Group Read: Bleak House by Charles Dickens

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Group Read: Bleak House by Charles Dickens

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Ene 25, 2017, 11:28am

Hi everyone!

February will be a group read of Bleak House by Charles Dickens. The Great Expectations group read was so successful that I am emboldened to embark on another!

My copy of Bleak House is 829 pages, 67 chapters long. I will try to divide it up to 1 or two chapters a day since I found that to be such an effective tool for GE.

I was given a set of Dickens by my dear friend Louise since her children didn't want them (!), and here is the rather boring cover of my copy:

Here are a few more covers:

Here's Wikipedia's introductory information on Bleak House:

Bleak House is one of Charles Dickens's major novels, first published as a serial between March 1852 and September 1853. The novel has many characters and several sub-plots, and the story is told partly by the novel's heroine, Esther Summerson, and partly by an omniscient narrator. At the centre of Bleak House is the long-running legal case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which came about because someone wrote several conflicting wills. This legal case is used by Dickens to satirize the English judicial system, and he makes use of his earlier experiences as a law clerk, and as a litigant seeking to enforce copyright on his earlier books.

Though the legal profession criticized Dickens's satire as exaggerated, this novel helped support a judicial reform movement, which culminated in the enactment of legal reform in the 1870s.

There is some debate among scholars as to when Bleak House is set. The English legal historian Sir William Holdsworth sets the action in 1827; however, reference to preparation for the building of a railway in Chapter LV suggests the 1830s.

Here we go!

Ene 25, 2017, 11:46am

I managed to read this one three years ago. It was a bit of work and I was quite happy to put it in the completed list! I followed the reading with Cliff Notes to be sure I understood all of the legal stuff and kept up with the characters. I found that very helpful.

Ene 25, 2017, 12:09pm

Hi mamzel! I felt that way about Great Expectations, sort of. I'm glad to have read it, gladder to have put it in the completed list. I think Bleak House might be the same, but the legal aspects of it are intriguing. I just looked at Cliff Notes, and they're all available online, so might use them. Thanks for the idea!

Ene 25, 2017, 12:26pm

Oh, I'd love to join you on this but I've already committed to reading War & Peace and I don't think I have it in me to read two chunksters at the same time. I'll check in on the thread, though, to see what you all think and hopefully I'll read it myself later in the year.

Ene 25, 2017, 12:30pm

Hi PawsforThought! Yikes. I wouldn't commit to reading two chunksters at once either, although I am participating in the year-long Literary Reading of the Bible with The_Hibernator. One year-long and one other once a year is good for me.

Ene 25, 2017, 12:46pm

Hello! Not sure if I will be able to participate in February, but I've starred the topic and will follow along in any event! :)

Ene 25, 2017, 12:47pm

Added this thread to the group wiki...

Ene 25, 2017, 12:48pm

Oh, how interesting! I'd already decided this year's Dickens would be Bleak House. I doubt I'll finish it in February, but I'll be reading it!

Ene 25, 2017, 12:51pm

>6 avanders: Hi Aletheia! I am not surprised that February won't necessarily work for you with Baby due in March! Following along will be great.

>7 drneutron: Thanks, Jim!

>8 ursula: If it goes anything like the September group read of Great Expectations, there will be several who will finish after February ends. We'll enjoy hearing your thoughts whenever you want to post, Ursula!

Ene 25, 2017, 2:28pm

I'll also get started in February but I'm currently reading Moby Dick so I may not finish early. I am one of the last to finish Great Expectations last year. It was helpful having the group to get me going.

Ene 25, 2017, 2:34pm

I will get started in February as well-haven't read this one in years.

Ene 25, 2017, 4:04pm

>10 luvamystery65: Hi Roberta! Glad you're joining us for my second foray as group leader. Since I am the group leader I feel sorta obligated to finish by the end of February, but was charmed that so many people read GE at all, regardless of when they finished. I'll be happy to have been the impetus to start and we'll carry this thread as long as we want/need to!

>11 mthespinner: Hi mthespinner. Wow! You've been a member of LT since August of 2006, congratulations! I'm not a knitter or spinner, but I am into cats and books, so 2 of 4! Welcome.

Ene 25, 2017, 4:41pm

I'll be following with interest though probably not reading again - I studied this at school for A level (in UK) about 35 years ago! There was a very good BBC TV adaptation a few years ago which was broadcast in short, 30 minute episodes, which made it both reminiscent of a soap opera on the one hand but also gave the viewer perhaps a similar experience to Dickens' first readers of the serialised novel.

