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Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House (original 1853; edition 1999)

by Charles Dickens, Simon Vance (Narrator)

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9,093179329 (4.21)4 / 1160
Title:Bleak House
Authors:Charles Dickens
Other authors:Simon Vance (Narrator)
Info:Blackstone Audio (1999), Edition: Audiobook CD, Audio CD
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:audiobook, Chancery, wills

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Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853)


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English (173)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (2)  Danish (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (180)
Showing 1-5 of 173 (next | show all)
I’ve been meaning to read Bleak House ever since I watched the Masterpiece Theatre miniseries last summer. I finally got to the book in May, and it took me about a month to read, but it was excellent. I’ve always loved Dickens –I grew up reading Oliver Twist over and over again — but Bleak House seemed daunting both because of its length and its title. Who wants to read about a house called “bleak”?

It turned out to be a wonderful book. It was very long, and very detailed, but that is what makes Dickens such a masterful storyteller. His characters are all so beautifully developed, even if they have certain qualities that are sometimes outrageously exaggerated. (The mother who devotes herself entirely to philanthropic work while ignoring her own children, the grown man who completely lacks all common sense and sense of duty as a citizen or father, etc. Typical Dickensian humor.) The main character, Esther, is almost heartbreakingly kind and self-sacrificing. Each character — and there are many — is so unique.

As you might imagine, a lot of the more subtle nuances of Dickens’s style went over my head when I was a young reader — particularly his humor. I found myself laughing out loud at Bleak House more than once. His plays on words, the ridiculous things his characters say, and the satirical representation of a convoluted legal system were all very amusing.

The story itself, of course, is masterful in the way it slowly unfolds. It is part tragedy, part comedy, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama all in one. Bleak-House-charles-dickens-743354_1600_1200-425x318

At times I found myself wishing it was two hundred pages or so shorter, but most of the time I just enjoyed the leisurely ride through London and the English countryside and the beautiful language that delivered the picture to us. If I ever read this again, I’m going to map the story out. I’d love to see the character arcs and plot points illustrated. And it would help me keep track of the characters. (So many!)

If you’re not up for reading it, I highly recommend the television series. It’s exciting and suspenseful and dark! And it has the beautiful Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock. ( )
  blackrabbit89 | May 6, 2016 |
I could easily write many negative things about this novel. For starters it is LONG. It is more a social and political commentary than a novel. The story follows many interconnected subplots told from the point of view of a third person narrator - or from the first person viewpoint of Esther Summerson, whose voice is not the least bit believable. (Biting the inside of my cheek to refrain from making snarky Mary Sue comments) The subplots are all tied up too neatly at the end.

Did I mention how long it is?

Nevertheless, it kept me interested enough to finish reading it. (Well, almost. After a certain character died, I read the remaining 8% out of sheer stubbornness) Despite the lack of character development, I found myself sympathizing with many of the characters and caring what happened to them.
( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
I can certainly see how this critique of the legal system in existence at the time is worthy of the 'classic' label, unfortunately I found this a very challenging read until the murder- mystery section of the novel (approximately the second half). Glad I kept with this novel and am looking forward to reading further Dickens. ( )
  kale.dyer | May 2, 2016 |
If you want to read something slightly depressingly foggy and bleak, with some sides of very interesting people and their stories, with some death and even a surprising murder with a cool detective story built in, and some really funny moments,but also mingled with the oppression and misunderstanding of the law, and debt, and misery, and crooks, and lawyers, and those people who cause lawyers to exist in the first place, then please, be my guest and read Bleak House, preferably with the original illustrations, so much more fun. And when you are finished, go ahead and shout it out: "Oh, My bones! Now shake me up, Judy!"

I shall take a bit more time and think through all of the things I learned as a lawyer and post on the blog, with a link for anyone interested. For the moment, is a blog on encountering Dickens by audio -- http://sydsavvy.blogspot.com/2014/01/bleakly-bleak-in-bleak-mid-winter-bleak.htm....
( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
This is a massive novel in every sense. In the Penguin Classics edition it weighs in at 980 pages of small print, and that excludes the extensive notes, preface and introduction. Carrying that around in my greatcoat pocket I have found myself tending to walk in circles. It is, however, surprisingly readable, and contains many themes that seem entirely contemporary to us.

The themes, layering and interlacing of plots and the cast of characters are also offered on a grand scale, and the overall impact in mesmerising, yet surprisingly readable and engaging. It is difficult in a short review even to attempt to summarise the plots. Suffice it to say that they are all expertly managed and resolved.

Looming over the whole novel is the long-running civil law case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce, which has been progressing at glacial pace through Chancery. ‘Jarndyce and Jarndyce’ has now become a byword for legal obfuscation (or ‘wiglomeration’ to use Dickens’s own term). Even in the novel itself, the case, originating decades earlier from disputes over the distribution of a complex estate under instructions contained in conflicting wills, the case had already become infamous, and those connected with it were imbued with a certain dusty glamour.

