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Bleak House

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  49,282 ratings  ·  2,298 reviews
Bleak House is a novel by Charles Dickens, published in 20 monthly installments between March 1852 and September 1853. It is held to be one of Dickens's finest novels, containing one of the most vast, complex and engaging arrays of minor characters and sub-plots in his entire canon.

At the novel's core is long-running litigation in England's Court of Chancery, Jarndyce v Ja...more
Paperback, 1017 pages
Published January 6th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 1853)
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Community Reviews

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Dec 02, 2007 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fresh young people who have not yet ruined their eyesight
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...more
Feb 27, 2012 B0nnie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you
Shelves: favourite-books
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...more

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...more
Mar 09, 2012 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
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?...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
May 25, 2013 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Mike by: Kindred Spirits Group Read
Bleak House: Charles Dickens on Fog and Fossils

"The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine.

 photo BleakHouseIssue1_zps86f575ac.jpg
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 o...more
Review of Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
Shelf: British writer,classic-ever-enduring-appeal,Bleak House group read 2013.
Recommended for: The romantic in you.

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 godfa...more
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...more
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 cog wheel whose teeth catch up one smaller wheel after after. All of society seems to be caught up from the street sweeper to the noble Baronet in a single huge mechanism driven by avarice rathe...more

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...more
Gary  the Bookworm
I find it hard to believe that it's only been a month since I first entered Bleak House. The Goodreads group read had been going on for some time and I was so far behind that I pretty much listened/read it on my own. I had trouble finding a good audio version (don't bother with Librivox and if you buy it at iTunes, be forewarned that the Apple geniuses won't let you bookmark easily; thankfully there's an app that will). Anyway it took me awhile to work out the details and immerse myself in what...more

Overwhelmed is how I would describe myself when facing the task of reducing this monumental work to a couple of paragraphs for easy consumption on the internet. Dickens manages to capture the spirit of his times on a grand canvas, doing for English literature and early Victorian society what Hugo did for the French, Tolstoy for the Russians, Goethe for the Germans. The main difference I noticed, is that Dickens focus is not on great battles that changed the course of history or larger than life...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
"The few words that I have to add to what I have written, are soon penned; then I, and the unknown friend to whom I write, will part for ever. Not without much dear remembrance on my side. Not without some, I hope, on his or hers." p.985

This is Dickens in 1853 writing to his reader through Esther as he brings to a close what I and just about everyone on my GR friends list acknowledge as Dickens' finest, most memorable novel.

Dang, but it holds up well – whether 160 years since publication or the...more
This is only the second Dickens novel I've ever read and it was probably not the best novel to read around Christmas time. The story is bleak and gloomy. It's set in foggy, dirty Victorian London, there is a lot of mention of dirt, squalor, disease, death and poverty. Some parts were really quite depressing and upsetting.

The story is narrated in part by the orphaned Esther, who I had a lot of trouble warming up to in the story. I'm used to stronger female narrators but she was too modest, probab...more
And Dickens created woman. Never breathed a more pure, more compassionate, more true soul than Dickens' take on the Platonic forms of Beauty and Good, our dear Miss Esther Summerson. So sweet, so kind, so generous and forgiving, our narrator and the main character of Dickens' magnus opus will make readers want to bop Chuck D on the head and rant "In the name of all women, what are you doing?". His idolization and idealization of the opposite and "fairer" sex will jostle readers and induce nausea...more

It was OK, but I'm afraid I just don't much enjoy Dickens. I know that's my problem. Maybe they'll invent a surgical procedure some time that will allow me to correct it.
aPriL loves HalLowEen
Shakespeare is first. Dickens is second. Then the rest.

‘Bleak House’ reverberates and seduces and sparkles with beautiful language. I found myself drunk with the lovely sentences. It took a bit to focus on the plot, and I needed to re-read and re-read (joyful duty) but I was finally able to pay attention to the story. Oh, what perspicacious depths! Lost again….

I cannot believe this was a serialized novel. I always thought published serials required quick production and a disgusting amount of aud...more
I think that we should all get down on our knees every day and thank God that Mr. Dickens wrote so many books and that they are so big.