Ene 25, 2017, 4:50pm

>13 gennyt: The TV series was amazing.I need to re-watch that some day. My first encounter with (the amazing) Anna Maxwell Martin.

Ene 25, 2017, 9:00pm

>13 gennyt: I will endeavour to be in for one of the Chuckles books I have yet to read.

Ene 26, 2017, 2:10am

Starred so I can come back and visit later, when I have a chance to read it!!

Ene 26, 2017, 3:11am

I intend reading Bleak House as soon as I finish my current. I have limited, i.e. no, knowledge of the book so am looking forward to Dickens working his magic on me from scratch.

Ene 26, 2017, 11:26am

I've read Bleak House twice, the last time in 2008, and mostly loved it. I doubt if I'll be re-reading at this point, but will be checking in on the discussion.

Ene 26, 2017, 2:52pm

I'm with Kathy. Bleak House is one of Dickens' best, IMO, and it's great to see this group read of it. I look forward to following the discussion. I also agree that the TV series based on it is excellent.

Ene 26, 2017, 3:11pm

>13 gennyt: Hi gennyt! Following along is good, chip in with your two cents worth whenever you want to.

>14 PawsforThought: I saw that BBC adaptation from 2005 and really liked it. The only character I specifically remember is Burn Gorman as Guppy, although at this point I don’t even really remember who Guppy was in the book!

>15 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul! Ha. Chuckles. Glad you’re in.

>16 Berly: Hi Berly!

>17 pgmcc: Excellent news, Peter! I have a slight knowledge, but only from the BBC series, so am something of a clean slate.

>18 kac522: Hi Kathy. Feel free to join in with comments.

>19 jnwelch: Hey Joe. Ditto with the comments.

Ene 26, 2017, 7:23pm

I may try to join this group read. I love Dickens and was aiming for Dombey & Son this year. I will have to see how my reading is going since February is nearly here. At the least, I'll follow the discussion.

Ene 26, 2017, 8:32pm

>21 muddy21: Hi Marilyn! We'd love to have you, if your schedule permits.

Ene 26, 2017, 9:27pm

I've requested a copy through the library. :-)

Ene 27, 2017, 4:43am

>23 streamsong: Yay, Janet! Welcome aboard.

Ene 27, 2017, 4:46am

I'd love to join this too. Bleak House is on my list for this year (finally! I've had a hard copy for years, pre-Kindle) so this is just the nudge I need.

Ene 27, 2017, 4:52am

>25 susanj67: There seem to be quite a few people who have had Bleak House on their radar, Susan. Happy to provide the nudge and welcome.

Ene 29, 2017, 6:44pm

I am ready for Bleak House earlier than I expected! I devoured The Warden and I'll continue with Moby-Dick, but I have downloaded BH in Kindle and audio format. I'll Whispersync this chunkster starting tomorrow! Woohoo!

Ene 29, 2017, 7:02pm

Yay Roberta! I just finished a fiction read and was thinking about what to read next, but realize it must be quick and easy so that I can start Bleak House on the first of February. Agatha Christie, I think..... Sad Cypress. And then, on to Jarndyce & Jarndyce!!!

Ene 30, 2017, 3:14am

>27 luvamystery65: I read Barchester Towers last year and loved it. I know The Warden precedes it I have yet to read "The Warden". Your comments have guaranteed it will not be long before I read it. I have already acquired it.

Ene 31, 2017, 7:28pm

Hi, I'd like to join your Bleak House Group Read. Coincidentally I started it a few days ago as my first read for the ROOTS 2017 group. I'd be interested in sharing thoughts on it.

Ene 31, 2017, 9:55pm

>30 floremolla: Hi floremolla! We'd love to have you join. I'll be starting it tomorrow.

Ene 31, 2017, 10:05pm

>1 karenmarie: Count me in! I might not be able to keep up with the group schedule but I will do my best.

Ene 31, 2017, 10:34pm

Looks like a great group! It's my favorite Dickens, but I guess I won't join this time. I'll put in a word for the 1985 BBC production with Diana Rigg and Dernholm Elliot. Loved it!

Ene 31, 2017, 10:41pm

So, I'm *not* the only person who's seen that version?? :D

Another fan here, excellent casting. (And much more realistic in its lighting and design, IMO.)

