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A mysterious lawsuit, a dark secret, a framed murder, and an illegitimate child: these are the themes of Charles Dickens’ suspenseful, intricate book. The narrator and heroine, Esther Summerson, is a downtrodden young woman with no family who is taken in by John Jarndyce after her first guardian dies. Esther quickly befriends Jarndyce’s two other wards, cousins Richard Carstone and Ada Clare, who are in love. Before they marry, though, Richard must choose a profession, which is difficult since he spends all of time following a long-standing legal dispute. Esther, meanwhile, has her own concerns, as she slowly begins to learn the truth about her past. The secret of her ancestry is revealed to her when she learns that her mother is Lady Dedlock, but she is forbidden to have contact with her. Events then take a dark turn: Lady Dedlock’s desperation to guard her reputation leads to a shocking murder; and Esther’s burdens mount when she realizes that Richard, in his obsession with the legal case, has lost all of his money and his health. In Bleak House, Dickens weaves a masterful tale of loss and love, crafting a narrative in which all characters affect each other’s lives, however subtly.
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Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was uniquely successful as a writer during his lifetime, enjoying huge followings from readers and audiences in England and America. When, early in life, sudden misfortune sent his family into extreme poverty, the young Charles was sent to work in a factory. Never forgetting this childhood misery, Dickens wrote often in later life about the plights of the working poor. As a young man he became a law clerk and stenographer, moving into journalism in the 1830s. Dickens's early journalistic sketches formed the basis for his first literary works. With the 1836 serialized publication of The Pickwick Papers, his unparalleled success as an author began. Dickens went on to write such famous novels as David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Barnaby Rudge, Hard Times, and Bleak House, with all of his works remaining in print to this day.Back to top
Opening Lines (Experimental)
A Chancery judge once had the kindness to inform me, as one of a company of some hundred and fifty men and women not labouring under any suspicions of lunacy, that the Court of Chancery, though the shining subject of much popular prejudice (at which point I thought the judge's eye had a cast in my ...Back to top
Reviewed by 1MCPOE9 on Feb 28, 2011
The longest book I have ever read but well worth the time. I would suggest that anyone thinking of reading this should watch Masterpiece Theater version of the book at least twice to understand all of the main characters and most of the minor characters.
Reviewed by tristiseye on Feb 11, 2009
Not one of Dickens's best
Not my favorite Dickens, but enjoyable. I think the number of (unimportant) characters drew me away from the story, thus losing my interest in the overall story. I know Dickens was a hack writer, but the endless characters were too much for even a Dickens fan.
Reviewed by katharhino on Jul 18, 2008
Mastery of pathos
Rating Bleak House is difficult. It's hard to know how I might have perceived the story if I hadn't seen the miniseries first. Perhaps it suffers by reading it in tiny installments a little each day. But I think that regardless, this would not have been one of my all-time favorite Dickens.
Of course, I am a Jarndyce fan with book as well as series, so I can't love the ending. And unfortunately, Anna Maxwell Martin's subtly strong portrayal of Esther in the series makes book!Esther even more insipid and annoying by comparison.
However, Bleak House the book does contain some of Dickens' memorable characters, who were slighted in the miniseries by necessity; and some great scenes in which Dickens' mastery of pathos really shines. The scenes with Sir Leicester Dedlock were really moving, and I love the George subplot, which got barely skimmed over in the series.
On the whole, worth reading if you're a Dickens fan, even if it may not be his best.
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Ratings for 'Bleak House' by Dickens, Charles