather, old school gentlemen, evil-plotting villains, grotesque caricatures, a wide variety of humour- from biting satire, drollery, to crazy slapstick, Dickens is all about sentiments– you may run down his books as melodramas, tear-jerkers, 'poverty-porn' & so on but there is no denying their visceral appeal, for what are we without sentiments? Bleak House, Dickens' masterpiece, has all of his staple/ trademark ingredients– an inheritance, a missing will, a mystery, angelic damsels, fairy godfather, old school gentlemen, evil-plotting villains, grotesque caricatures, a wide variety of humour- from biting satire, drollery, to crazy slapstick, social & moral commentary, several deaths, & of course, The Poor– & all of it plays out in the gigantic, dinosaurian shadow of the Chancery Suit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Briefly, it is a law suit that's been going on for generations, without any rhyme or reason, so much so that "Jarndyce and Jarndyce has passed into a joke. That is the only good that has ever come of it. It has been death to many, but it is a joke in the profession." Merely writing about it gives me headache, let Dickens explain it: "It's about a will and the trusts under a will—or it was once. It's about nothing but costs now. We are always appearing, and disappearing, and swearing, and interrogating, and filing, and cross-filing, and arguing, and sealing, and motioning, and referring, and reporting, and revolving about the Lord Chancellor and all his satellites, and equitably waltzing ourselves off to dusty death, about costs. That's the great question. All the rest, by some extraordinary means, has melted away." This lawsuit & a secondary mystery plot bring together an impressive cast of characters, only fair cause Bleak House celebrates the interconnectedness of people from all walks of life: "What connexion can there have been between many people in the innumerable histories of this world, who, from opposite sides of great gulfs have nevertheless been very curiously brought together!" Not since Shakespeare, has a writer given us this diorama/ galaxy of authentic, fully-fleshed out characters, each with their own unique voice! I'm so tempted to share with you their dialogues but it's such a mind-boggling choice that I'll settle for only two examples. Here's Grandpa Smallweed, all-a-shakin-&-a-cursin: "Will somebody give me a quart pot?" exclaims her exasperated husband, looking helplessly about him and finding no missile within his reach. "Will somebody obleege me with a spittoon? Will somebody hand me anything hard and bruising to pelt at her? You hag, you cat, you dog, you brimstone barker!" Here Mr. Smallweed, wrought up to the highest pitch by his own eloquence, actually throws Judy at her grandmother in default of anything else, by butting that young virgin at the old lady with such force as he can muster and then dropping into his chair in a heap.” And here's Reverend Chadband with great flourishes of rhetorical style: "Peace, my friends," says Chadband, rising and wiping the oily exudations from his reverend visage. "Peace be with us! My friends, why with us? Because," with his fat smile, "it cannot be against us, because it must be for us; because it is not hardening, because it is softening; because it does not make war like the hawk, but comes home unto us like the dove. Therefore, my friends, peace be with us! My human boy, come forward!" No wonder with sleep-inducing preachers like that Christianity doesn't fare well & it is left to a few do-gooders like Mr.Jarndyce, Esther & Dr.Woodcourt to provide succour wherever they can. In our group read, there were energetic exchanges on the role of women & the nature of charity in the Bleak House universe. Jan-Maat has tackled those issues in his review but just to add my two cents: The handing over of keys is very important, esp. in our Indian culture; it's a rite of passage where the mother-in-law hands them to the new bride– the power passing from one generation to the next– Indian women know that whosoever holds the household keys, holds the actual reins of power! Thus Dickens' domesticated "little women" are not powerless- Esther, Mrs.Bagnet- these ladies are the centre of their universe. Contrast this with the treatment meted out to the likes of Mrs.Jellyby & Mrs.Pardiggle– Dickens demonstrates that as a wife & mother, their first duties are towards the proper upbringing of their children & to a well-oiled household machinery- they fail at these roles, no wonder they fail at "telescopic philanthrophy" & hard charity as well. Is Dickens any different than millions of Americans who voice that before being an international president, Obama should be an American one! Victorian times were an age of prosperity but the poor remained deprived as usual- consider the current belt-tightening measures in the EU towards charitable causes & you'll understand Dickens' concerns better. Charity must always begin at home– only it shdn't stop there ! With 1,811 reviews at last count, this review of mine feels somewhat redundant–ignore it by all means but don't ignore the book & its writer– they are infinitely more important. Anyone up for a Year of Dickens-2014– count me in!