Feb 1, 2017, 10:35am

>32 enemyanniemae: Yay! Please don't feel pressured. I personally will read it in February, barring unforeseen circumstances, but whatever works for you works!

>33 LizzieD: Hi Peggy! You probably have it memorized. *smile* I'll have to check out the 1985 BBC production. I love Diana Rigg.

>34 lyzard: Hi Liz!

So I really need to sign out of LT for now and actually start the reading I've scheduled for today! Starting with catching up on the Group Read of the Bible as Literature (gotta finish Exodus), and then, calmly, happily, with a fresh cup of coffee, chapter 1 of Bleak House.

Feb 1, 2017, 1:54pm

I have read the first two chapters, have been introduced to the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce without any details and have met my Lady and Sir Leicester Dedlock.

One thing I must say about Mr. Dickens is that he is descriptive almost, but not quite, to the point of boredom. Fog, mud, rain, water, Chancery Court. My Lady Dedlock and Sir Leicester Dedlock, and the mysteriously unremitting black of Mr. Tulkinghorn's clothing.

Feb 1, 2017, 2:09pm

>36 karenmarie: I'd say that's Dickens to a T. Some works are closer to the boredom side than others.

Feb 1, 2017, 11:06pm

---- but there's always, always the miraculous writing!

Feb 4, 2017, 12:54am

My book has arrived and I've read the first chapter. Does anyone think it was foggy?

Feb 4, 2017, 2:50pm

>39 streamsong: I can see how you might be led to that perception.

Feb 4, 2017, 4:19pm

That foggy opening is vivid in my mind from nearly 40 years ago! And the image of megalosauros walking the streets of London - apparently one of the earliest appearances of a dinosaur in literature.

Editado: Feb 4, 2017, 7:38pm

>39 streamsong: Today I started listening to Simon Vance read BH (34 CDs), and am up to Chapter 4, where we are introduced to a "London particular."

Feb 5, 2017, 9:06am

Thank you karenmarie for starting this group read! I'm planning on starting the book tonight and I'm hoping to make this my first ROOT for the year as well.

My copy is a paperback of 936 pages. It's a Finnish translation from 2006 (my copy is from 2008) and the translation is by Kersti Juva. She is one of our best, if not THE best, EN>FI translators. I expect it will be more readable than the much older translation of A Tale of Two Cities I started and abandoned years ago.

I purchased my copy after seeing the BBC miniseries and having fallen in love with Gillian Anderson's Lady Dedlock. But then I never got around reading it... so here I am! And here's my brick of a book:

Editado: Feb 5, 2017, 10:48am

>40 pgmcc: >41 gennyt: :-)

>41 gennyt: "megalosauros walking the streets of London - apparently one of the earliest appearances of a dinosaur in literature"
- striking image and thanks for the info; I had wondered about that.

>42 kac522: Hmmm. Intriguing. I'm not quite that far along yet, but I'll look for it.

>43 nerwende: Thanks for mentioning the BBC series. After I've finished the book, I'll watch it!

Since the library copy I'm reading doesn't have any notes, I've decided to skim the notes on Shmoop. This is a summary page but it's the best I can find that lists the individual chapter notes. (They didn't mention the megalosauros - their bad!)

Feb 5, 2017, 1:59pm

I have just finished Chapter 1 and am finding the descriptions very entertaining. I add my thanks to karenmarie for starting this thread and prompting me to get into this Dickens novel.

Feb 5, 2017, 2:46pm

I am on chapter 19 and loving it! I am doing the Whispersync with Kindle and the audio is narrated by Sean Barrett and Teresa Gallagher. It helps with the changing POVs. If your library has Hoopla, I see that this version is available there.

There are so many characters, as usual with Dickens. The plot is really getting interesting.

Feb 6, 2017, 2:21am

I got through the first three chapters last night. It felt like pretty easy going, mostly because I was able to recognise almost everyone from the BBC series so there was no need to try to memorise who's who. That's probably going to change soon. :D

Feb 6, 2017, 7:07am

I'm just over halfway through and enjoying BH immensely even though I abandoned it once before, because of its size and lack of concentration on my part.

>46 luvamystery65: I'm using the same audio download, together with a paperback edition of the book. I think it's very well narrated by both parties. Some of the characters almost come to life and the long descriptive passages are quite enjoyable. It's really helped me get into and enjoy the story. I can read more quickly than the audiobook though, so revert to the paperback when I'm relaxing. All in all a good way to get through a chunkster painlessly.

Feb 6, 2017, 8:59am

>1 karenmarie: Good luck and God bless to you all - it is a very bleak book to read indeed. Thank God times have changed a bit.

Feb 6, 2017, 2:44pm

Hi all!

I've been finding that if I can read for an interrupted stretch I can really get involved with the various plots and subtleties.

>38 LizzieD: Yes, Peggy, there is some absolutely stunning writing there. Some amazing images, perceptions, and descriptions of voices and sounds.

>39 streamsong: Hi Janet! Yay. Yes, fog. I’m finding that I like the descriptions and lists of types of things too.

>40 pgmcc: *smile*

>41 gennyt: Hi Genny. Fantastic that that foggy opening has stayed with you. And interesting, too, about the dinosaur.

>42 kac522: 34 CDs! That’s how many were in Shantaram that I listened to several years ago. A major commitment of time, for sure!!

>43 nerwende: I’m so glad you’ve taken us up on this group read, nerwende! 936 pages is a huge commitment. Perhaps we can help you to avoid abandoning it by our shared perseverance and enjoyment? Kolea Talo. Cool.

>44 streamsong: I haven’t heard of Shmoop, but did find this link for those who want additional notes/summaries: Bleak House

>45 pgmcc: You’re welcome, Peter.

>46 luvamystery65: Roberta, excellent progress! Congratulations. I’m so glad you are loving it.

>47 nerwende: Good progress, nerwende! I don’t remember hardly anything from the BBC series, but am keeping up with all the characters so far.

>48 floremolla: So glad you’re making such headway floremolla and using audio and paperback to get you through the sheer length of it.

>49 justmum: Hi! Thank you. It seems that so far everybody’s having a very positive experience with it.

I personally have finished through chapter 11 and am happy to be reading it. There are so many subplots going that don’t necessarily relate to one another yet, but I know they’ll all come together eventually.

Here’s one little zinger of Dickens’ that I really liked regarding Mr. Skimpole:
“He’s always in the same scrape. He was born in the same scrape. I verily believe that the announcement in the newspapers when his mother was confined was ‘On Tuesday last, at her residence in Botheration Buildings, Mrs. Skimpole of a son in difficulties.’”

Editado: Feb 6, 2017, 5:12pm

>48 floremolla: Can you speed up the audio a bit? I am listening at 1.25 speed. It's still slower than I read but keeps me from missing anything important than if I listen at 1.5 speed. That's my usual setting. Even at 1.5, if you are following along with the book, you wouldn't miss anything.

Feb 7, 2017, 5:26am

>51 luvamystery65: yes, thanks, I've got it at 1.25 - I'm listening while out walking or travelling by car so would probably find 1.5 hard to follow. At home I read the paperback. On one hand I'm keen to get through BH and finally get a point on my ticker - on the other, I'm sure as I get near the end I'll be slowing it down to savour it! :)

Feb 8, 2017, 3:59am

A coincidence: I was dipping into a book I have on punctuation (Making a Point by David Crystal) and reading a chapter on the semicolon; as one does. I was delighted and amused to find the author giving semicolon usage examples from Bleak House. He used paragraphs from chapters 5 and 6, the chapters I was just about to read.

Feb 8, 2017, 1:02pm

I want, no I NEED, a Growlery! Some place to go when the "east wind" starts to blow, get it all out, and then come out pleasant again. I love John Jarndyce.

Feb 8, 2017, 1:36pm

>54 kac522: Hi Kathy! I do too. It's an excellent idea. John Jarndyce is endearing.

Feb 8, 2017, 2:37pm

I've just found this thread today. I bought the Naxos audiobook a little while ago when it was on offer (following on from success reading Emma that way). I've been meaning to start it but am more than a little intimidated firstly by the length and second from having got part way through (a paperback edition) some years ago and given up. This has given me the impetus to give it a go.

Feb 8, 2017, 2:43pm

>43 nerwende: beautiful. Your book's appearance would definitely make me want to read it!

Feb 8, 2017, 4:23pm

>56 eclecticdodo: Hi Jo and welcome! Do not worry about the length or finishing at the end of February or any kind of time constraint. We will all finish it at the rate that works for us, and I personally abandon books with glee if they're not working for me and will completely understand if anybody bails.

I'm personally committed to reading it all the way through and in February if at all possible, and am enjoying it enough and really appreciating Dickiens' deft hand at describing people through physical appearance and their roles. I particularly like the little girl Charley right now - works to take care of her orphan siblings without giving it a second thought.

I'm vaguely remembering more from the 2005 series, too, but not enough to spoil my reading.

>57 avanders: Hi Aletheia! A book's physical appearance can be motivating, can't it?

Feb 8, 2017, 4:24pm

Got away from foggy Northern England (not quite the boring Lincolnshire that Lady Dedlock suffers) and finally started this one.

Loved Chapter One which is vintage Dickens the repetitive use of mud and fog and grime being a real treat. Coasted through the short chapter two introducing the Dedlocks and their wily lawyer and enjoyed chapter three with the wards and their companion Esther Summerson.

I reckon I am going to love this one, one of the few Dickens on my "still to do" list.

Feb 8, 2017, 5:41pm

Hi Paul! Welcome aboard.

Feb 9, 2017, 9:22am

>58 karenmarie: absolutely! :)

Feb 10, 2017, 2:59am

>54 kac522: & >55 karenmarie: I do not know why modern houses and apartments are not designed with a Growlery. It appears to be one of life's essentials.

Editado: Feb 10, 2017, 10:30am

Hi Peter! I agree. But most houses don't have a Library, either. I think if I had to choose, I'd prefer smaller rooms and having more of them.

I am reading Chapter XVIII Lady Dedlock and can't resist sharing the following:

The lattice-windows were all thrown open, and we sat just within the doorway watching the storm. It was grand to see how the wind awoke, and bent the trees, and drove the rain before it like a cloud of smoke; and to hear the solemn thunder and to see the lightning; and while thinking with awe of the tremendous powers by which our little lives are encompassed, to consider how beneficent they are and how upon the smallest flower and leaf there was already a freshness poured from all this seeming rage which seemed to make creation new again.

We live in the country and love storms - not hurricanes and not tornados of course - just regular thunderstorms usually coming from the west. We sit on the front porch watching them come in, enjoying, just like Esther Summerson, the wind, rain, lightning, and thunder.

Feb 10, 2017, 10:38am

Karen, I love thunder storms too. Also, Dickens' writing is very entertaining and evocative.

Feb 11, 2017, 3:27pm

>54 kac522: ok, I just got to the growlery, so I get it now. I definitely need one of those

Feb 12, 2017, 10:28am

>64 pgmcc: Hi Peter! His writing is subtle and fey. Occasionally obscure, too.

>65 eclecticdodo: Hi Jo! Libraries and Growleries. We all need both.

I liked this description in chapter XXI, The Smallweed Family:
Everything that Mr. Smallweed's grandfather ever put away in his in his mind was a grub at first, and is a grub at last. In all his life he has never bred a single butterfly.

Feb 12, 2017, 3:16pm

I finished Bleak House today! I stayed up late too many nights and ignored everything else I was reading. I'll wait until more are finished and jump in to discuss. I really liked it.

Feb 13, 2017, 7:09am

>67 luvamystery65: me too, I'll wait with you :)

Wish I had bookmarked some of my favourite passages like >66 karenmarie: but it's not so convenient when you're mixing audio and paperback. One thing I will say though, is that as it neared its conclusion it fairly rattled along and there was one revelation that made me gasp aloud with indignance!

Feb 13, 2017, 8:00am

>67 luvamystery65: and >68 floremolla: Congratulations to both of you!

I very rarely make permanent notes about things I like in books, and I am definitely not an underliner. So this will be the only place the passages that stand out to me will reside. After just a few chapters I got the free Amazon download so have been reading it on my Kindle - every time I finish a chapter I change the bookmark in the physical book!

Feb 13, 2017, 12:26pm

>68 floremolla: & >69 karenmarie: I may go back to some key chapters and highlight on my Kindle. I will be reading listening to Moby Dick with a paperback. I think I will get some sticky notes to bookmark and go back after I finish for thoughts.

Feb 13, 2017, 12:54pm

Happy to see all this *BH* love. I'll be back!

Editado: Feb 13, 2017, 1:57pm

>70 luvamystery65: Go for it while it's still fresh in your mind Roberta!

>71 LizzieD: Hi Peggy! Yes, there is BH love and we'll be happy to see you!

So here's another quote, from chapter XXI, The Smallweed Family:

"Don't you read or get read to?"

The old man shakes his head with sharp sly triumph. "No, no. We have never been readers in our family. It don't pay. Stuff. Idleness. Folly. No, No.

Feb 13, 2017, 2:46pm

>63 karenmarie: Lovely quote - we're having a few small storms over here at the moment - no thunder though. However it was snowing in London yesterday. God bless you all over there

Feb 13, 2017, 3:02pm

Hi justmum! Thank you. I live in central North Carolina USA, away from all the nasty weather pretty much every where else. Today is sunny and 56F.

Feb 13, 2017, 4:41pm

>67 luvamystery65: Yay for finishing Bleak House, Roberta! I loved it, too. One of my favorites from CD.

Feb 15, 2017, 10:23am

you know, I never expected Dickens to be funny. Some of these characters are so utterly ridiculous, such caricatures!

Feb 15, 2017, 11:26am

Dickens's character sketches are the absolute best! One of my favorites for that is Dombey and Son.

Feb 15, 2017, 11:29am

Yes. Here's something I just read that's funny to me:

Chapter XXV, Mrs. Snagsby Sees It All

"... and would rather run away from him for an hour than hear him talk for five minutes."

Feb 16, 2017, 7:19pm

I have reached the halfway point! Chapter XXXII, page 416 of my 830 page volume.

Feb 17, 2017, 4:33pm

>79 karenmarie: congratulations, you're over the hump, as we say in these parts :)

Feb 18, 2017, 3:32am

10+ years ago, pre librarything for me, I watched the excellent BBC production of Bleak House that starred Gillian Anderson. Although Gillian was fine it was my introduction to Anna Maxwell Martin as well as several other excellent characters that sucked me in. I then immediately had to get the book and read it. I can't believe I didn't hold on to it but I must have donated it to the friends in one of my purges to make space because I cannot find it after digging through some likely boxes, and that saddens me a bit because I'd love to spot read it a bit once more. It is a biggie though so I hope readers enjoy what is a Dickens favorite of mine.

Feb 20, 2017, 1:22am

Not to make too fine a point of it, I'm sometimes completely befuddled by Snagsby.

Feb 20, 2017, 3:03am

>82 kac522: I think Snagsby is completely befuddled by Mrs. Snagsby.

Editado: Feb 22, 2017, 11:10am

I'll have to go look this up in my OED after lunch, but now here's something I don't understand:

(describing Sir Leicester Dedlock) "... and in a state of sublime satisfaction, he moves among the company, a magnificent refrigerator

Chapter XL, National and Domestic


Editado: Feb 22, 2017, 7:25pm

"Refrigerate" means to cool down; "refrigerator" was originally the term for the part of distillation equipment that used a vacuum to cool volatile substances, before an appliance based on the same principle was invented.

Here it's used just to mean something that throws a chill over things.

In other words, Sir Leicester is a blast at parties. :)

Feb 26, 2017, 1:14pm

>85 lyzard: Thank you, Liz! My brain was not firing on all cylinders. Of course that's what it meant.

I have finished LIV chapters of LXVII. 130 pages to go. It's getting rather exciting, and quite a few loose threads are coming together.

Feb 27, 2017, 1:59pm

I sacrificed everything else I was going to do today and finished Bleak House. I'll be posting my review here in non-spoiler mode and on my thread in full-spoiler mode. I'm wavering between 4 and 4 1/2 stars. (5s in my rating system are very, very rare)

How's everybody else coming along?

Feb 27, 2017, 4:58pm

I am almost half-way through, about to start Chapter XXIX, The Young Man

This book is very enjoyable.

Feb 27, 2017, 7:24pm

I was going to post a review here, surrounded by proper spoilers, but instead I'll just put a link to the review on my thread. There's some overall discussion of what I felt about the book, my rating, and a few spoilers safely tucked way unless you click to see them.

karenmarie's review of Bleak House

Feb 28, 2017, 10:42am

I'm only about a third of the way through. I love the characters, but the plot is not drawing me onward. I think I need to spend time reading it without being distracted by having quite so many other books going at the same time.

Feb 28, 2017, 11:22am

I read this last year and I found most of, not a slog exactly but it didn't grab me, then about two-thirds of the way it seemed to get exciting?/interesting? and I had to whizz through to the end.

Editado: Feb 28, 2017, 2:57pm

>90 streamsong: Hi Janet! The plot was not drawing me onward, either. Like below,

>91 CDVicarage: After a while it 'kicked in' for me and I didn't exactly whizz through to the end but finished it a day earlier than planned. Hi Kerry! Kevin the cat? He looks like a cuddly boy. I've got two of my own kitties, one of whom is standing right here next to the keyboard wanting attention. :)

Feb 28, 2017, 3:39pm

Disaster has struck! I lost my headphones today and I've been "reading" Bleak House as an audio book. I am left with silence while I run tomorrow, not to mention being left in the lurch with only 3 hours left of the story. It's getting kind of exciting too.

Feb 28, 2017, 3:39pm

I have just started Chapter XXX. It is a return to Estre's narrative after the visit of The Young Man to Lady Dedlock..

I am finding it entertaining. I note the comments above about the plot not dragging people on but I am finding the characters are fulfilling that function for me. I am also delighted that for once I got something right in my speculation about where the plot was going.

Mar 1, 2017, 1:27pm

>93 eclecticdodo: Oh no, Jo! I hope you can get more headphones or earbuds or find another medium. I'm glad to see that you're finding it 'kind of exciting'.

>94 pgmcc: Good for you, Peter! Like I've said here and elsewhere, it really came together about 300 or so pages before the end for me.

I've started re-watching the 2005 BBC miniseries. I watched episode one last night, and now that I know who and what I'm looking at, I am greatly appreciative.

Mar 2, 2017, 5:11am

I've only just finished chapter 8! :/ I enjoy the book a lot, but there's just been too many distractions lately. The language is so rich, I'm quite happy I have a translation - otherwise I would probably miss a lot of the nuances.

Mar 2, 2017, 8:09am

>96 nerwende: Hi! I'm glad you're enjoying the book. It's a long, complex book and I'm just happy so many people are reading it.

Mar 2, 2017, 8:14am

>96 nerwende: with so many antiquated turns of phrase, and peculiarly English historical habits and institutions depicted, it must be a very highly skilled translator to get the right balance between describing things literally and portraying the nuances. Hats off to them! (as Dickens might have said)

It's a skill of Dickens' however that you can still enjoy the story even if you don't have the full picture - one of my favourite scenes from the book, which portrays a peculiar set-up, is the description of the little apprentice dancers at Mr Turveydrop's dance school - it made me laugh aloud and sent me looking online for what kind of dancing they might have been doing in those days :)

Mar 3, 2017, 1:08pm

Phew, I've finally finished it! Over 35 hours of listening to the audiobook (generally while exercising or knitting). I did have a little trouble keeping track of all the characters at some points, I kind of needed a crib sheet of who is who and the chapter they were introduced. I really enjoyed it though. It is a wonderfully rich story with so many seemingly unconnected plots all drawn together. One thing I wasn't expecting was the comedy factor. Some of the characters are just so over the top as to be laughable.

Mar 3, 2017, 2:51pm

Congratulations, Jo! I'm so glad you liked it. There are a lot of 'crib sheets' online, but mot of them give away something about the characters, so after I accidentally saw a bit about Lady Dedlock that I didn't already know, I abandoned the online approach.

Mar 3, 2017, 3:32pm

>100 karenmarie: yes, I didn't look online for fear of such spoilers. I think I usually worked out who people were part way through the chapters of their reintroduction anyway, but it would have made it easier. I do wonder how the original readers managed as (I think) it was published over several years as a serial. That would be terribly confusing.

Mar 6, 2017, 6:59am

>101 eclecticdodo: that's a very good point about how people would have followed the 'who's who' of such a long book over several years. The range of characters is quite bewildering at first.

I found when listening to Bleak House as an audiobook it was difficult to keep track of which characters had which characteristics - I had to read the book to get a clear sense of them. I don't know if it's a common thing that reading is the best method of absorbing information or if I'm just a poor listener. Probably the latter as I think listening is a skill we lose somewhat after our educational years.

Mar 6, 2017, 9:33am

>102 floremolla: I think it helps somewhat if the reader makes a deliberate attempt to do different voices for each character. I'm listening to Robert Whitfield (aka Simon Vance) and he does different accents for the various characters, so that helps me distinguish who's talking in each scene.

Mar 6, 2017, 1:00pm

>103 kac522: yes that's true, and I really can't fault my version, with alternating chapters read by Sean Barrett and Teresa Gallagher; they were excellent narrators. It was just my lousy memory confusing Bagnets, Badgers and Snagsbys...

Mar 7, 2017, 5:18am

>104 floremolla: That's the narration I listened to. They are both brilliant at giving each character a unique voice. There are just so many characters to keep track of!

Mar 13, 2017, 8:27am

Hi all!

I hope you are all enjoying Bleak House.

After finishing it, I decided I wanted to re-watch the 2005 BBC miniseries. The only thing I had really remembered from it was Mr. Guppy and "Shake me up, Judy!" It was well worth the effort, as it made sense the second time having read the book. Good cast, good acting, most of the story, and mostly true to the book.

Editado: Mar 13, 2017, 5:25pm

I am on page 560 of 760 pages. Chapter XLVIII called, "Closing In". Mr. Tulkinghorn has just spoken to Lady Dedlock and informed her that he considers her dismissing Rosa as a breach of their agreement and he will be informing Lord Dedlock of the secret, possibly tomorrow, or ... He is a nasty piece of work.


Hee! Hee! Mr. Tulkinghorn just got his just desserts.

Mar 15, 2017, 3:04pm

>107 pgmcc: I'm with you on that one! it was very satisfying when Tulkinghorn suffered the consequences of his wicked deeds! Another character I found very troubling was Mr Skimpole - difficult to know if he was devious and had an agenda, or really was a feckless 'child' with no idea of right and wrong....

Editado: Mar 16, 2017, 3:50am

>108 floremolla:
Mr. George's mother! I did not see that coming.

I dislike Skimpole too. As you say, a great criminal mind or a totally selfish freeloader.

I also think Ada is a bit of a snivelling whimp who is over protected by those around her. Richard is just a waster.

Mar 16, 2017, 5:24am

>109 pgmcc: I think Dickens included surprises like these family relationships - which are only revealed later in the story - because the stories were originally written as long-running serials and had to have some drama or revelation every so often, like a modern soap opera. It says a lot about his skill that he can still surprise us all these years later!

I agree about Ada and Richard, both could have benefitted from a much firmer hand from their benefactor.

Editado: Mar 17, 2017, 9:16pm

I am within seventy pages of the end. Today being our National Day and a day off work, I am trying to make it a DNBR day and finish this novel. At this stage I wish to record my thoughts on where I think the plot might go. For those of you who have not read the book or who have not reached this stage in the story I shall don the cloak of invisibility.

Lady Dedlock has run off for fear of shaming her husband. Mr. Bucket, in the company of Miss Summerson, is in pursuit of Lady Dedlock but the winter has closed in and things are looking bleak (if you'll forgive the pun).

At this stage of the story many of the unfortunate circumstances are being resolved and potential misery is being turned to joy (Rosa & Mrs. Rouncewell's grandson are now free to be together; George is freed from suspicion of murder and is reunited with his mother, and freed from, one presumes, financial ruin; Miss Summerson is to become the mistress of Bleak House (although I suspect this will not be to the liking of Mr. Woodcourt, and perhaps we will hear more of that before the final page); Sir Leicester Dedlock is showing himself to be true to his heart and a man of compassion when put to the test) and there could be an air of there being a happy ending. However, Dickens is dragging out the search and preparing the reader for the worst. Did Dickens consider it too twee to have everyone (except the bad guys -The French Maid; Mr. Tulkinghhorn, and some poor characters - Jo and the brick-makers' wives) have a happy ending? I do not know if we will have a fully happy ending with Lady Dedlock found and restored to her husband's loving care and able to enjoy the presence of her daughter in her life, or if we are to witness a sad ending in the snow with Lady Dedlock dying in the arms of her long lost daughter.

I am really loving reading this Dickens novel for the first time. I can see how many of you love re-reading Dickens, but I am enjoying not knowing where the plot leads. That is a pleasure I can only have once and I am relishing it.

karenmarie, thank you for prompting my reading of this novel.

Mar 17, 2017, 12:15pm

You're very welcome, Peter! I'm really enjoying the comments hiding within the cloak of invisibility!

Mar 17, 2017, 2:42pm

Ditto. Great comments, Peter. I remember how much I enjoyed it (and how surprised I was by that) the first time. And since. But there's nothing like that first time.

Mar 17, 2017, 8:52pm

>111 pgmcc: that's a very good summation - look forward to hearing your thoughts on the ending.

>112 karenmarie: I managed to find the Group read thread for Great Expectations and enjoyed your review - I gather you weren't a huge fan so good on you for persevering with another Dickens chunkster this year!

Mar 18, 2017, 8:01am

I did not get finished yesterday because my DNBR day turned into a DNBR&WV day. I am now at the point where Mr.Jarndyce is showing Esther around the home he has secured for Mr. