NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!

Lezlie



Monday, August 10, 2009

BLEAK HOUSE

by Charles Dickens



"In Bleak House Dickens presents a critical picture of England in 1853. He condemns the insidious power of a hideous legal system which creeps like London fog into the lives of every character in the book. Dickens ingeniously links characters from all backgrounds from Esther Summerson, an orphan given support by the kindly Mr. Jarndyce, owner of Bleak House, to Lady Dedlock who lives with a secret she can't reveal. Tulkinghorn, the ruthless lawyer, Krook the shopkeeper and Jo, the pathetic crossing-sweeper, are all finely drawn characters that enrich this story of the unravelling of Lady Dedlock's secret by Inspector Bucket, whose appearance in this novel can give it a claim to be the first English detective novel." (From the CD container.)

While in the end I liked Bleak House quite a bit, it is my least favorite of the four Charles Dickens books I've read. The tone is much more A Tale of Two Cities, than, say, Nicholas Nickleby, but that wasn't a problem. A Tale of Two Cities is, after all, my favorite Dickens book so far. My issue was that it took a long time for Bleak House to come together for me. I was having trouble keeping track of characters and what anyone had to do with anything or anybody. Once I started to grasp it all, though, I ended up being just as enthralled with this work as I was with the rest.

I am one of those readers who would rave endlessly about the amazing characters in Dickens' writing. They come to life in a manner that most authors can only wish for. They stay with me when the story is over, and that isn't normal for me. My mind tends to move on to the next book quickly. And being a Dickens newbie, his artful phrasing of words is still a delight for me. I'm very pleased to have many of his books yet to explore.

I have a Teaching Company lecture on this book waiting for me when I get back to my Classic Novels course, so I will be revisiting Bleak House in the future with a more analytical eye. For now, I just wanted to let you know if you can get past the scary size of the thing and push beyond the confusion of so many seemingly unrelated characters and events in the beginning, it is worth it in the end.



Other Charles Dickens related posts on Books 'N Border Collies:

A Christmas Carol
Nicholas Nickleby
A Tale of Two Cities

33 comments:

Serena said...

Bleak House is the least of my favorites as well. I had a tough time with this book as well, though its been years since I've read it.

Heather J. said...

I remember loving this book when I read it in high school, but I can’t remember anything else about it except that (I think) it is where I learned the meaning of “spontaneous combustion” …

I’m glad that you stuck with it and were rewarded in the end. I’ve been wanting to pick up the audio of this one for some time, to see if I enjoy it as much now as I did back then.

Molly said...

Oh goodness -- I have so much I could say in this comment, but I will try to be concise.

First of all, I LOVE Tale of Two Cities as well. This will be my 5th year to teach the book and I always look forward to re-reading it.

Secondly, I totally agree with your statements regarding Bleak House (the number of characters was overwhelming for me) - but somehow Dickens books always stay with me, sometimes in a haunting kind of way.

Finally, I adore the Teaching Company videos. I wish I had more money because there are about 10 courses I would love to own.

Obviously I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post :)

JoAnn said...

Great post, Lezlie! I'm so intrigued with Bleak House - have listened to the Teaching Company CD, and it's on my shelf just waiting to go. The size is daunting, but I'm going to try it this winter.

I'm also a Dickens newbie, with only A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol under my belt. We'll see...

Lezlie said...

Serena ~ I don't think it helped that I had to return it to the library before I was finished and then had to wait for 6 weeks to get it back. :-) The interesting thing was I was able to pick it up right where I left off, and that was when I started to like it a lot more. Weird.

Heather ~ I loved the audio version of this that I listened to. It was from Naxos Audio Books, narrated by Sean Barrett and Teresa Gallagher. They were phenomenal, and made it a pleasure to listen to even when I was confused. :-)

Molly ~ I'm so glad you liked the post! I felt like I wasn't really doing the books justice, but I know I'll be going back to it in a later post. It will be fun to see if we feel the same way about other Dickens books as I get to them! Also, I am a Teaching Company junkie. If I could afford them, I swear I'd own every course they produce. The history and literature courses are my favorite though.

Lezlie

Lezlie said...

JoAnn ~ I'm very anxious to see what The Teaching Company has to say about Bleak House. I want to listen to the lectures in order and after I read the books though, so I might not get to it for a bit. I'll bet my opinion of it will elevate once I hear the lecture. TTC always helps me to see more deeply into my reading, which is kind of silly to say since that's the whole point of listening to them! :-) It will be fun to compare notes as our explorations of Dickens' work continues!

Lezlie

Charley said...

This one has been gathering dust on my shelf since college. I think it's the length that makes me pause. The only Dickens I have read is The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It's been some years, but I recall enjoying it.

Lezlie said...

Charley ~ The size intimidated me too, that's why I went audio. :-) Reading The Last Dickens put The Mystery of Edwin Drood on my radar. I will have to pick that up someday!

Lezlie

Rebecca Reid said...

I haven't read many Dickens but I have some sitting and waiting for me! Thanks for this review. I do look forward to it some day, even if it was not a favorite.

Lezlie said...

Rebecca ~ I'm starting to think that Charles Dickens books are like pizzas. They're never bad, you just like some better than others! :-)

Lezlie

Esme said...