  26. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Roll back to 1986—I was touring with Loudon Wainwright III upon the release of his More Love Songs album (which includes the famous ‘Your Mother & I’) when Loud strikes up a confab about Dickens. “Nicholls,” he begins, bunk-loafing in his usual roguish manner. “I do declay-ah that Bleak House is the greatest novel of the century, yessir-ee.” I was strumming a zither at the time, co-writing a song that would later appear on History. “Loud, you must be out of your mind. Everyone knows now that Roll back to 1986—I was touring with Loudon Wainwright III upon the release of his More Love Songs album (which includes the famous ‘Your Mother & I’) when Loud strikes up a confab about Dickens. “Nicholls,” he begins, bunk-loafing in his usual roguish manner. “I do declay-ah that Bleak House is the greatest novel of the century, yessir-ee.” I was strumming a zither at the time, co-writing a song that would later appear on History. “Loud, you must be out of your mind. Everyone knows now that Ulysses is the greatest novel of the century.” Never one to miss a literary quotation, Loud shot back: “Thank you, Mr. Burgess. How many other books you read this week, one or two thousand?” Those were fine times, until the drinking and restraining orders, etc. And now, twenty-five-and-a-bit years later, I have read Bleak House, and I can see why Mr. Wainwright was so smitten. Sprawling in its epic sprawlingness—a Gargantua of fog-blocked Weltschmerz—a complex, challenging dual narrative—a scathing satire on the circumambiguities of the law and the chancers who practise—a vibrant and lively Dickens crackerbox of eccentrics and noble memorables—a long long long long saga of such sublime and intolerable long long long longness other long things seem short in comparison—a breathtaking final third where all the plots converge in a most invigorating heartsmacking masterful manner—oh Yes. Take that, Loudon.

  27. 3 out of 5

    Paula W

    This novel is a fucking masterpiece. I'm not sure what else to say, but I'll keep typing and see what comes out of my blown mind and into my fingertips on the keyboard. There was so much going on here: 1.) A serious criticism of the Chancery Court system, where court cases took so long to complete that people were born, people died, the money in very large estates was completely used up, and parties to the cases who devoted their lives to pushing toward a conclusion of their cases went crazy or wi This novel is a fucking masterpiece. I'm not sure what else to say, but I'll keep typing and see what comes out of my blown mind and into my fingertips on the keyboard. There was so much going on here: 1.) A serious criticism of the Chancery Court system, where court cases took so long to complete that people were born, people died, the money in very large estates was completely used up, and parties to the cases who devoted their lives to pushing toward a conclusion of their cases went crazy or withered away. 2.) A serious discussion on philanthrophy and charity. What do we do with the less fortunate? Are they the responsibility of the government? Or should private citizens help them, even to the detriment of their own families? Are people in other countries more deserving of our charity than those right outside our door, eating a crust of bread on the doorstep of the church where people are having meetings about sending missionaries to Africa? 3.) A serious look at the class system, at love, at friendship, at duty, at selflessness, at honor, at family, at villains, at heroes, at wannabe heroes, at leeches, and at those who might be the center of the story and might also be the piece that completes several different puzzles if only we didn't see them as outsiders. There are dozens (yes, dozens) of characters in the novel. I have read a few reviews that said it was difficult to keep up with all the characters, but I didn't have that problem. To my great pleasure, Dickens created some amazing characters here. For me, each one was a separate and distinct person with different ideas, thoughts, and even facial expressions from any other character. I could see them in my mind. I saw them grow. I saw them regress. I saw them to not be quite what I thought they were at the beginning. I laughed with them, I cried with them, and I cried for them several times. Once or twice, I cried for myself. At 1,087 pages, this wouldn't normally be a book I would recommend to everyone. But you need to go read this. It will change your life. It changed mine. And don't be intimidated by the title; Bleak House is anything but bleak, and I think that's only a tiny part of the brilliance of this book.

