B0nnie's Reviews > Bleak House

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
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Feb 27, 12

bookshelves: favourite-books
Recommended for: you
Read from February 19 to 26, 2012 — I own a copy

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.

megalosaurus

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Comments (showing 1-39 of 39) (39 new)

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Jane That edition's the one I have. The picture is called Waiting For The Verdict, and I know that because of the number of times I've read BH.

Did you just love the final scene between Esther and Lady D? Oh the melodrama!


message 2: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Congrats on making it through! Don't you always feel like someone should hand you a medal after completing something of that magnitude? Great review, I'm feeling inspired to dust this off and finally read it now. If he is good enough for Dostoyevsky, he is good enough for me!


Jason Koivu I have been meaning to get around to reading this one and now you've just bumped it up that much higher on my to-read list!


message 4: by B0nnie (last edited Feb 27, 2012 05:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

B0nnie Jane wrote: "That edition's the one I have. The picture is called Waiting For The Verdict, and I know that because of the number of times I've read BH.

Did you just love the final scene between Esther and Lad..."


That's great! and it's nice too 'cause it has the 27 original illustrations by Phiz – totally charming little drawings that are always slightly, 'off' - wrong mood, wrong proportions, something.

Ha ha you wound me with the word *melodrama* ;-) that scene was sublime - sort of a twilight zone moment, the horror, the horror and all that - well just stick me in the intellectually incorrect corner...


B0nnie s.penkevich wrote: "Congrats on making it through! Don't you always feel like someone should hand you a medal after completing something of that magnitude? Great review, I'm feeling inspired to dust this off and final..."

Yes, it's a great feeling - and more so when you can share your feelings about it on GRs. But to tell you the truth, I really miss a book like this when finished - it's like being homesick


B0nnie Jason wrote: "I have been meaning to get around to reading this one and now you've just bumped it up that much higher on my to-read list!"

I'm glad - Dickens kind of gets a lot of bad press I think. Mocked by people who never really read him.


Jason Koivu B0nnie wrote: "Jason wrote: "I have been meaning to get around to reading this one and now you've just bumped it up that much higher on my to-read list!"

I'm glad - Dickens kind of gets a lot of bad press I thin..."


Sure he wrote silly stuff now and then, but after reading "Tale of..." I don't see how anyone could mock him.


message 8: by Judy (new)

Judy OMG. What an inspiring review. I did not have Dickens on my reading list for this year, but now I don't know. I love what I have read of him and want to read the rest. Thanks for reminding me.


B0nnie Judy wrote: "OMG. What an inspiring review. I did not have Dickens on my reading list for this year, but now I don't know. I love what I have read of him and want to read the rest. Thanks for reminding me."

Thanks very much Judy. Dickens is on my reading list now because this year is the bicentenary of his birth - I guess that doesn't really matter all that much - it just seems like a good excuse to pick him up again


message 10: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich B0nnie wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Congrats on making it through! Don't you always feel like someone should hand you a medal after completing something of that magnitude? Great review, I'm feeling inspired to dus..."

Homesick, that's a good way to put it. You get so engrossed in their lives, it's like missing a friend sometimes too. I remember when I finished War and Peace, a few days later I was just bummed out for some reason and couldn't place why until I realized I was homesick for Tolstoy and sad not to be 'hanging out' with Pierre.


message 11: by mark (new)

mark monday inspiring review - i want to reread this one after i finish David Copperfield. which will probably be in about a decade. i read Bleak House back in high school and remember enjoying it. maybe the only person in my class who did, lots of grumblers about Dickens.

Bonnie, have you read The Quincunx by Charles Palliser?


message 12: by Mark (new)

Mark excellent review and besides to 'Tale of two Cities' this ranks quite high for me. Did you catch the BBC serialization a few years ago where they presented it in half hour chunks so as to almost present it like a soap opera...no really it worked. An extraordinary cast; Gillian Andersen - Lady Dedlock, Anna maxwell martin - Esther and a wonderfully horrible Charles Dance as Tulkinghorn amongst others. If you get the chance have a look. You are right, it can never fully capture the wonder of Dickens but it makes a good stab


B0nnie mark wrote: "inspiring review - i want to reread this one after i finish David Copperfield. which will probably be in about a decade. i read Bleak House back in high school and remember enjoying it.... Bonnie, have you read The Quincunx by Charles Palliser?"

Bleak House in High School wow your teacher must have been optimistic about what a kid will read - nowadays they seem to stick to slim volumes.
The Quincunx is on my ereader but I don't know if I'm ready for it. Will I love it or hate it? I have a feeling there is no in-between.


