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Bleak House Paperback – 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • ASIN: B001E3VX1M
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (255 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

129 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Budge Burgess on 31 Oct. 2005
Format: Paperback
"Bleak House" opens with an astonishingly atmospheric description of a London fog … an imagery which has come to dominate our vision of 19th century London. Think how many films and television productions use this image! But fog, for Dickens, is not just a meteorological phenomena - it describes much of human life, particularly the actions and inactions of the law and lawyers which form the backbone to this novel. At the heart is the court case of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, a family squabble which has dragged on for decades and kept many a lawyer in employment. Dickens slowly unravels this mystery for us.
'Bleak House' has a huge cast of characters and its plot is as extensive and complex as the London Underground system. It also employs a double narrative - one of the characters, Esther, acts as narrator and comments on the personal and emotional world of its characters, while an unnamed, third person narrator comments on the social and economic ills of the era. We get, therefore, a paralleling of the individual and the social. The Court of Chancery and the aristocracy are presented as a social fog - deadening, confusing, misleading, a blight on the world. Dynamism comes from the individual's emotions, hopes and fears.
While the impersonal narrator writes in the present tense and comments ironically on corruption, greed, abuses of power, and the plethora of social ills Dickens exposes and satirises in this work, Esther's account is written in the past tense, a diary reflecting on her life with optimism and hope. Dickens thus gives his reader a sense of the triumph of the individual - a comparatively lowly young woman - over the dead hand of an archaic, oppressive social system.
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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Feb. 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The greatest novel by the greatest novelist England has ever produced, and in my opinion, the greatest novel in the language. That is how highly I regard this novel.
Bleak House is a giant book by any measure, physical or literary, triumphantly covering so much ground that it successfully paints a multi-faceted, multi-layered portrait of the whole culture and society of the Victorian Age in Britain. Bleak House is a savage satire upon the class system, the law, politics, and public morality. At the same time it is a wonderful crime novel of murder and detection, a love story, a comedy, and a piece of high Victorian melodrama. Yes, Bleak House is all these things and more.
In addition, the novel also displays Dickens' artistry as a writer of prose to the full. The famous first chapter alone - which consists almost entirely of a magnificent description of a foggy day in November - is a masterpiece of English prose. From there onwards the standard of writing never slips.
Dickens' is justly famous for the wonderful casts of characters he assembled for his novels and here again, Bleak House doesn't disappoint. It boasts a vast and interesting array of characters, especially Mr Jarndyce, Esther Summerson (the partial narrator and heroine of the book), Jo the crossing sweeper whose story will break your heart, the villainous Mr Tulkington, and the detective Inspector Bucket, one of the first detectives to appear in fiction.
I rate Bleak House as Dickens' most mature, supreme achievement as a writer. The satire is biting. The moral indignation at the injustices of the world is brave and honest. As a whole experience, no reader can afford not to read classics like Bleak House at least once. If you do miss out, you're only letting the finest things in life (reading life anyway) pass you by.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
If the tags of "classic" and "victorian" have given you the impression that Dickens is a stuffy old duffer, then please read this book. It will totally blow your preconceptions apart.
Dickens, it seems to me, was a genuine humanitarian and a rebel at heart. His contmept for the ruling classes, and his anger at the suffering of the poor would on their own make this a worthwhile read. But add to that his mastery of the language, and his comic genius, and you have here one of the most compelling stories ever written.
Occasionally his heroine, and some other characters, are so saintly you could scream. Similarly, his villains are so grotesquely despicable, you might think that the man had no grasp of human subtleties. But this is his style - he paints in broad brushstrokes. Reading Dickens is like listening to a tall tale spun by a master storyteller who can't help but exaggerate, so anxious is he that you can see what he sees.
With so many of the so-called "greats" of English literature, you need a classical education to understand the work. With Dickens, all one needs is a love of stories, of laughter and of language. And if you have a healthy contempt of the rich and powerful, then all the better.
Since we are still ruled over by pompous lawyers, I recommend this as a novel which maintains its relevance and its wit.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By H. Tee on 30 Sept. 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I first decided to read Bleak House after the excellent BBC drama of 2005. I immediately bought the paperback but waited to read it allowing time enough for the story to be forgotten in mind - 5 years on I now read it but having decided to try it on my new Kindle instead. The reason the BBC drama was so annoyingly memorable (hence 5 years wait) was the characterisation, plot and dramatic scenes leading to an exciting conclusion - well that's exactly why the Dickens' novel itself is so brilliant. It is easy to see why the story lends itself to a film; the BBC drama came flooding back to my memory because Dickens' style is so cinematic and theatrical.

Dickens is undoubtedly a most excellent story teller. His characters, though tending to caricature for minor people, are always rounded, sympathetically portrayed and detailed. I love the way Dickens names his people in order to help the story telling (in exactly the same way Russian translations of their classics don't) - this is admittedly quite important with Bleak because it is really a dense and detailed story (originally serialised I think) and people come, go and reappear and so might be more difficult to recall. The author has a brilliant vibrant style and his choice of words is an entertainment all its own (a little example being that a friendly copyist was always `in a state of ink').

The basic story is that poor Esther Summerson doesn't know who her mother is; rich Lady Dedlock learns that her ex-lover has died. Three different but connected sets of people begin to connect the two events, most notably the somewhat sinister lawyer Tulkinghorn. All this is enveloped around the perpetual legal inheritance case of Jarndyce & Jarndyce in Victorian London.
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