Guardian Newspaper 1000 Novels discussion

Bleak House
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Monthly Book Reads > February/March 2014: Bleak House by Charles Dickens

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message 1: by Sarah (last edited Mar 07, 2014 03:46AM) (new)

Sarah | 103 comments Mod
For the State of the Nation category for February we are reading a Charles Dickens book, 'Bleak House'. Please share your thoughts on this book with the group.

Please note that the end date for reading this book has been extended to 31st March, to allow time to read it - it's a long book!

Readers might be interested in my post regarding Charles Dickens

Do bear in mind the advice on spoilers


Leslie | 825 comments I read this about a year ago, so I won't be rereading it now, but hope to join in the discussion.


message 3: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 103 comments Mod
Hi Leslie, so glad to hear you will take part in the discussion, a memorable book leaves a lasting impression doesn't it? Look forward to hearing your thoughts.


message 4: by Jazzy (new)

Jazzy Lemon (jazzylemon) What exactly does 'State of the Nation' mean? is it a new name for Historical Fiction?


Leslie | 825 comments Jazzy wrote: "What exactly does 'State of the Nation' mean? is it a new name for Historical Fiction?"

No, 'State of the Nation' is one of the categories that the Guardian newspaper used in compiling this list. It means something like social commentary; a book from this section generally reflects or critiques the state of affairs in a given society.


message 6: by Jazzy (new)

Jazzy Lemon (jazzylemon) I've just never heard of anything like that in my life before so it's very confusing.


message 7: by Dennis (new)

Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 138 comments Jazzy, the term may mean more to those of us in the U.S. The President gives a State of the Nation Address each January.


Polly I read this at university. At the time I thought it dull. But having recently read and enjoyed some of Dickens' collected journalism (Night Walks) I think I would look at it in a different way on a re-read.


message 9: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 103 comments Mod
Hi Polly, thank you for your comments on the books we are reading this month.

I'm so interested to hear you've read his journalistic work, he was a humanitarian and campaigner for the poor and I can imagine that it would make interesting reading. I've added it to my 'to-read' (non-fiction) list!


message 10: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Like Leslie, I've read this book fairly recently. It was the first Dickens book I'd read and it had been sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read, for several years before I finally decided I ought to get it over with and read it. I thought it was going to be a bit of a chore to read but it really wasn't.


message 11: by Dennis (new)

Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 138 comments This is one of Dickens' works that I first read in my teens and have been reading periodically ever since. I actually wrote a research paper in high school on the Court of Chancery in real life and in Bleak House.


message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 103 comments Mod
Encouraged by the positive comments of Tom and Dennis I have just started reading this, and to me the writing of this is far more approachable than some of his other works. Or it could be that my reading has changed, of course...


Leslie | 825 comments Anya wrote: "I've pretty much avoided reading Dickens up till now due to my fear of his dictionary sized tomes and page long descriptive sentences. However, I watched the BBC's "Little Dorritt" last year and re..."

It gets more exciting as you go!


Debbie I wasn't go to join in with this one as I didn't think I would have the time. However extended date makes it a goer!! :)


message 15: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 103 comments Mod
Debbie - brilliant! So glad to hear that. Iona and I are discussing how to approach the longer books; extending them to two-month reads is one certainty.

I haven't written more on the book yet, as although I did begin reading it on the computer, I found I really want to read it as a hard copy - feeling the weight of it, and turning the pages properly, not with a mouse click. Am so looking forward to continuing it, once I've sorted a copy out.


Leslie | 825 comments How are you all doing with this?


Debbie I've yet to get further than putting a bookmark in it. I don't feel too bad though as Dickens is one of my favorite authors. Really into A Tale of Two Cities and wanted to complete it before re-reading Bleak House.


message 18: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 103 comments Mod
To my embarrassment I've still yet to pick up my copy, hope to do this tomorrow. Having begun it, (reading a Gutenberg copy) I know it's going to be a rewarding read.