Lezlie-hello I meant 1000 White Women-I have not read it, a friend recommended it to me-but now that you mention that scene to me-I will be staying away also. I lost my cat this year and a friend gave me a book by a Japanese author-cannot remember his name-but cats were being decapitated with their heads left in fridges-not the sort of thing for a pet lover or person in general to read.

thanks for writing back.

Lezlie said...

Esme ~ You're very welcome, and I totally understand. I wouldn't be able to read that one either!! If you remember the name, let me know so I don't accidentally read it. That scene in 1000 WW turned my husband's stomach and I think it ruined the book for him. He knew there was no way I'd be able to deal with it, so he warned me before I got my hands on it. I know I miss some great books because of my over-sensitivity to things like that, but I know I'm not alone! And I'm sorry to hear about your cat. {{Hugs}} Animal lovers are welcome here!! :-)

Lezlie

Meghan said...

I have this one on my TBR pile. I generally enjoy Dickens but the start puts me off every time. I'm glad to hear it's worth it in the end, I'll have to stick with it next time.

Lezlie said...

Meghan ~ This is definitely not one that grabs the reader from the start, at least not for me. I hope knowing that helps the next time you give it a shot!

Lezlie

Shelley said...

I just finished Bleak House recently, and, while I loved it, it didn't love it as much as I thought I would. Esther was too good, too forgiving, too submissive and it really rubbed me the wrong way. But all in all I loved it because I love Dickens.
This is a case where the BBC production is just as good as if not better than the book. It condenses it perfectly, and I like Esther better in it.

Lezlie said...

Shelley ~ I've never seen the BBC production of anything. I've been told missing out. :-) I'll have to look into the one for Bleak House. I would be very interested to see it!

Lezlie

Jemima said...

I also recommend the BBC Bleak House production. (Most public libraries lend them out free.) I fell in love with all those lovely documents with the old-fashioned hand writing. I even went out and bought some lovely paper and ink pens after watching it!

I went through a phase of reading Dickens in my late teens and my favorite was Hard Times and A Tale of Two Cities. Thanks for the review and putting Dickens in mind. I will have to re-read some.

Lezlie said...

Jemima ~ Now I have to watch it for sure! :-) I think once I clean out some of the books I have piled around here, I'd like to go on a Dickens jag and do a few in a row.

Lezlie

Kim L said...

I'm impressed that you kept pressing on. Even a good Dickens book is intimidating for me, because it is so dang long. I don't know if I could have managed it.

Cathy said...

I have a copy of just about every book that Dickens wrote, and I did a graduate level course on him in college. I've learned that the plots of his novels might not always stay with me, but his descriptions and his characters do. There are people I've met in my life that I think of as Peggoty or Barkis or Micawber. I won't ever tell them that, but that's how I think of them. I wish I had .001% of Dickens' talent (although I'd write shorter books)!

Lezlie said...

Kim ~ Audiobooks make the going a lot easier. Since I'm doing other things while I'm listening, I don't get as frustrated.

Cathy ~ I hear you on the talent. I'll bet the graduate course was fascinating! He is an author I think I could read a few books in a row by and not get quite so antsy for some variety. Maybe. :-)

Lezlie

Petunia said...

I was going to recommend the BBC production but I see it's already been recommended. Most of the newer BBC movies, especially of Dickens' works, are excellent. Those wonderful characters really come to life. I am a huge Dickens fan. I named my cat for him. :)

Lezlie said...

Petunia ~ I'm guessing you named him Dickens and not Charles? :-) That's so cute!! If you have any suggestions on the next Dickens book I should consider reading, please let me know!

Lezlie

Rose City Reader said...

I just put this one on my library list because I thought the audio version would make it easier to get through. It is quite the chunkster. But I wonder if audio made it harder to pull the pieces together???

Lezlie said...

Rose City Reader ~ That's a good question. I'm not sure if it made it harder or if it made it easier than it would have been otherwise because I kept plugging away instead of setting it aside. I'll be curious to see how you feel about it!

Lezlie

zetor said...

I wonder dare I try it, maybe one day!

Petunia said...

We thought Dickens was a great name for a cute cat like ours.

I'm not sure what other Dickens you have read but I'd recommend Our Mutual Friend. It's another chuckster.

Lezlie said...

Zetor ~ Definitely dare. But I'd wait for those nice winter nights in front of the fireplace!

Petunia ~ It's tough to find a Dickens that *isn't* a chunkster! :-) Those darn serial novels . . .

Lezlie

joanna said...

Well done Lezlie! I haven't read any Dickens at all, he terrifies me. :-)

Lezlie said...

Joanna ~ Thanks! Whenever you get around to him, I wouldn't start here. :-) Overall though, he's not as scary as I thought he would be. Once you get going, he's awesome to read! Maybe try audio?

Lezlie

joanna said...

Thanks for the tip! :-) Not on audio, I'm afraid, I need way more action for my audio books!

Lezlie said...

Joanna ~ That's understandable. If you want any specific recommendations, my fav it The Tale of Two Cities if you're looking for serious, and Nicholas Nickleby if you want some comedy mixed in.

Lezlie

joanna said...

Thanks - I'll add it to next year's classics challenge. :-)