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Bleak House by Charles Dickens
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Bleak House (1853)

by Charles Dickens

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10,742211405 (4.19)5 / 1405
Focusing on Esther Summerson, a ward of John Jarndyce, the story traces Esther's romantic coming-of-age and, in classic Dickens style, the gradual revelation of long-buried secrets, all set against the foggy backdrop of the Court of Chancery. Mixing romance, mystery, comedy, and satire, to limn the suffering caused by the intricate inefficiency of the law.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
This is a more serious work than what came before from Dickens, still speckled with his humour but layered with more pointed social commentary. The sentimentality is not excessive and his wonderful characterizations are as strong as ever. Mr. Tulkinghorn is wonderfully mysterious and imposing. Mrs. Bagnet may very well be the best of all possible women, but don't tell her so because discipline must be maintained. I didn't like Skimpole from his first scene and found him annoying throughout, but I believe I was intended to. This novel features probably the most complicated relationships I've encountered in Dickens yet. Some lead around in circles, where characters on opposite sides have no (immediate) knowledge of each other but are connected in more than one way. There's a May-December romance that felt troubling, but it is employed very lightly.

The London depicted this time is less romantic, darker and dirtier, its streets filled with what is generously called mud, and an emphasis on the 'London particular': a dense fog that is actually the product of London's thick coal-burning miasma. Dickens has it gather thickest at the Chancery, the centre of all legal goings-on and a focus for the main theme. The plot for once is fully under his control, even as he tasks himself with alternating between first and third person. A parentage mystery is set up set up early and evolves gradually, and there's a murder mystery towards the end. Right in the middle we are treated to the famous spontaneous combustion incident. I might have wished for a stronger merge between the Dedlocks' story and the Jarndyce legal insanity. Esther is the lynchpin but she is not a unifier, and these two threads are not truly sewn together.

Bleak House sounds like a gloomy place but in fact it's an attractive setting, a mansion so full of marvellous rooms and hallways joining in puzzling ways that I wish I might explore it. This practically applies to the novel itself: an off-putting title and page count at first blush, but worth delving into. Dickens is at full power here and it is one of his best. ( )
3 vote Cecrow | Oct 30, 2019 |
Charles Dickens merges the cold and impersonal world of legal proceedings with the passionate and tumultuous emotions of human affairs in this, one of his many acclaimed works, Bleak House. In true Dickens fashion, the novel follows several large plot lines, some of which seem disconnected at first, until they all come together during the climax and resolution of the book.

First we have Esther Summerson, the sweet and virtuous heroine of the story, whose goodness will be tested her many trials throughout the story. Esther is an orphan, raised by stern Miss Barbary. Once her guardian dies, Esther is sent off to school by another mysterious benefactor. She meets her new guardian, John Jarndyce, after her six years at school are completed. She moves into his home, the titular Bleak House, and begins to run the household as domestic mistress. Despite its unappealing name, Bleak House is actually a comfortable, welcoming place once Esther moves in, and John Jarndyce is a good man who wants to provide a home for Esther with no ulterior motives.

Then we have the legal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, an old dispute about property and land of which John Jarndyce is an unwilling party. The suit was started long before his time, as a disagreement between family members, and has been tied up in ( )
  nmhale | Sep 9, 2019 |
This is the serious side to Dickens; “David Copperfield” is like: “Sometimes I’m in pain and I have no money, but la-di-da I’m in love.” Plus the Tolstoy or Stephen King level of length and detail-writing. For “Bleak House” you have to throw your head back and ask the sky, “O England, where is thy justice?” Plus the technical words and word jokes, which is again not something that Doady Copperfield really got into.

I don’t really know if one is better than the other.
1 vote smallself | Aug 27, 2019 |
Yikes, this was a long slog. I got off to a bad start, probably because I was distracted by too many other things. But, Dickens is truly excellent, and this book was good. Not my favorite so far, but still good. I picked it because I read that "experts" considered this to be Dickens' finest. It wasn't for me, but it is a good book.

I did, however, have some issues. It took me a while to become reconciled to the back-and-forth changes in story teller from Esther, who was writing up her own recollections of things, to some omniscient entity who was writing the mostly non-Esther parts in present tense. After a while, I did become reconciled and enjoyed the action.

Also, there were so many characters flitting in and out that I had rather a problem keeping them straight.

I think my major problem, however, relates to my feelings that it was rather creepy how women were patronized and manipulated in this book. I realize my problem is a sensibility from 150 years after the book was written, but none-the-less, it felt creepy. I had similar issues with the end of the Count of Monte Cristo. Thank goodness, we have come a long way in our views regarding whether or not women are fully human. ( )
1 vote lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
I knocked off a half star because of that absurdity concerning spontaneous combustion. ( )
  nog | Feb 23, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
Bleak House represents the author at a perfectly poised late-middle moment in his extraordinary art.
 
You have to embrace Bleak House for what it is – a rambling, confusing, verbose, over-populated, vastly improbable story which substitutes caricatures for people and is full of puns. In other words, an 800-page Dickens novel.
added by tim.taylor | editThe Millions, Janet Potter (Jan 31, 2011)
 

» Add other authors (68 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Barrett, SeanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bradbury, NicolaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Browne, Hablot KnightIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Case, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chesterton, Gilbert KeithIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dickson, HughNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eagleton, TerryPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eikli, RagnhildTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gallagher, TeresaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holway, TatianaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, EdgarIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Margolyes, MiriamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, J. HillisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nabokov, VladimirContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nicholson, MilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, NormanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sitwell, Sir OsbertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solomon, AbrahamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zabel, MortonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
Dedicated, as a remembrance of our friendly union, to my companions in the guild of literature and art

Dedication of the 1853 edition
First words
London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall.
Quotations
This world of ours has its limits too (as Your Highness shall find when you have made the tour of it, and are come to the brink of the void beyond).
His family is as old as the hills, and infinitely more respectable. He has a general opinion that the world might get on without hills, but would be done up without Dedlocks. He would on the whole admit Nature to be a good idea (a little low, perhaps, when not enclosed with a park-fence), but an idea dependent for its execution on your great county families.
Indeed, he married her for love. A whisper still goes about, that she had not even family; howbeit, Sir Leicester had so much family that perhaps he had enough, and could dispense with any more.
He is of what is called the old school - a phrase generally meaning any school that seems never to have been young.
He must confess to two of the oldest infirmities in the world: one was, that he had no idea of time; the other, that he had no idea of money.
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439726, 0141199091

Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102642, 1400109086

Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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