So glad to hear you haven't yet started it Debbie, makes me feel a bit better!


message 19: by Clare (new) - added it

Clare (cpeyton) | 10 comments It's a lovely read. I was worried that this would be a slow read as I'd been told it was difficult to follow as it is a story told from different points of view. However, I'm actually finding the reading itself pretty easy and I'm enjoying the story unfold. The only thing that is slowing it down is I got excited by too many books and want to read them all at once that I'm not really making headway with any of them. I just got pre-advanced copies of two books that I'm super excited about reading (The Big Tiny and No Book But the World) so I'm not sure if I'm going to make it to the end of Bleak House :-o


Leslie | 825 comments Clare wrote: "... The only thing that is slowing it down is I got excited by too many books and want to read them all at once that I'm not really making headway with any of them. I just got pre-advanced copies of two books that I'm super excited about..."

lol! This happens to me too. Or sometimes there are so many that I want to read that I can't choose and I end up spending time here on GoodReads instead :P


message 21: by Dennis (new)

Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 138 comments Bit of trivia: there was a movie in the 1960's called "Butterflies are Free." Once you've read this book, you'll know where the title came from.


message 22: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 103 comments Mod
Bit of trivia...
Dennis, now I'm intrigued.

Are you able to share some of the key points from the research paper you did? I'm also really interested that you read Bleak House 'periodicaly'; what is it about the book that draws you to re-read it? I'm confident it's going to be a good read, but would like to hear what particularly, for you, makes Bleak House a regular read?


message 23: by Dennis (new)

Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 138 comments Sarah, I wrote that paper a long time ago. All I really remember is that I said Dickens portrayed the court accurately and that the legal process seems absurd.

I read it the first time for a class, the second time to my wife (reading aloud is one of our pleasures), and I think the third or fourth time after I saw the BBC adaptation. I noticed different elements each time through.


message 24: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 103 comments Mod
...reading aloud is one of our pleasures...

That is a delightful relationship to have, sharing the pleasure of reading by reading aloud to one another.


message 25: by Dennis (new)

Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 138 comments Yes, I recommend it! I am the eldest of five in my family, and I grew up reading to my younger brothers and sister. It was natural to continue that with the live of my life.


message 26: by Leslie (last edited Mar 04, 2014 06:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leslie | 825 comments I'm sorry that you didn't enjoy it Anya. I loved it so it is not surprising that I disagree with some points of your analysis, but differences are what make life interesting!

I will admit to a little puzzlement to rating a book which "...engage my interest and for most of the novel's length, I read with great interest..." as only 2 stars but a disappointing end can bias a rating as I am familiar with, having just done the same with An American Tragedy.

Ah well, I hope that you like your next book more.


message 27: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 103 comments Mod
Hi Anya

Thank you for your critique of this book. Please don't apologise for a well thought, intelligently written review! To you and all members I stress - all contributions are welcome (as long as they are within the usual guidelines of no racist, homophobic and similar views). I cannot imagine anyone being offended by what you have written, there is nothing offensive in there. It is an interesting read.

If members just want to say something brief, that's also fine.

And if 'you' - any member - have an opinion that differs from the generally accepted one and this leads to debate, that's a good thing!

I don't want anyone to pause or feel hesitant about writing a review.

So again, thank you Anya for your contribution.


message 28: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 103 comments Mod
Having enjoyed the beginning of this book, I'm disappointed to find that it has become, for me, a difficult read. I read up to and including Chapter 11, and liked (view spoiler) but for some reason I am finding this a task rather than a pleasurable challenge.

Please don't be put off by what I say here, this difficulty is more to do with my impatience to start reading the other March books than with the book itself - Mrs Dalloway is a re-read for me, and a short one, but Birdsong, although just over half the length of Bleak House, is another longish read and I am eager to begin!


Lauren | 15 comments Like all Charles Dickens novels, it is far too long and too detailed. He was paid to write in instalments and lacked a decent editor. I have found some of his novels too dull to finish reading, but I have read all of Bleak House which puts it in the better half of his works by my estimate.


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