  28. 3 out of 5

    Anne

    And so thirty-one Regency romances, fifteen Kindle freebies, innumerable cups of tea and many more books later, I have finally finished this Dickens masterpiece. It took me exactly thirteen months, and I had time to read an alarming total of eighty-three books in between the start and finish of Bleak House. Why the five stars then, you ask? If it took me that long to get through it, surely it's not worth the effort? Well, it is. It's awesome. Very put-downable in my opinion though, and I will be And so thirty-one Regency romances, fifteen Kindle freebies, innumerable cups of tea and many more books later, I have finally finished this Dickens masterpiece. It took me exactly thirteen months, and I had time to read an alarming total of eighty-three books in between the start and finish of Bleak House. Why the five stars then, you ask? If it took me that long to get through it, surely it's not worth the effort? Well, it is. It's awesome. Very put-downable in my opinion though, and I will be completely honest, extremely boring in some instances. I wasn't even half-way through the first chapter that I was already feeling like Lady Dedlock. I don't know what possessed me to start reading that book during summer, when it's the perfect time for fluffy romances, popsicles and beaches, but there I was, struggling to get into dreary, smoky London streets and rainy, gloomy Chesney Wold. No wonder my sense of boredom only intensified! Do I really not have anything else to do but read this? Do I really want to commit to this tiny-printed 880 pages manuscript? Nawww, not really. Get the brain candy out, I already need it after ten pages. Why are there so many descriptions? So many details? Do I really have to sit through the effects the rain has on everybody and everything? Who are these people anyways? So, back on the shelf this door-stop went, and remained untouched for many a month, gathering up dust and cobwebs (not really, but almost!), while I escaped most of the time to Regency England, only to come out, ignoring the nagging voice that urged me to pick this back up, before plunging again and forgetting all about it. Then one morning, I finally decided that my behaviour was ridiculous, jumped out of bed, and rescued poor dusty Bleak House from its place under the bed on the shelf, and read it through in one sitting. Ha! Just kidding, but I wish, as it would have saved me so much time!! What really happened is that after taking it in small doses and getting to a point where I seriously thought of abandoning it for good, a lovely and clever friend of mine suggested I should perhaps...watch the BBC mini-series??! Heck, why not! It can't get any worse than it is now, I thought. So I watched it. And fell completely head over heels in love with it. No joke. It's THAT good. I don't blame anyone who wishes to stay away from Dickens novels, but that movie, you need to see it. Seriously, start by watching the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_9SB... Sounds amazing, no? That's when I realized that beneath all the lavish descriptions, the long speeches, the fancy turn of phrases and the annoying characters, lay an incredible, suspenseful and thrilling story. At the heart of Bleak House is the on-going, never-ending court case of Jarndyce & Jarndyce. John Jarndyce of Bleak House is long dead, but he wrote more than one will, so nobody knows who should inherit the money. The present Mr. John Jarndyce, now residing at Bleak House, had decided to take Miss Ada Clare and Mr. Richard Carstone, two cousin orphans, under his protection. He is also their distant cousin, and a very kind, devoted and benevolent man. Along with them also comes Miss Esther Summerson; a very quiet, sensible and intelligent young woman, who shall serve as companion to Miss Clare. Miss Summerson is also an orphan, but there is a great mystery surrounding her birth. Nobody knows who her parents are, and the lady who brought her up always said that she was a disgrace. Off they all go to Bleak House, where they are to reside in peace, tranquilly awaiting the result of Jarndyce & Jarndyce. Miss