James's Reviews > Bleak House

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
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's review
Jan 15, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: newberry-library
Read in October, 2007

Having just begun a rereading of Bleak House I find myself comparing it to David Copperfield, which I recently reread. I note immediately the difference in narrative style as it opens with a third person narrator; however it soon, in the third chapter, introduces a first person narrator, Miss Esther Summerson, who is almost as charming as David himself. The opening sets the stage wonderfully with contrast of the London Fog and the Chancery of the first chapter with the world of Fashion in the second. Throughout the opening chapters Dickens continues to introduce new characters to populate this increasingly complex novel. With the discovery of a dead body (a law-writer) by Mr. Tulkinghorn we have a mystery to add to the growing suspense. Dickens introduces character after character until the story absolutely teems with a multitude of humanity. In spite of this both plot lines and themes begin emerging from the mist of the fog that is introduced on the first page. The suspense builds for Esther as we wonder, perhaps more than she seems to, about her parentage. This plot line blends into a general theme of children and parents as it appears that in many cases (eg. Jellyby and Pardiddle) having parents is not the best thing for children, at least parents like these. The complexity of the story, told alternately by the third person narrator and Esther herself, is amazing considering it was originally published in monthly installments. It makes the achievement all the greater. This reader is grateful, not only for the achievement, but for his ability to read and enjoy it. Unlike poor Jo! The novel concludes with a wonderful and exciting immersion into the world of Detective Bucket. He brilliantly solves the murder of Mr. Tulkinghorn (with the assistance of his wife) and goes on an unfortunately unsuccessful search for Lady Dedlock. In the process of bringing together the main elements of the narrative Dickens manages to portray some of his best characters as Sir Leicester Dedlock and John Jarndyce demonstrate their benevolence and exceedingly good natures. Esther and Allen Woodcourt manage to surmount their communication difficulties with delightful result. The novel, in all it complications and seeming "modernity" closes as leaving the reader smiling.
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Bruce (view spoiler)

James Bruce wrote: "James,

I recently finished Bleak House, and I really don't see that the mystery of Tulkinghorn's murder was solved. I suspect I've missed something huge, but didn't Lady Dedlock explicitly (and, I..."

I cannot find the exact moment when the solution is revealed, but George Rouncewell is released from prison and I believe Bucket identifies Hortense as the murderer of Tulkinghorn (it may be that it can only be inferred from the text). It is somewhat confusing because Hortense tries to blame Lady Dedlock, who, as you point out, denies doing it because she is innocent (and has bigger issues on her mind).

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