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Bleak House Paperback – Apr 29 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1088 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (April 29 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141439726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141439723
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 640 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #378,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Bleak House is a satirical look at the Byzantine legal system in London as it consumes the minds and talents of the greedy and nearly destroys the lives of innocents--a contemporary tale indeed. Dickens's tale takes us from the foggy dank streets of London and the maze of the Inns of Court to the peaceful countryside of England. Likewise, the characters run from murderous villains to virtuous girls, from a devoted lover to a "fallen woman," all of whom are affected by a legal suit in which there will, of course, be no winner. The first-person narrative related by the orphan Esther is particularly sweet. The articulate reading by the acclaimed British actor Paul Scofield, whose distinctive broad English accent lends just the right degree of sonority and humor to the text, brings out the color in this classic social commentary disguised as a Victorian drama. However, to abridge Dickens is, well, a Dickensian task, the results of which make for a story in which the author's convoluted plot lines and twists of fate play out in what seems to be a fast-forward format. Listeners must pay close attention in order to keep up with the multiple narratives and cast of curious characters, including the memorable Inspector Bucket and Mr. Guppy. Fortunately, the publisher provides a partial list of characters on the inside jacket. (Running time: 3 hours; 2 cassettes) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Bleak House is such a natural for audio that it comes as no surprise to read in Peter Ackroyd's biography of Dickens that he himself read it aloud to Wilkie Collins and his own family. No matter how good he was as a readerAand he did go on to present public readings regularly after thisADickens could not have performed better than Robert Whitfield does here. With a motley cast of characters to challenge the skill of any narrator, his brilliant dramatizations range from a homeless street urchin to an arrogant barrister, from a canny old windbag to a high-minded heroine who deserves the happy ending Dickens affords her. Whitfield is also as persuasive as the indignant voice of the author himself, attacking both the injustice of the law and the cruel indifference of society. This may be one of the most Dickensian novels Dickens ever wrote. Highly recommended.AJo Carr, Sarasota, FL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pierre Gauthier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Feb. 26 2012
Format: Audio CD
A marking originality of this novel lies in the fact that there are two narrators who alternate every few chapters. One is omniscient and uses the present. The other is the main character, a young woman, who speaks in the first person in the past tense. The threads of each story only link towards the end of the novel.

This very particular arrangement is never explained (at least in the audio version. Is the girl's point of view published in order to defend the character of certain individuals? Is the traditional narrative inserted to present facts that she could not have known? Who then is in a position to be familiar with these elements and put them in writing?

As is frequent with Dickens' novels, a multitude of characters are included and, at times, sub-plots are quite difficult to follow. Some secondary characters simply disappear and their fate remains forever unknown.

The main plot rests upon a complex court case ... that is strangely never presented in any level of detail, as if the reader were incapable of understanding it.

Overall, it appears justified to consider this one of Dickens' best works, although of course by contemporary standards it appears very long. In that sense, an abridged version would definitely be recommended to anyone with limited time at his or her disposal.
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Format: Paperback
Nothing in Dickens prepares us for the greatness of Bleak House, asserts Norrie Epstein in the superb Penguin book, The Friendly Dickens. I couldn't agree with Epstein more. That writer even goes on, amazingly, to describe this novel as "the jewel in the crown of 19th century English literature." Wow! I guess that's liking something!
My own opinion is that, if Dickens had never written anything else, he would still have deserved his final resting place beneath the floor of Westminster Abbey. I returned to Dickens at a stage in my life when I have time now to do so, having read nothing by him since the three required novels of my high-school days. It's an understatement to say that I enjoyed it hugely.
Bleak House, while not a very well-known Dickens novel, is frequently described as his greatest. Now in his early 40s, he seems to me to have reached the height of his creative genius, the peak of his writing and imaginative power. Time and again throughout Bleak House, I found myself stopping, backing up, and re-reading a sentence or a paragraph, and reveling in delight at the almost miraculous language, the imagery and the command and the brilliance of a first-class craftsman.
In a book of almost 1000 pages, we meet a large number of characters, from the pathetic to the unbearable, to the elevated and the admirable. As elsewhere, Dickens has characters' names do much of his work for him--names such as Lady Dedlock, Mr Smallweed and Mr Krook are a treat. The Penguin Classics version I bought from Amazon is clean and readable, with notes at the back for difficult or unusual references.
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Format: Audio CD
"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." -- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)

Bleak House is Dickens' most complete statement of the virtues of self-sacrificing love. I am very sorry that I waited so many years to listen to the uplifting reading of this outstanding book by David Case.

Lest you make the same mistake I did in putting off this joy, let me explain how I ended up deciding to avoid Bleak House for so many years. First, of course, there's that title. You have to admit that you probably don't get excited about learning about a bleak house. On this point, let me assure you that the literal bleak house in this book is anything but. Second, there's the book's opening and continuing theme about lives being destroyed by the evils of the Chancery court, most vividly expressed by the suit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. One of my law professors read part of that opening on my first day of classes in graduate school, and it made me think that surely the rest of the book must be nearly as depressing and discouraging. Wrong again! There are some very commendable characters and actions in the book that would inspire anyone.

Bleak House essentially describes England from the perspective of Miss Esther Summerson beginning with her guardianship by one John Jarndyce, one of the affected parties in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce chancery case. As Dickens does in many of his best novels, these two characters provide the examples of right behavior that encourage the reader while advancing the plot.
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Format: Paperback
This truly was, and remains, a monumental task; both for the reader and the author. Charles Dickens, with his classical style of creating characters that literally jump off the page and into your psyche, outdid himself with this critically favored tale. For the reader the task is no less a challenge; a 1000+ page story that meanders from site to site, characters that slip in and out of the tale in a few pages to a plotline that is fully engrossing and universally symbolic of our past and present social ills.

The BBC presentation actually did some things better than even Mr. Dickens did himself. Esther, the protagonist of the tale, is depicted in a more highly realistic manner. She is a somber, less than educated survivor who, while welcoming the protection provided by Bleak House, does not extol on its every detail as done through the printed text. In the book, however, and because of the 1st person singular that is represented through Esther, her personality is portrayed as one of complete loving, caring and giving. While Dickens was attempting to establish the theme of 'universal goodness' he seemed to stretch the symbolic cord to its breaking point. Any person coming from a background similar to Esther's rearing by Miss Barbary would not be 'pure goodness' but would, at best, portray BBC's more cynical and realistic characterization of her. Harold Skimpole, likewise, was depicted in a more realistic manner in the filmed production. No, his characterization remains the same but the persons around him are less forgiving and accepting of his selfishness and irresponsibility as depicted by Mr. Dickens.

But, the remaining characters of the novel, without a doubt are some of the most colorful and unforgettable that the reader will ever encounter.
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