Clare and Mr. Carstone have a claim in the case, and may inherit a lot of money from it. However, the case has ruined many men who'd pined all their hopes on it, and Richard is encouraged to seek a profession and make his own way in life, without waiting for the case to be solved. Meanwhile, Mr. Tulkinghorn, the lawyer, is paying a call on his most important client, the proud and respected Sir Leicester Dedlock. He and his Lady are sitting in the drawing-room and Mr. Tulkinghorn is about to read to them on the advancements in the case of J&J. Perceiving the hand-writing on one of the documents, my Lady is greatly disturbed, and so too is Mr. Tulkinghorn in seeing the effect it has on her. As soon as he is back in his office, he starts off an investigation that will prove as intriguing and mysterious as it is cruel and manipulative. Mr. Tulkinghorn, that cold, calm, menacing and calculating lawyer, has caught the start of an intrigue in which its chain of events will forever change the lives of more people than originally bargained for. Everything is intertwined and suspiciously connected, and it will be layer upon layer of twists and turns before it is all resolved. In my opinion, there are two major heroines in this novel. The first, the young and courageous Esther Summerson, who is all happiness and consideration towards Mr. Jarndyce, who has done her the very great honour of making her his housekeeper. Torn between her devotion to Mr. Jarndyce, her love for the young doctor Mr. Woodcourt and her desperate desire to find the identity of her mother, Esther remains true to herself and loyal to her friends. She is kind, generous and very dependable. The second heroine is the great Lady Dedlock. She is one of the most fascinating women I have ever read about, and a great favourite of mine. Tall, graceful, once an acknowledged beauty in the long-gone days of her youth, Lady Dedlock is a model of perfect composure, deportment and manners. She appears ice-cold and impenetrable, carries herself as if she were a Queen and rarely betrays any emotion of feeling. But this great Lady has a secret, deeply buried inside her, and she suffers under its weight every day. Married for many years to the proud Sir Leicester Dedlock, she has done her best to be as good a wife to him as she can possibly be, and he in return loves her unconditionally. Though many years her senior, and a bit rough around the edges, Sir Leicester's devotion and admiration for his Lady are extremely touching. "His noble earnestness, his fidelity, his gallant shielding of her, his general conquest of his own wrong and his own pride for her sake, are simply honourable, manly and true." However, the importance he attaches to his good name and the reputation of his family are very great indeed. Lady Dedlock knows that. And the more Mr. Tulkinghorn inquires about, the more in dread she becomes of ruining the Dedlock family. When watching the mini-series, the excitement and suspense are there from the very beginning, and don't drop once until the ending. When reading the book, there are many slow parts and endless paragraphs, but with a little bit of skimming here and there, it becomes as exciting as the movie - or almost. ;) The whole thing is so intense and so genius though, that once you've past the first 250 pages or so, it becomes easier to read as the suspense grows. Many characters are hella annoying, fair warning, both in movie and book, and it is only with the fear of making a whole in my wall with the heavy brick that I didn't throw it in frustration, nor did I do anything to do the DVD since I had borrowed it from the library. But gaahhh, some of them drove me nuts!! I don't want to spoil anything (because y'all gonna go read this now, right?? Or at least watch the movie, RIGHT?? Riiiiight???), and so I will say nothing about the ending, simply that whether or not it has a HEA is entirely arguable and depends on each individual's point of view. Five stars Bleak House gets, for its sheer excellence and brilliancy, even though I was as excited as a five-year-old on Christmas morning when I turned the last page and