B0nnie Mark wrote: "excellent review and besides to 'Tale of two Cities' this ranks quite high for me. Did you catch the BBC serialization a few years ago where they presented it in half hour chunks so as to almost pr..."
thanks, and I am going to watch it soon! besides, I used to love Scully


message 15: by mark (new)

mark monday The Quincunx is on my ereader but I don't know if I'm ready for it. Will I love it or hate it? I have a feeling there is no in-between.

i'm not sure. i was actually in-between on this one. it has everything that i find absorbing about Dickens... minus any emotional resonance at the very end. which ended up being a pretty big minus for me. still, a worthy book.


message 16: by Mark (new)

Mark B0nnie wrote: "Mark wrote: "excellent review and besides to 'Tale of two Cities' this ranks quite high for me. Did you catch the BBC serialization a few years ago where they presented it in half hour chunks so as..."

There is a remarkable scullylike cold, seemingly emotionless self-posession to the rather tragic figure of Lady Dedlock I always feel so it was inspired casting really


message 17: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane Oh yes - ice on the surface and seething passions underneath. Dickens' best Fallen Woman imho.


message 18: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Great review of my favourite Dickens, and yes, you will like The Quincunx, and also, The Crimson Petal and the White, and also, Fingersmith....!!!


message 19: by Mark (new)

Mark Jane wrote: "Oh yes - ice on the surface and seething passions underneath. Dickens' best Fallen Woman imho."

totally agree. I have always loved the Lady Dedlock character. Tragic end, heartbreaking really


B0nnie A novel about the romance between Captain Hawdon and Lady Dedlock would be a decent subject for a Dickens prequel.

What the Barbary family was like, how it produced both the ultra religious godmother that raised Esther, and the passionate Honoria who transformed herself into My Lady.

And Captain Hawdon's story, his raise and fall - a mix of 'Master and Commander' and De Quincey . The engagement of Hawdon and Honoria interrupted by a sea voyage, their last embraces that result in a child. Her despair, the disgrace, the sorrow. . .


message 21: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane OOOOOOOOOOOOO I've never wanted to try writing a sequel/prequel but you've hit on something there. My mind is racing.


message 22: by B0nnie (last edited Mar 01, 2012 02:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

B0nnie do it! do it! do it! I promise to do a review


message 23: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane Hmmm need to read BH again now.


message 24: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane And actually, y'know, do some writing instead of messing around on GR.


message 25: by Mark (new)

Mark Jane wrote: "And actually, y'know, do some writing instead of messing around on GR."

i am with Bonnie; sign me up for a copy too


B0nnie Paul wrote: "Great review of my favourite Dickens, and yes, you will like The Quincunx, and also, The Crimson Petal and the White, and also, Fingersmith....!!!"

thanks - I think it's my favourite as well - but I've a few more to read ;-0
hmm, The Crimson Petal and the White, & Fingersmith look interesting too. . .


message 27: by Mark (new)

Mark imho fingersmith was weird and overrated


Hayley Thanks for the review which I'm taking as words of encouragement as I'm about to embark on my second attempt at reading this mammoth book.


message 29: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane Hayley wrote: "Thanks for the review which I'm taking as words of encouragement as I'm about to embark on my second attempt at reading this mammoth book."

Go Hayley go! You may end up loving it - some of my favorite books were ones I couldn't get through the first time.


B0nnie Yay Hayley. Bleak House is very entertaining. And Jane is writing a book...


message 31: by Bookworm (new) - added it

Bookworm Have you seen the BBC TV series (2005)?


Vanessa Dicesare Great review! I am currently reading the book and I agree so far with everything you stated in your review.


Jason Koivu I hate to be a downer, but Bonnie has passed away. Just wanted to let you know so you weren't wondering why she wasn't responding.


message 34: by Bookworm (new) - added it

Bookworm oh that's sad. Rip.


Vanessa Dicesare I'm sorry to hear that!


message 36: by Steve (new)

Steve Davidson Thanks for the review. My wife bought me the book last christmas as I always wanted to read a classic. The amount of pages and the style it is written in was new to me and a little off putting. However I am going to start today three days shy of a year since i received the book.
I will write my review on completion, however I am not sure when that may be
Happy Christmas


message 37: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane Jason wrote: "I hate to be a downer, but Bonnie has passed away. Just wanted to let you know so you weren't wondering why she wasn't responding."

Thanks, Jason. I didn't know; Bonnie's passing evidently happened while I was out of the country and off GR. I came back to this thread because Bonnie gave me a book idea, right here, that's still taking up a lot of space in my brain; if I write it I'll dedicate it to her. We had such great conversations about Bleak House!

Rest in peace, Bonnie. May your reviews still be here in a hundred years.


Jason Koivu Jane wrote: "Jason wrote: "I hate to be a downer, but Bonnie has passed away. Just wanted to let you know so you weren't wondering why she wasn't responding."

Thanks, Jason. I didn't know; Bonnie's passing evi..."


That would be a lovely thing to do in her memory.


Titah Great review! this is my first Dickens's book and I can't wait
to finish it


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