There are some marvellous set pieces that show Dickens at his characteristic best. The opening paragraphs contain with a glorious description of an impenetrable fog surrounding (and emanating from) the Inns of Court that presages the confusion and opacity that the claimants in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, and indeed any other cases that come before Chancery, will encounter.

It is, however, not just a splenetic satire on the iniquities and perfidies of the legal system. Social injustice is held to account throughout the novel, with some heart-rending scenes depicting the life of some of London’s poorest inhabitants, many of whom live in stark juxtaposition with some of the wealthiest members of society. There is plenty of humour too, with Dickens’s portrayal of Mrs Jellyby, an undoubtedly well-meaning woman whose obsession with bringing relief to the poorer tribes of Africa leaves her utterly blinded to the neglect faced by her own children, and the desperately ambitious Mr Guppy for whom what he lacks in self-awareness is more than compensated by good, old fashioned solipsistic vanity. There is also a murder mystery following the death by shooting of Mr Tulkinghorn, a sinister senior lawyer who has fingers in a multitude of pies, and whose passing is mourned by few beyond Sir Leicester Dedlock, one of his wealthiest clients.

The main story is, however, concerned with the progress through life of Esther Summerson, who narrates much of the book. Esther is, as Jane Austen might have said, ‘the natural daughter of somebody’, and finds herself taken under the aegis of John Jarndyce to act as companion for his cousin, Ada Clare. Ada, along with her cousin Richard Carstone, is one of the wards of court around whom the interests in Jarndyce and Jarndyce circle. Unacquainted before the novel opens, they are both assigned by the court to the protection of John Jarndyce, who lives in Bleak House, and, almost predictably, fall in love with each other. John Jarndyce, who will emerge as possibly the most benevolent and generous character in English literature, counsels them to try and embrace life without considering what might eventually come their way as their respective legacy from the ‘Jarndyce and Jarndyce’ case. Ada is happy to follow that advice though Richard, like a prospector who has fleetingly spied a sparkle in his pan, cannot escape from dreaming of how he might enjoy his legacy, and allows his mind to be twisted by greed and hope. Esther, meanwhile, has her own story, that is no less beguiling and engrossing for the reader. ( )
4 vote Eyejaybee | Feb 24, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 173 (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 (83 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cuzik, Davidmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Swan, D.K.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Barrett, SeanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bradbury, NicolaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Browne, Hablôt K.Illustratorsecondary 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
Holway, TatianaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, EdgarIntroductionsecondary 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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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.
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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Book description
This book is in public domain in the USA and the e-book is available free online ...

Widely regarded as Dickens’s masterpiece, Bleak House centers on the generations-long lawsuit Jarndyce and Jarndyce, through which “whole families have inherited legendary hatreds.” Focusing on Esther Summerson, a ward of John Jarndyce, the novel traces Esther’s romantic coming-of-age and, in classic Dickensian 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, Bleak House limns the suffering caused by the intricate inefficiency of the law.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0141439726, Paperback)

Bleak House is a satirical look at the Byzantine legal system in London as it consumes the minds and talents of the greedy and nearly destroys the lives of innocents--a contemporary tale indeed. Dickens's tale takes us from the foggy dank streets of London and the maze of the Inns of Court to the peaceful countryside of England. Likewise, the characters run from murderous villains to virtuous girls, from a devoted lover to a "fallen woman," all of whom are affected by a legal suit in which there will, of course, be no winner. The first-person narrative related by the orphan Esther is particularly sweet. The articulate reading by the acclaimed British actor Paul Scofield, whose distinctive broad English accent lends just the right degree of sonority and humor to the text, brings out the color in this classic social commentary disguised as a Victorian drama. However, to abridge Dickens is, well, a Dickensian task, the results of which make for a story in which the author's convoluted plot lines and twists of fate play out in what seems to be a fast-forward format. Listeners must pay close attention in order to keep up with the multiple narratives and cast of curious characters, including the memorable Inspector Bucket and Mr. Guppy. Fortunately, the publisher provides a partial list of characters on the inside jacket. (Running time: 3 hours; 2 cassettes)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:42 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Bleak House, Dickens's most daring experiment in the narration of a complex plot, challenges the reader to make connections - between the fashionable and the outcast, the beautiful and the ugly, the powerful and the victims. Nowhere in Dickens's later novels is his attack on an uncaring society more imaginatively embodied, but nowhere either is the mixture of comedy and angry satire more deftly managed. Bleak House defies a single description. It is a mystery story, in which Esther Summerson discovers the truth about her birth and her unknown mother's tragic life. It is a murder story, which comes to a climax in a thrilling chase, led by one of the earliest detectives in English fiction, Inspector Bucket. And it is a fable about redemption, in which a bleak house is transformed by the resilience of human love.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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25 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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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

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