realized it was finally over. :P :P And now, since my wonderful friend Becca had banned me from posting any Richard Armitage pictures until this book was finished, I cannot leave you without a few "delectables", which will hopefully not make you forget all about Bleak House so soon, because, remember, the movie is a must-see!! (And I'm talking about the 2009 mini-series with Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock and Anna Maxwell Martin as Miss Summerson -- I haven't seen the other version) On that note: <3 <3 *oh my word he's so swoony* Many thanks to Hana, who decided to buddy-read it with me (even though she finished waaaayyyy before me) and made me watch the movie to keep me going, Tweety who encouraged me to finish it before its year-old anniversary (I didn't make it but it was a good challenge!), Becca who forbade me have anything to do with RA pictures (cruel, but served its end!) and Jaima, who suggested we should binge-read Regency romances after finishing our big books. Thank you also to all who encouraged me to push through and keep going, I am so glad I was able to finish it!! :D Group read with the Enchanted Serenity of Classics group, buddy read with Hana and group read with the Bleak House View and Read group.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Camille Stein

    Illustrations by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne) for 'Bleak House' - http://ow.ly/uUaY309BhqU ... Jarndyce y Jarndyce se arrastra. Este pleito de espantapájaros se ha ido complicando tanto con el tiempo que ya nadie recuerda de qué se trata. Quienes menos lo comprenden son las partes en él, pero se ha observado que es imposible que dos abogados de la Cancillería lo comenten durante cinco minutos sin llegar a un total desacuerdo acerca de todas las premisas. Durante la causa han nacido innumerables Illustrations by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne) for 'Bleak House' - http://ow.ly/uUaY309BhqU ... Jarndyce y Jarndyce se arrastra. Este pleito de espantapájaros se ha ido complicando tanto con el tiempo que ya nadie recuerda de qué se trata. Quienes menos lo comprenden son las partes en él, pero se ha observado que es imposible que dos abogados de la Cancillería lo comenten durante cinco minutos sin llegar a un total desacuerdo acerca de todas las premisas. Durante la causa han nacido innumerables niños; innumerables jóvenes se han casado; innumerables ancianos han muerto. Docenas de personas se han encontrado delirantemente convertidas en partes en Jarndyce y Jarndyce, sin saber cómo ni por qué; familias enteras han heredado odios legendarios junto con el pleito. El pequeño demandante, o demandado, al que prometieron un caballito de madera cuando se fallara el pleito, ha crecido, ha poseído un caballo de verdad y se ha ido al trote al otro mundo. Las jovencitas pupilas del tribunal han ido marchitándose al hacerse madres y abuelas; se ha ido sucediendo una larga procesión de Cancilleres que han ido desapareciendo a su vez; la legión de certificados para el pleito se ha transformado en meros certificados de defunción; quizá ya no queden en el mundo más de tres Jarndyce desde que el viejo Tom Jarndyce, desesperado, se voló la tapa de los sesos en un café de Chancery Lane, pero Jarndyce y Jarndyce sigue arrastrándose monótono ante el Tribunal, eternamente un caso desesperado.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Reckoner

    Ο Ντικενς κατά φέρνει να φτιάξει ένα μωσαικο των ανθρώπων της εποχής του. Και παρολο που είναι καμποσοι, είναι τοσο αξιομνημόνευτοι και χαρακτηριστικοί, με τις συνήθειες τους, τα προβλήματα τους, μερος του κόσμου τους αλλα και της ευρύτερης κοινωνίας. Στο επίκεντρο βρίσκεται η υπόθεση Τζάρνταις που τραβάει σε μάκρος εδώ και πολλά χρόνια και αποδεικνύει με τον καλύτερο τροπο την διάβρωση και την εξαθλίωση που προκάλεσε στους προγόνους αλλα και στους απόγονους αυτής της οικογένειας. Περα από χρημα Ο Ντικενς κατά φέρνει να φτιάξει ένα μωσαικο των ανθρώπων της εποχής του. Και παρολο που είναι καμποσοι, είναι τοσο αξιομνημόνευτοι και χαρακτηριστικοί, με τις συνήθειες τους, τα προβλήματα τους, μερος του κόσμου