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Bleak House by Charles Dickens
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Bleak House (original 1853; edition 1999)

by Charles Dickens, Simon Vance (Narrator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,706166348 (4.22)4 / 1131
Member:gypsysmom
Title:Bleak House
Authors:Charles Dickens
Other authors:Simon Vance (Narrator)
Info:Blackstone Audio (1999), Edition: Audiobook CD, Audio CD
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:audiobook, Chancery, wills

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Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853)

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English (159)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (2)  Danish (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (166)
Showing 1-5 of 159 (next | show all)
Kindred's Reading Challenge: #5 A novel from the 1800s
  LaMala | Jun 7, 2015 |
When I was young, I loved several things in my books: I loved my passionate fondness for the characters, to the point of believing them almost real, certainly having existences and thoughts and lives beyond the page. I loved how a good story made the world vanish, and for the space of a few hours (or however long I found to hole up with my book) I was entirely outside my own existence.

I especially loved and dreaded the end of a perfect book, when I would often feel a bittersweet longing to continue onwards with the characters, a regret that their adventures had come to an end, and a satisfaction of a journey well completed. In the best of books, I felt that I, too, had accomplished and learned something important in the journey.

In childhood, the best and most satisfactory example of this was the end of The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo and many of his companions sail off into the West, leaving others behind. Like Sam, I always felt sadly bereaved, left behind, but the better for having been there.

In adulthood, this feeling has, unfortunately, rarely come.

Today, I finished Bleak House, and found it again.

Bleak House, if approached in the style of high-school English where one must say what it is ABOUT, in some literary way, is ABOUT the corruptions of the English legal system in the 1840's when Dickens was writing it.

Of course, since Americans are reading and enjoying it 150 years later, that turns out to be the least of what it is ABOUT. And also of course, since it is Dickens, the ride is much more entertaining and involved than such a dry explanation would imply.

Bleak House is part social commentary, part mystery, part comedy of manners, part wonderful story, and part portrayal of human behavior when caught up in corruption.

Dickens is of course, and famously, a caricaturist, but I find that in Bleak House his caricatures are written with a lighter touch, and show more clearly the human truth behind them. They certainly seem more human than the characters in Great Expectations or Oliver Twist, which I remember loathing in high school.

There are genuinely good characters here (Jarndyce the benevolent guardian and Woodcourt the generous physician are but two examples). Their goodness seems real and possible (well, perhaps except for Esther [the narrator and protagonist] herself, who is a bit much). There are very few truly evil characters here, and none of those are a cartoon of evil, as Fagin is. No, this evil is believable and palpable and present today (Tulkinghorn, the manipulative lawyer). Better, there are characters with a delightful moral ambiguity.

There were bits of humanity here that made me wince in recognition: Mrs. Jellyby, the dedicated activist, who spends every particle of her soul in misguided missions overseas, while her entire family goes to wrack and ruin around her. Mrs. Jellyby was, in fact, the only character I found much connection to, as her shortcomings are also mine (and my church's, I sometimes worry). Skimpole was a caricature, but a caricature of a tendency I've seen at work more subtly, but quite often- an amoral renunciation of responsibility.

But more than anything, Bleak House was a great story that caught my fancy, made me sad to leave, and from which I came away feeling richer than I had started- and savored that bittersweet regret.

Time well spent, every minute. ( )
  pepperedmoth | Mar 7, 2015 |
When I was young, I loved several things in my books: I loved my passionate fondness for the characters, to the point of believing them almost real, certainly having existences and thoughts and lives beyond the page. I loved how a good story made the world vanish, and for the space of a few hours (or however long I found to hole up with my book) I was entirely outside my own existence.

I especially loved and dreaded the end of a perfect book, when I would often feel a bittersweet longing to continue onwards with the characters, a regret that their adventures had come to an end, and a satisfaction of a journey well completed. In the best of books, I felt that I, too, had accomplished and learned something important in the journey.

In childhood, the best and most satisfactory example of this was the end of The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo and many of his companions sail off into the West, leaving others behind. Like Sam, I always felt sadly bereaved, left behind, but the better for having been there.

In adulthood, this feeling has, unfortunately, rarely come.

Today, I finished Bleak House, and found it again.

