Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bleak House

It took me a while to finish this book. I have read but one Dickens before this one, which was Oliver Twist and I don't recall much of it frankly.

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. (

Charles Dickens is supposed to be one of the best writers of the Victorian Age, but I feel this era has been surpassed many times now.
I'm romantic by nature, but Dickens feels very naive and innocent. The characters living in this novel seem a little childish. Bleak House is like a fairy tale of a 1000 pages.

Of course being almost 1000 pages long, it's longwinded. There are chapters I would've ommited, but of course in the end you'll notice how every little bit of information, and he gives a lot of info on every character and subcharacter possible, fits in this puzzle he's created. I know of only one writer to do so, and here I'm again with my praise for Stephen King. Although the main difference between the two in their writing is the content. While King can hold you on the edge of your seat, with Dickens I felt like it could be hurried on a little faster. Bleak house might have been better if it were to be comprimized into a novel half its thickness.

Now, what about the story?
I'm not sure how I feel about it. It made me smile sometimes, but I felt frustrated more often. Bleak House starts out with a young girl who's been made to understand that she's the shame of her mother. You quickly get the idea that she was an illegitimate love-child and forced to hide away. This is Esther, and Esther is the main protagonist in Bleak House. When Esther's warden dies, she eventually ends up with Mr. Jarndyce. A goodhumoured man, although a little wayward in avoiding praise or trouble. He's part of a suit in court, which goes on for ages and is a bit of a laughing matter in London.
Together with Esther, two other young persons come to live with him, Ada and Richard. Ada is a beautiful girl and Richard a handsome young man who hasn't found his way in the world yet. Both are also parties in the Jarndyce suit. Mr Jarndyce tries to steer Richard in a good direction, but eventually Richard severs all ties because he thinks that Mr Jarndyce is trying to fool him. He spends too much money and energy in the failing suit. Meanwhile Esther is trying to live her life as innocently as possible, because she has been imprinted with the thought she has to work double as hard to overcome her shame of being born illegitimate.
She's a good soul and tend to take her kindly, because she doesn't have a selfish bone in her body.
While she is living with Mr Jarndyce, a man who's gotten fond of her, Mr Guppy, is trying to find out the ancestral trail of Esther, so he might find her worthy enough to make her his wife although she doesn't intend to let him. He comes daringly close to the truth and Esther finds out who her mother is.

Meanwhile she falls in love, but the man she loves is on a  ship to India to try and seek good fortune. When he comes back, Esther is altered in appearance due to a sickness and thinks he doesn't like her in the same way anymore. This sets other events in motion, but as Dickens writes quite romantically in Bleak House, you can expect a happy ending for most of his characters.

Only one time did he stop my heart and made me fight back tears, which was when Esther is desperately trying to find her mother. Of course Bleak House is written more satirical, than truly heartbreaking, so I wasn't expecting it.

I can't say I was overjoyed while reading Bleak House. More times than not it was a chore. I was glad when I finally finished the last page and could go on to something else. I'm not sure I'll be reading Dickens again, not soon anyway. There are novels of his I'm intrigued by, so I'll probably read more, but not so in 2014.

I'll give Bleak House a 6,5 out of 10.