τους αλλα και της ευρύτερης κοινωνίας. Στο επίκεντρο βρίσκεται η υπόθεση Τζάρνταις που τραβάει σε μάκρος εδώ και πολλά χρόνια και αποδεικνύει με τον καλύτερο τροπο την διάβρωση και την εξαθλίωση που προκάλεσε στους προγόνους αλλα και στους απόγονους αυτής της οικογένειας. Περα από χρηματική άποψη, εφθειρε ηθικα και ψυχολογικα. Όπως και την δεσποινίδα Φλάιτ και τα πτηνα της που τους έχει δώσει τα ονόματα ολων αυτών που έχασε τοσα χρόνια περιμένοντας τον Αρχιδικαστη να αποφασισει και θα τα απλευθερωσει παρα μονο όταν ακουστει η τελικη απόφαση από τα χείλη του. Και ειλικρινα θα επρεπε να γράψω πολλές σελιδες για να παρουσιάσω ολους τους χαρακτήρες με τα καμώματα τους , αλλοτε τραγικα κι αλλοτε αστεια και γνωριμα όπως μονο ο Ντίκενς ξερει να τα παρουσιαζει από την φυσιογνωμία, τις κινήσεις, μεχρι και τον εσωτερικό κοσμο που εκδηλώνονται και περιγραφονται με συνοχη. Για παράδειγμα ο κύριος Τζάρνταις οποτε ταραζεται και συγχύζεται ρίχνει το φταίξιμο στον ανατολικό άνεμο ώστε να δικαιολογήσει τις μικρε΄ς του εντάσεις και να κρατησει τα πραγματα σε ταξη). Οι τοσο άσχετοι φαινομενικα χαρακτήρες όπως μας παρουσιαζονται, κατά καποιο μικρότερο ή μεγαλύτερο ποσοστο συνδέονται με την πρωταγωνίστρια μας την Εσθερ που είναι και η αφηγήτρια μας και τον κηδεμόνα της κ. Τζάρνταις. Τα κομμάτια όμως του παζλ μπαίνουν αργα και μεθοδικα στην θεση τους, και με ένα πολύ ρεαλιστικό τροπο καθώς δεν συναντάμε πουθενά ευκολίες και ‘’σεναριακες τρύπες’’. Όμως παρότι θαύμασα τον τρόπο που ξεδιπλώνονται ολες οι πλοκές και σιγα σιγα αρχίζουν να συνδέονται αφήνοντας σε με το στόμα ανοιχτό, αυτό το βιβλίο το ξεχωρίζω για τους χαρακτήρες του και δη τους γυναικείους. Ο Ντίκενς δημιουργεί ανεπανάληπτες,σ ύνθετες και γοητευτικές φιγούρες βρισκομενες διάσπαρτες σε ολο το κοινωνικό και ηθικό φάσμα. Όμως σε ένα τοσο ζοφερο-γενικά μιλώντας- περιβάλλον η Εσθερ( που είναι υπέροχα queer) μοιάζει να βρίσκεται στον αντίποδα ακόμα κι αν τοεπιβάλλει στον εαυτό της. Δεν είναι οι λίγες οι φορές που μονολογεί και υποχρεώνει τον εαυτό της να είναι χαρουμενος και ευγνώμων υποδηλώνοντας καποιου είδους παθολογία σχετική με την ανατροφή της. Όχι ότι δεν της συνέβησαν καλά πράγματα αλλα ο τρόπος που συμπεριφέρεται στον εαυτό της, σε βάζει σε σκέψεις. Όμως η Εσθερ εμπνέεται από τις γυναίκες γύρω της και επιθυμεί να βελτιώσει τον εαυτο της. Υπάρχει μια ανομολόγητη και διάχυτη αίσθηση ομοερωτισμού αλλα και κατανόησης , αλληλεγγύης και τρυφερότητας στον τροπο που συνδέονται οι γυναίκες μεταξύ τους, Ειτε πρόκειται για την ανυστερόβουλη και πολύ έντονη αγαπη της Εσθερ για την Ειντα με πλειστες φυσικές εκδηλώσεις, ειτε για τις δύο φτωχές γυναίκες που συμπαραστεκονται η μια στην άλλη όταν χανει η μια το παιδι της, ειτε για την Λαιδη Ντεντλοκ και την Γαλλίδα καμαριέρα της που εκδηλώνει την ζήλια της παθιασμένα φτανοντας στο απολυτο ακρο όταν θα αντικατασταθει από την νεότερη και ομορφοτερη Ροζα. (Ένα μοτίβο τοσο παλιο που το συνανταμε και παλι στην πρωτύτερα εκδοθείσα Καρμιλα του Λε Φανυ και από εκεί και περα σχεδόν παντού). Και φυσικά δεν μπορώ να ξεχάσω την δυναμική, εξυπνη και αποφασιστική κυρια Μπάγκνετ που είναι ετοιμη να δώσει τα πάντα για τα παιδια και τον αντρα της του οποιου παντοτε τις αποψεις εκφραζει εκείνη και ποτε εκεινος (γιατι φυσικα την σεβεται και την θαυμάζει απεριοριστα για το μυαλό και τις αρετες της και ξερει ακριβως ποια είναι η γνωμη του και την εμπιστεύεται αλλα ποτε δεν το λεει γιατι πρεπει να διατηρείται η πειθαρχια) Παρτε ως παραδειγμα ότι σας περιεγραψα για να δειτε με ποσες λεπτες ισορροπιες ντυνει τις σχεσεις των χαρακτήρων του ο μέγιστος Ντίκενς. Αυτό που ξεχωρίζει το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο είναι ότι δεν φτιαχνει χαρακτήρες. Είναι σαν να τους μεταφερει από την πραγματικότητα στο χαρτί χωρίς να χάσουν ουτε ένα χιλιοστο της συνθετότητας τους για χαρη της πλοκής. Αξιζει να διαβαστεί χωρίς να βιαστειτε καθόλου.Οι υποθέσεις θα κλείσουν σιγα σιγα αλλοτε ομορφα και άλλοτε άσχημα και στις περισσότερες περιπτώσεις η ‘’μοιρα’’ και οι προσωπικες επιλογες μπερδεύονται δημιουργικα, μα έτσι γίνεται και στην πραγματικοτητα οποτε απολαυστε το ταξιδι.

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