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Penguin Classics Bleak House [Paperback]

Charles Dickens , N Bradbury , Nicola Bradbury
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 25 2003 Penguin Classics
"Bleak House" is Charles Dickens' masterful assault on the injustices of the British legal system. This "Penguin Classics" edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Nicola Bradbury, as well as a preface by Terry Eagleton. As the interminable case of 'Jarndyce and Jarndyce' grinds its way through the Court of Chancery, it draws together a disparate group of people: Ada and Richard Clare, whose inheritance is gradually being devoured by legal costs; Esther Summerson, a ward of court, whose parentage is a source of deepening mystery; the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn; the determined sleuth Inspector Bucket; and even Jo, the destitute little crossing-sweeper. A savage, but often comic, indictment of a society that is rotten to the core, "Bleak House" is one of Dickens's most ambitious novels, with a range that extends from the drawing rooms of the aristocracy to the poorest of London slums. This edition follows the first book edition of 1853, and includes all the original illustrations by 'Phiz', as well as appendices on the Chancery and spontaneous combustion. In his preface, Terry Eagleton examines characterisation and considers "Bleak House" as an early work of detective fiction. Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved novelists in the English language, whose 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. His most famous books, including "Oliver Twist", "Great Expectations", "A Tale of Two Cities", "David Copperfield" and "The Pickwick Papers", have been adapted for stage and screen and read by millions. If you enjoyed "Bleak House", you might like Dickens' "Our Mutual Friend", also available in "Penguin Classics". "Perhaps his best novel...when he wrote "Bleak House" he had grown up". (G.K. Chesterton). "One of the finest of all English satires". (Terry Eagleton).

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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

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original but Drawn-Out! Feb. 26 2012
By Pierre Gauthier TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I ever read March 24 2014
By c b
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. I have read a few by Charles Dickens and this together with David Copperfield is my favorite.
The book is quite long but I like that because you really get to know the characters and once you get into it is hard to put down.
This book definitely made me want to read more of Dickens.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suspense! July 20 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved Bleak House. This book keeps you thinking from one chapter to another and wondering what will become of the characters.
Again, a wonderful classic full of suspense.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Be warned, you have to pay attention Dec 22 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I loved this book, for the following reasons. First, in Dicken's usual fashion, he makes his characters memorable. There is no character that Dickens does not take the time to make an intricate work of art. The criticism that these characters are "stock" seems ridiculous to me, since very few authors could create "stock" characters as memorable and lively as what Dickens does.
Secondly, this book has an amazingly intricate plot that Dickens somehow manages to keep under control. In some of Dickens' novels he loses control of the narrative and has to introduce last-minute characters and wildly hilarious coincidences in order to resolve the plot. Not the case here. Dickens does not have to resort to any desperate last-minute tricks to tie his plot strands together. However, there is so many plot strands to track, that if you read this book lazily, you will surely be lost already in the first 200 pages. So pay attention!
Thirdly, Dickens' satire of the court of Chancery and human foibles in general remains timeless, as it is in most of his novels I have read. Even though this novel is firmly set in the 19th century, I found myself recognizing today's situations in it. Not so much has changed, after all.
So why only four stars? Ultimately, I think Dickens could have served his purpose better with a less complex novel. Some of the stories which are told serve only as filler, and are a little tiring to work through. Also, sometimes Dickens' characters' behaviour is a little unbelievable, thinking especially of some characters' insane affection for one another.
However, I highly recommend this book. Dickens' style takes some getting used to, but it's well worth the effort.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Aptly Named June 28 2013
By Carla
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've only read 1/3 of the book so far, and unlike most of Dickens' books, the beginning is really BLEAK, and slow-moving.
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By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A review of the novel and the BBC broadcast.....
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... Read more
Published on May 7 2012 by Ronald W. Maron
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
I am very pleased with this product. It was as shown and I look forward to reading it! The shipping was fast and efficient and not too pricey
Published on Oct. 25 2011 by Sheri Potts
2.0 out of 5 stars Bleak Read!
I've read other Dickens novels and found them -- even with their inevitable digressions -- to hang together much better than this one. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2010 by Tim Schobert
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
How to describe the story? I leave to better reviewers than I. A long and complicated tale about a dispute over a will and a family inheritance that destroys most of the litigants,... Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2008 by Misfit
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece!
How can I possibly put into words how marvelous this book is?

Charles Dickens proves himself to be the master of descriptions in this literary piece. Read more
Published on March 28 2007 by Frore
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens at his greatest.
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2006 by Ken Greenwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens's best book, should be required reading for lawyers
This book is without a doubt as relevant now as it was when Dickens wrote it. In fact, its probably more so. As G.K. Chesterton said, when Dickens wrote this book, he had grown up. Read more
Published on May 25 2004 by the_lighthousekeeper
5.0 out of 5 stars Step back in time, '1984-Orwell'-1840's Dickens style
Ada Clair and Richard Carstone come to live as wards of John Jarndyce at Bleak House, a manor in the English country side. Read more
Published on May 13 2004 by Ted Magnuson
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