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Bleak House Paperback – Apr 29 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 57 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: 13 x 4.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 640 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #377,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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 alternate Paperback edition.


“Perhaps Bleak House is his best novel. . . . When Dickens wrote Bleak House he had grown up.” —G. K. Chesterton

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Format: Kindle Edition
At a certain point, lovers of 19th century fiction will have read most of Charles Dickens’ most well-known novels such as “Oliver Twist”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “David Copperfield”, “Great Expectations”, etc. I could give five stars to any of those afore mentioned books. When turning to his lesser-known books such as “Bleak House”, one can discover not all of his books were works of great genius. I can only muster three stars for this one. Firstly, he fails to convincingly write in the first-person for a woman’s voice. I did not like that Esther kept going on about how she is not clever when she actually sounded very intelligent. While Dickens often used a lot of detail in his novels, “Bleak House” is really excessive in detail. Each chapter was written as a serial and each chapter is about the same size in length. One gets the impression that Dickens was adding long descriptive passages to merely fill his publisher’s quota of words for each chapter. The basic plot is a good one and it twists and turns in unusual ways. I felt there were several I-didn’t-see-that-coming moments. It is a good book. It is not a great book. It’s only for die-hard lovers of Charles Dickens.
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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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