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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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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

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens at his greatest. Jan. 3 2006
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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece! March 28 2007
By Frore
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. Wonderful, expansive metaphors and similes - I often found myself rereading paragraphs just to savor them. And the word usage! Keep a dictionary close at hand, and I promise your vocabulary will be increased by the time you complete "Bleak House."

At sixty seven chapters long, this novel is no short piece. I found that I could not read it when I was drowsy, because there are little details that need to be picked up on. I recommend reading a chapter summary ( after each one, just to make sure that you do not overlook something very important (just beware of those damn spoilers).

This book shows Dickens' contempt for the Chancery court, overzealous philanthropists, and many other attributes of society that he just could not resist throwing barbs at. Even the minor characters are elaborated on, and soon you will find yourself liking and admiring them - and being unbelievably crushed when terrible things befall those poor souls. I was amazed at how seamlessly Dickens could shift moods. At times his descriptions would make Poe shine with glee.

There are some chapters that are a bit tedious, but not unbearable. Speed read what you can not stand, because the excellent parts in this novel more than make up for anything that is not attention grabbing. Bear in mind that in the Victorian era, television and other immediate forms of entertainment did not exist, and Dickens' audience had a desire to sit down and have every little detail regaled to them, as with most literary pieces.
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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. We have the civil courtroom as it really is, a grinding machine that breaks lives underneath it every day. We see the lawyers who feed off of all this human misery, and encourage their clients to wreck their lives while piously portraying themselves as upholders of the law.
Of course, this book is about a lot more than just the law. One of the most amusing subplots involves various women involved in charity. As the character Mr. Jarndyce says, there are two kinds of people who do charitable work. Some accomplish a great deal, and make very little noise, and some make a great deal of noise, and accomplish nothing. Of course, most of the ones in this book are of the second catagory. The most memorable by far is Mrs. Jellybee, who obsesses over a colony in Africa while her own family falls apart around her. It's exactly like people today, who want to save the whales or free Tibet while people in their own neighborhoods starve.
The characters in this book are excellent, and far more realistic than in most of Dickens's works. Mr. Jarndyce is the heroic father figure, but he is a real one, who tried to be kind and guide his family but can only watch helplessly while his nephew slowly destroys himself trying to overcome the court, which of course is impossible.
Many people have had trouble with the character of Esther Summerson, and her relentless goodness and self-effacement. I think she is a fantastic character, and is Dickens's way of reinforcing the message of the book, that you need to find happiness in your own life, and things like lawsuits do nothing but destroy happiness and should be avoided.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I ever read
I loved this book. I have read a few by Charles Dickens and this together with David Copperfield is my favorite. Read more
Published 6 months ago by c b
4.0 out of 5 stars Suspense!
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.
Published 14 months ago by Donna Ackert
3.0 out of 5 stars Aptly Named
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.
Published 15 months ago by Carla
5.0 out of 5 stars Let Love and Responsibility Trump Pride and Irresponsibility
"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;... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Donald Mitchell
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 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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