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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.
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.
Published 25 days ago by c b

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original but Drawn-Out!
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...
Published on Feb. 26 2012 by Pierre Gauthier


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original but Drawn-Out!, Feb. 26 2012
By 
Pierre Gauthier (Montréal) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Bleak House (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 One of the best books I ever read, March 24 2014
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This review is from: Penguin Classics Bleak House (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Suspense!, July 20 2013
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This review is from: Bleak House (Kindle Edition)
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Aptly Named, June 28 2013
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Let Love and Responsibility Trump Pride and Irresponsibility, May 22 2013
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 122,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Bleak House, with eBook (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. Throughout the story, you'll find more characters that will stick in your memory than I suspect you are used to finding in a single novel. In that sense, Bleak House is a bit like a movie with a cast filled with Academy Award winners.

In fact, while there are certainly many sad events in the book, I think you'll spend more time smiling than feeling sad.

Enjoy this amazing book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A review of the novel and the BBC broadcast....., May 7 2012
By 
Ronald W. Maron "pilgrim" (Nova Scotia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Penguin Classics Bleak House (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. Grandfather Smallweed, who has to be physically 'shaken up' periodically, is the greediest and most opportunistic of mankind. Mr. Snagsby tolerates more marital abuse than any character previously encountered. The Reverend Mr. Chadband portrays all of the repetitive liturgical nonsense the Dickens has railed about in other novels and Jo, the parentless child of the street, represents man's pathetic but inevitable inhumanity to even is most vulnerable.

My suggestion? Read the text and then view the BBC eight hour production. Knowing in advance the various twists and turns of the story, the televised characters can be fully appreciated for all their eccentricities and foibles............
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why Only Four Stars?, April 21 2004
By 
Luis M. Luque "luquel" (Crofton, Maryland, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bleak House (Hardcover)
Let's get a few obvious truths out of the way: 1. Charles Dickens is a writer of almost unparalled talent who could write just about anything he wanted and write it so well that he could avoid insulting the intelligentsia while still managing to entertain the masses around the world. 2. While storytelling techniques haven't changed so much over the years, the expectations of modern readers are very different from those of the Victorians. 3. Dickens wrote what he wanted to write, to entertain the readership, to make money, for his own personal enjoyment and to comment on the harsh realities of his world.
While I cannot deny that "Bleak House" is a work of genius, my review (presumptuous as it is for me to review Dickens at all) is that of a modern reader with different expectations than those who read his work 150 years ago. While I can appreciate his genius and talent, I don't have to find CONSTANT enjoyment in reading his works, which I do not.
When I was young, my father would entertain me by asking me to write down a number between 1 and 9. From my awkward 6-year-old scribbling he would cleverly draw a face, a different face every time. This amazed and entertained me. Similarly, I think you could give Dickens a few human characteristics, (say something like "a tall thin man who wears glasses and has a big nose. He smokes a pipe and stays up late reading hunting magazines") and from this skeleton he could create a detailed and interesting character, complete with verbal idiosyncracies, facial tics and unique mannerisms, an appropriate home and friends, and a complete biography. And he could do it in an instant. But like my father's caricatures, Dickens' characters are mere cartoons next to portraits of everyday reality. You don't expect to ever meet anyone like Mrs. Jellyby, Mr. Skimpole or Mr. Bucket. But you remember them nevertheless. Still, they are nothing like real people. Esther Summerson should be in heaven at this moment, because she has never so much as lost her temper. Ditto for John Jarndyce, Ada and Allen Woodcourt. They're saints. Meanwhile, Grandfather Smallweed should be in hell, because he has never had anything but selfish motives for so little as waking up in the morning.
But while you won't find too much reality or moral ambiguity in Dickens' works, that doesn't make his work less enjoyable. He creates so many characters that you're bound to like some while you hate others or are simply bored by a few. But somehow, in the vast gallery he creates, they are all different from one another, and instantly recognizable.
Some of my favorites in Bleak House are Mr. Turveydrop, Gridley, Mrs. Pardiggle, Boythorn, Mr. Skimpole and especially Reverand Chadband. To me, at least, the pompous preacher is a laugh riot. But the minor characters hardly serve a purpose at all. Charley, Jo, the Snagsbys, don't have to be part of the story, they're just there because Dickens likes to introduce us to people. He's very good at it. Unfortunately, I don't feel the same enjoyment when reading about the major characters. While I'm interested in what happens to Richard and Ada, Esther Summerson and Allen Woodcourt, the Jarndyces and the Dedlocks, they're just not as fun to read about as some of the minor characters. But reading a Dickens novel has been compared to attending a large dinner party and being introduced to a few dozen guests. You're bound to meet people you like and people you don't like. And we all choose uniquely.
But to my modern and cynical sensibilities, Dickens is first of all way too melodramatic. Understandable, I think, because that which shocked Victorian-era Londoners hardly raises an eyebrow among today's urban-dwelling Americans. Illigitemacy? Please, it's everywhere. Poverty? Suicide? Shocking? Hardly. There is also too much coincidence in his plots for my tastes, not to mention over-the-top pathos. The death of Jo, the crossing sweeper, for instance, leaves me cold. I feel absolutely nothing because it is so overdone. Ditto for Krook's death. I read it and yawned. Dickens' characters are seldom gray or morally ambiguous. And they behave predictably as a result.
But all those criticisms aside, I still managed to enjoy "Bleak House" a great deal. I just feel like he could have been less verbose. He didn't need 50 or so characters and nearly 900 pages to tell this story. He introduces characters who speak a few lines then disappear forever. And though he does it well, he describes things endlessly. The brilliant opening, for instance, could be reduced (in ideas at least) to "It's a foggy and muddy November in London, and the weather reflects the ongoings within the Court of Chancery." But of course, that hardly contains any interest at all. The beginning, by the way, truly is magnificent writing, but to what end? It's just too much FOR MY TASTES.
Read it, by all means, read it. You'll even enjoy huge portions of it. But don't expect never to be bored or confused by the lengthy convoluted sentences and SAT vocabulary where one-syllable words will do. Dickens is a genius, no doubt about it. And people will be reading his books 1,000 years from now. But how many of us read Shakespeare for pure enjoyment? Similarly, 1,000 years from now, Dickens will be an academic chore, not enjoyment. Luckily, that's still a ways off and you can still enjoy his works today without worrying about 1,000 years from now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens at his greatest., Jan. 3 2006
This review is from: Penguin Classics Bleak House (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. This edition includes the original 1852/53 sketches as illustrations throughout the text, and we are even shown where Dickens started and ended the installments to be mailed to those lucky subscribers each month. Pages of Dickens's working and planning notes are thrown in at the back for good measure.
So read it and enjoy it; the 19th Century novel doesn't come any better than this--rank heresy, I know, from someone who grew up only two miles from Haworth Parsonage. As expected from Dickens, we are treated to a social and economic history lesson as part of the ride--again a treat for someone who specialized in economic history at the London School of Economics--in a novel apparently set in the late 1830s, and mostly in London (but only mostly).
(If the book isn't enough for you, a DVD version of the Bleak House serial that has just run on BBC television in the UK will be available after Feb28/06 at an attractive Amazon price, and can be pre-ordered already--I know it because I've done it.)
Ken Greenwood
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bleak Read!, Dec 2 2010
This review is from: Bleak House (Paperback)
I've read other Dickens novels and found them -- even with their inevitable digressions -- to hang together much better than this one. The introduction of comical but irrelevant characters really becomes wearing after a while. And Esther Summerson has got to be one of the sappiest characters of world literature. Although she narrates half the novel, she seems to have no desires of her own but has in mind only the welfare of everyone else. I think she must represent Dickens' ideal of what a Victorian woman should be: self-effacing, subservient, and endowed with endless patience.

Your patience, though, will be sorely tested if you decide to wade through the novel's 850-some pages. However, the first chapter IS wonderful and worth reading if you read nothing else in this novel. His skewering of the legal system is priceless.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's Dickens, therefore it must be ..., April 19 2003
By 
Lynroshel "Lynroshel" (Sorrento, British Columbia, Canada) - See all my reviews
good? Dickens may be a venerated classical writer, but unless one is fascinated by books of this period, or by Dickens' writings, there is little to be satisfied in reading this book. I'm sorry, but Dickens' "Bleak House" is like a poorly done soap opera - it goes on and on, in interminable detail and description, and one comes to believe it will never end! There are whole chpaters where nothing happens yet, if you skip ahead, you may miss one important detail. It is, quite frankly, boring! The reader practically falls asleep reading and often even misses the interesting segments because their minds have been numbed by previous pages of undirected rambling. For this book to appeal to the average reader, it needs to be revised or abridged, so that the reader does not get bogged down in so much trivial detail. Yes, I know,this is Dickens,the great Dickens, but a reader cannot love a book based on the author's name. Yes, Dickens is important in an historical sense and the details are important to 1)understanding the society of the time, 2)seeing the metaphors created by well described scenes, 3)illuminating the pretensions that are satarized, etc. and there are parts that do have an important meaning for the book - the long description in the opening chapter of the London fog (as representative of the "fog" in the legal system of the day, is valuable and well-written and even keeps the reader interested), but others are superfluous and tedious - detailed descriptions of the horses in the stables on a rainy day at Chesney Wold. If one thinks to read this book to better understand the historical times, one would be more informed and entertained with a history text. You have to be patient if you want to read this book, and you have to have a large block of time set aside to read it. I do not wish to disparage Dickens, but I cannot agree that it is a fascinating book for the average reader (and I do not refer to the "average" reader as a primitive, thrill seeker looking only for sex and violence, I refer to readers as intelligent persons who enjoy reading and appreciate good literature). "Bleak House" has great litrary value but as an enjoyable read, it just does not make the grade.
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Penguin Classics Bleak House
Penguin Classics Bleak House by Nicola Bradbury (Paperback - Feb. 25 2003)
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