Bleak House, if approached in the style of high-school English where one must say what it is ABOUT, in some literary way, is ABOUT the corruptions of the English legal system in the 1840's when Dickens was writing it.

Of course, since Americans are reading and enjoying it 150 years later, that turns out to be the least of what it is ABOUT. And also of course, since it is Dickens, the ride is much more entertaining and involved than such a dry explanation would imply.

Bleak House is part social commentary, part mystery, part comedy of manners, part wonderful story, and part portrayal of human behavior when caught up in corruption.

Dickens is of course, and famously, a caricaturist, but I find that in Bleak House his caricatures are written with a lighter touch, and show more clearly the human truth behind them. They certainly seem more human than the characters in Great Expectations or Oliver Twist, which I remember loathing in high school.

There are genuinely good characters here (Jarndyce the benevolent guardian and Woodcourt the generous physician are but two examples). Their goodness seems real and possible (well, perhaps except for Esther [the narrator and protagonist] herself, who is a bit much). There are very few truly evil characters here, and none of those are a cartoon of evil, as Fagin is. No, this evil is believable and palpable and present today (Tulkinghorn, the manipulative lawyer). Better, there are characters with a delightful moral ambiguity.

There were bits of humanity here that made me wince in recognition: Mrs. Jellyby, the dedicated activist, who spends every particle of her soul in misguided missions overseas, while her entire family goes to wrack and ruin around her. Mrs. Jellyby was, in fact, the only character I found much connection to, as her shortcomings are also mine (and my church's, I sometimes worry). Skimpole was a caricature, but a caricature of a tendency I've seen at work more subtly, but quite often- an amoral renunciation of responsibility.

But more than anything, Bleak House was a great story that caught my fancy, made me sad to leave, and from which I came away feeling richer than I had started- and savored that bittersweet regret.

Time well spent, every minute. ( )
  pepperedmoth | Mar 7, 2015 |
It was a happy day when I, for whatever reason, elected to sample Charles Dickens. Having read A Tale of Two Cities in high school, I digressed to more popular fiction (Michener, Clavell, McMurtry, King, Grisham), as well as periods of science fiction and even non-fiction (Ambrose, McCollough for example), before making an effort to upgrade my reading list.

I read some Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Steinbeck and Hemingway with mixed success before reading Great Expectations. I liked it enough to read David Copperfield, and I was hooked. A Tale of Two Cities followed and then Oliver Twist (not my favorite) before taking on this lengthy tome.

Bleak House is something of an indictment of the English legal system, more particularly the Chancery Court of Dickens’s period. It takes as its subject the case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce, a Chancery Court case that droned interminably through the system, taking on a life of its own as it outlived its various parties, barristers and judges. Much like David Copperfield, the characters that Dickens creates on the periphery of the story give it much of its charm, however, there are so many of them, and they flit in and out of the story so frequently, that it was difficult for me to remember some of them.

Having read several Dickens works prior to this one, I was aware that a period of acclimation is required before becoming comfortable with both the language and the cultural landscape, however the comfort that I eventually attained in the previous novels was more difficult to come by here. In addition, I found the prose to be far more florid and tortured in this book than in the other Dickens novels that I enjoyed far more.

Make no mistake, at nearly 1,000 pages this is a real door stop, with long periods of very slow advancement and tedious description. Not my favorite, and hard to recommend. ( )
  santhony | Jan 22, 2015 |
Lungo....
***
E difatti dopo due mesi siamo arrivati a pagina 820. Non è stato facile seguire, con la pletora di personaggi, l'evolversi dei 67 capitoli, ognuno bello a modo suo. Davvero utile la chiave di lettura di Nabokov; non so se sono arrivato a leggerlo con la schiena, questo testo. Certo è che ho vissuto momenti di piacere e commozione intensa nel trovarmi in quegli ambienti, con splendidi personaggi e storie a volte lacrimevoli, a volte profondamente umane. Una ragnatela che si incastra con piacere, il gioco del rimando alla fine di ogni capitolo - sembra di leggere i vecchi Tex, che finivano sempre nel numero dopo - una prosa equilibrata e dotta, con un sapiente gusto ironico e ampie parentesi descrittive. Una gioia per la mente, Dickens. E forse, anche per la schiena. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 159 (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
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
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
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Epigraph
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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Book description
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)

» see all 28 descriptions

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Audible.com

24 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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