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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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. 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...
Published on Jan. 3 2006 by Ken Greenwood

versus
3 of 3 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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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 (Montréal) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Ce commentaire est de: 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens at his greatest., Jan. 3 2006
Ce commentaire est de: 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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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 127,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Ce commentaire est de: 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)   
Ce commentaire est de: 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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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece!, March 28 2007
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 (cliffnotes.com) 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.

Not a single person in this book goes without their own personality, habits, and essence - no one is one dimensional at all. Esther, the selfless heroine, actually reminded me a great deal of Lewis Carroll's character Alice Liddle, in Alice in Wonderland - perhaps because she seemed so self-punishing but well intentioned. It seems that every character highlights the traits in the next.... The constant contrasts between everyone makes for a wonderful literary creation.

Be patient with this novel - be willing to give it time to develop, and enjoy its beautiful prose and subplots - and I promise you will not be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens's best book, should be required reading for lawyers, May 24 2004
Ce commentaire est de: Bleak House (Paperback)
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. No one changes the world in this book. They just help those that they can and try to go on with their own lives. That's why this book shows a more mature view of Dickens. This is great reading for anyone, especially anyone involved in the law. Five Stars for this book!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Step back in time, '1984-Orwell'-1840's Dickens style, May 13 2004
Ce commentaire est de: Bleak House (Mass Market Paperback)
Ada Clair and Richard Carstone come to live as wards of John Jarndyce at Bleak House, a manor in the English country side. Their governess is Esther Summerston, an orphan, who in the course of the novel gets three proposals of marriage. Quite an accomplishment for a modest unassuming Victorian maiden. One prospective suitor is a bit pesky, another too old and the third, well...you can imagine how perplexing this attention can all be for mild mannered Esther. As Richard Carstone matriculates to his majority he and Ada come to profess their love for one another. At the same time, Richard becomes preoccupied with a contested will, the infamous Jarndyce v Jarndyce which has wended its way through chancery for...could it be...decades? His zeal to win is reinforced by spendthrift man-child Harold Skimpole and a lawyer named Boythorn. Oh, there is intrigue aplenty here. Another lawyer seems to thrive on putting the screws to folks. Barrister Talkinghorn brings down the arrogant Lady Deadlock with his discovery of a child born out of wedlock. Instrumental in the unraveling of her mystery is a poor street urchin, Little Jo, whose life and fate are the stuff of nightmares. The mistreatment he receives make me shudder. Well, Dickens has in Bleak House quite a study in greed, primarily the greed of lawyers whose fees dry up the goods when petitioners come to chancery. It is a somber slow paced book well crafted and rewarding to the patient 21st century reader. For the instant, just add water types, skim the book, skip the slow laborious places...
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5.0 out of 5 stars A rose by any other name�well, maybe not, April 11 2004
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Ce commentaire est de: Bleak House (Paperback)
In an age of nuance, it is refreshing to read Dickens' Bleak House. Consider the characters' names: the young, beautiful, or otherwise admirable characters (Esther Summerson, Ada Clare, Allan Woodcourt) are hard to confuse with the villainous, silly, or simply mundane ones (Lord and Lady Dedlock, Krook, Snagsby, Lord Doodle, Miss Flyte). And consider the certainty that, while trials of the noble characters may surely be relied upon, all will be well in the end (well, OK, maybe not for Little Nell, but that's another book).
The story of lives sacrificed to a meaningless judicial system - the case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce has been going on for generations when the book opens - includes the story of Esther Summerson, whose identity is surrounded by mystery. Esther is one of Dickens' more believable serious female characters, but perhaps she only seems so because she narrates large portions of the book.
But it is Dickens' wit that, as usual, steals the show. Human corruption and folly has not changed much since the nineteenth century, and it is a joy to observe it so skillfully skewered.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens' best, Nov. 26 2003
By A Customer
Ce commentaire est de: Bleak House (Paperback)
(possible spoilers)
I have just started reading this book again and notice that the Chancellor asks Mr. Kenge if Esther is party to the suit of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. Mr. Kenge assures the great man that she isn't. Dramatic irony! She is the illegitimate daughter of one of the parties. Yes, everybody complains about Esther's sentimentality. But as the part-narrator, Dickens uses her to make some funny and sharp observations about the other characters, especially the woman who eventually becomes Esther's (reluctant?) mother-in-law, and is always going on about her aristocratic Welsh and Scots relations. Esther is a lonely child brought up in a loveless home - can we blame her for trying to gain some love for herself, her stated ambition? Isn't being sweet and kind a ploy that's likely to succeed? I think we're meant to conclude that it wouldn't have worked unless she really was sweet and kind. Dickens almost gets away with marrying her to her guardian, a man at least twice her age. (He left his wife for a 17-year-old.)
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4.0 out of 5 stars It's mighty mighty, just lettin' it all hang out, Nov. 18 2003
By 
Ce commentaire est de: Bleak House (Paperback)
Academics seem to have declared this Dickens's best book, and although I enjoyed it a great deal I must say that I enjoy Character Focused Dickens much more than Epic Sprawl Dickens. David Copperfield - even though I can see how it's more flawed than this book - is such a warm and beautiful book, completely unforgettable. Even Pickwick, which is clearly inferior to Bleak House, is a book I would much rather reread.
Nonetheless, Dickens has like ten novels that everyone should read, and this is one of them. I only have one warning: DON'T BUY THIS EDITION! There's a cheap edition that has, as an introduction, Nabokov's lecture on Bleak House - which is the most helpful guide you can ever ask for, as well as a wonderful and hilarious piece of writing in itself. Also, these new black Penguins are expensive and have a tendency to get all scratched up immediately.
Bleak House is probably Dickens's most elegantly constructed book. The quality of his prose was never better - just read the first twenty pages: astonishing. But (I know, everyone complains about the sentimentality) Esther Summerson is INTOLERABLE! Every time she narrated a chapter and was more and more good and humble I was tempted to throw the book against a wall. She is a horrible horrible character - Dora was something like this in David Copperfield, but at least she dies. And I suppose there are plenty of others like Esther all over Dickens, but rarely are they such major characters who actually get to narrate parts of the book. Big mistake, Charles. Maybe it was necessary for unfolding of the plot, but - still - please.
This book failed to arouse human interest in me until the acceleration of the Lady Dedlock plot (of course, anyone of average intelligence can see every twist in Dickens coming a hundred pages ahead) - but still, she's a fascinating character.
Find the other edition of the book: it should be read.
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Bleak House
Bleak House by Nicola Bradbury (Paperback - April 29 2003)
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