There are many who say that Dickens portrays "caricatures" rather than characters. I disagree with this view. Dickens portrays persons who behave consistently with their personalities. This is, in my experience, true to life. Whether persons I know are loved or foolish, etc., they generally behave consistently in accordance with expectations. The same is true of...more
Black Elephants
Grinding away the lives of all involved, the interminable case known as "Jarndyce and Jarndyce" in the Chancery courts is the sticky tape that brings our large Dickensian cast together. And that cast is pretty awesome as always with all their ticks, quirks and foibles. Bleak House, unlike the name, is anything but sorrowful.

There are two main stories that make up the book. The first is the court case, and the other is the mystery of a Mr. Nemo, his connection to Lady Dedlock and how that finds i...more
Classic Literature is "sometimes" composed of boring words, made into a boring story with a boring pace, that has a boring plot, populated with boring characters playing different boring roles.

Fine. This may be an exaggeration, but try getting a copy of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. It's long, it's boring, it's several hundred pages that described how "fashionable intelligence" is observed by the upper class in the eighteenth century, and how the judicial system affects every aspect of the lives...more
Christopher H.
"Bleak House" is clearly in my top four or five most favorite Dickens novels. It is dark and rich, and so completely immerses the reader in the characters and plotting. Somehow, I am most affected by Dickens' strong heroines; and Esther Summerson is just such a woman; even though she doesn't believe it of herself. The "Little Woman", "our dear Dame Durden", is such a kind-hearted and loving soul that you just can't bear to imagine anything untoward happening to her. The biting social satire that...more
"Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven." Like Miss Flite's caged birds, they fly away and are gone, leaving room in the house for forgiveness, true charity, and love. I'm amazed at the way Dickens took so many themes and streams and wove them all together to form a satisfying conclusion in this long novel. He did an excellent job with his only female narrator, too.
A.J. Howard
Take a moment to prepare yourself for perhaps the most blatantly unfair critique of a novel published on this site in many a moon. Keep in mind that I am critiquing a work was first published over a century and a half ago, not to mention that is is one of the more highly praised works of perhaps the most beloved writer of the the English word this side of Shakespeare. Have you prepared yourself? First, allow me to post a teaser image so that those who wish to avoid some pretty awful anachronism...more
Ben Babcock
My physical pile of to-read books has a surfeit of non-fiction at the moment. So prior to setting off to a charity quiz night with my dad, I grabbed this book and Tess of the d'Urbervilles from the pile and told my dad to choose. (In fact, my massive market paperback version of Bleak House properly is my dad’s, but it’s mine now because I rescued it from almost-certain water damage in the dormer closet.)

Bleak House is confusing at first, because neither the house nor the book is all that bleak....more
Aug 17, 2008 Jen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to sink their teeth into a long read.
My summer reading project has been completed. At 989 pages, I feel like Super Reader!! And I must say, it was well worth the effort.

Bleak House is a massive, sprawling novel teeming with a multitude of characters. About 1/3 way in, I began to make a Who's Who chart, it was getting to be so out of control. You couldn't afford to forget even a presumably minor, minor character, for he or she was bound to show up again.

The narration technique was a little strange--some chapters had the ol' 3rd-pers...more
Well, it hasn't completely turned me into a Dickens fan, but it was wonderful. Bleak House is an entire world filled with the most vividly alive characters. He had me crying and laughing so often! Shall I ever forget poor Jo's last prayer or Mr. Guppy's proposals?

With all the humor and warmth and so many splendid scenes, I quite forgave Dickens his sometimes convoluted, long-winded style and overly complex plotting. I was sometimes put off by the Victorian indirectness (Why did Mr. Jardyce make...more
Terry Gorman
This was the hardest book by Dickens I've read. I found myself very impatient with it. It always annoys me how Dickens' characters "just happen" to have connections. (Madam DeFarge just happens to be the sister of... Her husband just happens to be the old servant of...) For the most part, I accept it as a way of limiting characters and I acknowledge that sometimes in life people do in fact just happen to be connected. However, Bleak House takes this to an extreme - and I found myself not wanting...more
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A prolific 19th Century author of short stories, plays, novellas, novels, fiction and non-fiction; during his lifetime Dickens became known the world over for his remarkable characters, his mastery of prose in the telling of their lives, and his depictions of the social classes, morals and values of his times. Some considered him the spokesman for the poor, for he definitely brought much awarenes...more
More about Charles Dickens...
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“And I am bored to death with it. Bored to death with this place, bored to death with my life, bored to death with myself.” 106 likes
“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.”
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