Title: Bleak House
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: London. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall.
Goodreads blurb: Bleak House opens in the twilight of foggy London, where fog grips the city most densely in the Court of Chancery. The obscure case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, in which an inheritance is gradually devoured by legal costs, the romance of Esther Summerson and the secrets of her origin, the sleuthing of Detective Inspector Bucket and the fate of Jo the crossing-sweeper, these are some of the lives Dickens invokes to portray London society, rich and poor, as no other novelist has done. Bleak House, in its atmosphere, symbolism and magnificent bleak comedy, is often regarded as the best of Dickens. A ‘great Victorian novel’, it is so inventive in its competing plots and styles that it eludes interpretation.
Well, where to begin in reviewing this monster of a book? I’m a bit lost, honestly, as my feelings about it are so up and down. I think I’ll just hit the high points of my thoughts.
~ I wish I had heard the suggestion to record all the characters and their roles, relationships, and occupations on a note card BEFORE I started reading. There were so many characters, and it was hard to keep them – and their relationships with one another – straight.
~ Dickens likes his lengthy descriptions, doesn’t he? Yes, he can write like nobody’s business, but sometimes I simply wanted to read the STORY, and I found myself wishing he would get on with things.
~ Esther’s narrative was by far my favorite, with Lady Dedlock’s coming in a close second. I loved reading these sections, and couldn’t stop reading when they finally converged.
~ When I realized that the house was actually named Bleak House, I thought maybe the book wasn’t actually bleak and depressing. I was wrong. Talk about tragic, with three characters that I liked coming to their ends.
~ If I had been reading this one on my own, I would have been tempted to give up on it. I’m glad it was a challenge book, because that kept me reading, and I ended up loving the last three hundred pages.
~ Reading 989 pages by Dickens is very different than reading a chunkster of the same length by someone like Stephen King. The language is so different that I have to read much more slowly. I thought 40 or so pages a day was a very modest goal; I was wrong. I also discovered that I simply had to set it aside at times and read something more modern, or else my eyes would glaze over and I wouldn’t comprehend what I was reading.
Well, there you have it. At least I can say I finished the darn thing! Thanks for being patient with me as I was late finishing it.