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Bleak House (1853)

by Charles Dickens

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13,039241422 (4.18)6 / 1507
Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

A enthralling story about the inequalities of the 19th-century English legal system Bleak House is one of Charles Dicken's most multifaceted novels. Bleak House deals with a multiplicity of characters, plots and subplots that all weave in and around the true story of the famous case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a case of litigation in England's Court of Chancery, which starts as a problem of legacy and wills, but soon raises the question of murder.

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Showing 1-5 of 229 (next | show all)
This book has completely changes my opinion of Dickens. Like so many I studied Great Expectations at school and it was a dreary job. Imagine my delight to find in Bleak House a wonderfully compelling story where your expectations of characters are overturned and the story has wonderful plot twists. It's a really engaging read, or in this case listen.

Miriam Morgolyes does an exquisite job of narration, giving each character their own distinct voice; I really have no idea how she does it.

The books winds together many seemingly disparate stories into one: Ester and her mysterious birth, the grand family of the Dedlocks, the famous case of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, the apparently childlike Mr Skimpole, the lawyers and their clerks, the wonderfully genteelly batty Miss Flite and the trooper and his friends.

I found Ester, one of the principal narrators, quite amusing, since she is the pattern of a demure useful moral victorian lady. It leaves me wondering if this was Dickens' ideal of feminine virtue. However, I think she was set up as such to be a contrast to the mystery of her birth; the sins of the parents not being visited upon that of the child in this case. I can see however that she could be, for some at least, a rather annoying prissy little woman.

There are some truly touching scenes which Dickens deals with sensitivity and tenderness, particularly in relation to the very poor Joe. This is in marked contrast to his treatment of the lawyers, for whom one can presume Dickens lost no love. He is scathing in his condemnation of the waste of time and money, their cynical manipulation of people and circumstances for their own ends. It is clear that he feels that the Court of Chancery was the last place an honest person should go for justice, the case of Mr Gridley is clearly an example of how it ruined ordinary people.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and had to race through the final third of the book, desperate to find out what happened next. Highly recommended, even if you think you don't like Dickens. ( )
  Cotswoldreader | May 26, 2023 |
Really jumped in the deep end with this being my first Dickens; big ol’ satire that takes its time to get going but then becomes a fun little detective foil. I want a bad b like Mrs Bagnet in my life, but then again discipline must be maintained.

Also gotta add that mentally I kept misreading Mr Tulkinghorn as Mr Turkington, which all Greggheads and cinema buffs will get a huge kick out of. ( )
  theoaustin | May 19, 2023 |
Dickens' 17th important work, his 9th novel, his 1st utter masterpiece. Bleak House is gorgeous, powerful, and diffuse in a way that signals we're on to the author's third act, in which the vibrant characters and internal examination he had been trialling begin to come together. Apparently, as he got to the end of this novel, Dickens was finding his life and its burdensome pile of commitments to be a little much, but perhaps it was because he was giving more than ever to his work. Lady Dedlock and Esther both provide dimensional (well, at least bordering on two-dimensions, which is something for this guy) portraits into this maudlin world. The social satire of the Jarndyce case is barbed in a different way to Dickens' anger on the treatment of the poor: it is a more tongue-in-cheek satire about the inanities of humankind. Richard and Ada aren't exactly fountains of great depth, but their actions still contribute their detail to the many facets that make up this unified whole. While I think that Dorrit and Great Expectations are also masterpieces (and I haven't yet read Our Mutual Friend), Bleak House is absolutely the most Dickensian of CD's achievements. ( )
  therebelprince | May 1, 2023 |
“Bleak House” by Charles Dickens may be a long, complex and even convoluted novel, yet its central message seems simple enough. Love and family mean everything. Everything else, not so much.

The entire story circles around, but rarely dips into, a civil suit over a will that has been sitting — rarely moving at all —in court for years, even decades. Most of the novel's many characters are involved in the suit in one way or another. The happiest ones manage to ignore it and just get on with their lives.

Dickens gives us two narrators. One is a young woman named Esther Summerson, raised by a woman not her mother who treated her like sin itself. Upon this woman's death, Esther comes under the guardianship of John Jarndyce, one of the principals in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit. Her life and sense of worth improve significantly and don't even change much after a serious illness destroys her physical beauty. Everyone, it seems, loves Esther, as does the reader. Three men want to marry her.

The second narrator is omniscient, who in present tense tells us everything going on that Esther is not a witness to. The characters and subplots are too numerous to mention. Two characters that should be mentioned, however, are Sir Leicester Dedlock and Lady Dedlock, members of the aristocracy who return to the story again and again. Lady Dedlock, whose extreme haughtiness turns out to be a pretense to hide her guilt, has a secret she shares only with Esther.

The novel first appeared in serial form in 1852, so it is worth noting that Dickens gives us one of the earliest detectives in fiction, Mr. Bucket, who investigates both a murder and a disappearance in these pages.

When this is not an exciting detective story, it most often becomes a love story. Couples marry. A son returns to his family, where he is welcomed like the Prodigal. Old couples remember what drew them together in the first place.

Bleak House itself is one of two stately residences described in these pages, and despite what its name may suggest, this turns out to be the happy home, the one where Esther goes to live. It is the other house, where the Dedlocks live, that seems haunted.

I would not rate “Bleak House” as Dickens's best novel, as many people do — I prefer “Little Dorrit” and “Our Mutual Friend” — yet there is no denying its sweeping power and vibrancy. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Apr 1, 2023 |
That was one long book. ( )
  JudyGibson | Jan 26, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 229 (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 (61 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ball, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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
Gill, StephenIntroductionsecondary 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
Sève, Peter deCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sitwell, Sir OsbertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solomon, AbrahamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, MeganCover designersecondary 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
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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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Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

A enthralling story about the inequalities of the 19th-century English legal system Bleak House is one of Charles Dicken's most multifaceted novels. Bleak House deals with a multiplicity of characters, plots and subplots that all weave in and around the true story of the famous case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a case of litigation in England's Court of Chancery, which starts as a problem of legacy and wills, but soon raises the question of murder.


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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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