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Bleak House (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 27 Mar 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 1088 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Rev Ed edition (27 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141439726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141439723
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 4.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 321,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Dickens was born in 1812 near Portsmouth where his father was a clerk in the navy pay office. The family moved to London in 1823, but their fortunes were severely impaired. Dickens was sent to work in a blacking-warehouse when his father was imprisoned for debt. Both experiences deeply affected the future novelist. In 1833 he began contributing stories to newspapers and magazines, and in 1836 started the serial publication of Pickwick Papers. Thereafter, Dickens published his major novels over the course of the next twenty years, from Nicholas Nickleby to Little Dorrit. He also edited the journals Household Words and All the Year Round. Dickens died in June 1870.


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Review

"Dickens's chilling tale of murder and betrayal" (Sunday Times)

"Kafka's favourite book, a tour de force that mixes grand scale and minutely-observed, perfectly-heard reality. Incomparable set-pieces (that opening! spontaneous combustion!) and dialogue" (James Hawes)

"I keep on reading it in order to discover how to write a novel" (John Mortimer)

"Bleak House reads like an encyclopedia not only of its time and place but of us" (Elizabeth Kostova)

"Bleak House is the literati's favourite Dickens. It's one of the few stories that has modern resonance: the tale of a never-ending court case can be seen -if you squint -as the precursor of Kafka and Orwell" (A.A. Gill) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'Perhaps Bleak House is his best novel... When Dickens wrote Bleak House he had grown up' G. K. Chesterton --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 127 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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48 of 49 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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27 of 28 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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By S. Hapgood VINE VOICE on 10 Nov 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone who hasn't read this before is in for a treat, and at nearly a 1000 pages long it is certainly a book to get your teeth into. To say it is complex is an understatement, and the size of the cast of characters can seem formidable, but I guarantee that you will find scenes in this book which will stay with you forever. Dickens' writing is at times pure poetry. It's hard to list all of the great descriptions he does here but the ones that, for me, stood out are London under fog, and at midnight, the snow-swept countryside, anything to do with the neighbourhood around Krook's downbeat shop, and summer's evenings in Lincolnshire. What was most memorable though was the build-up to the legendary spontaneous combustion scene. It's impossible not to feel unnerved as the smell of burning flesh gradually seeps through the building late at night. This is a scene worthy of Hitchcock at his very best.
And the characters! Where do you start? Mr Tulkinghorn, the lawyer so shifty and slimy that you can almost hear him slithering when he walks, Mr Guppy the chancer, the vile Smallweed family, the strong but haunted Lady Dedlock, the terminally selfish Harold Stimpole, ready to excuse all his sponging off his friends on the grounds that he's so innocent of life he can't be held responsible for his actions, the iexhaustible do-gooder Mrs Jellaby, so busy being bountiful to strangers that she chronically neglects her own family, the young man Richard Carstone who becomes obsessed with the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the beer-drinking housewives witnessing all that happens at Krook's shop, and the great Inspector Bucket, with his collection of handcuffs ready to snap on at a moment's notice.
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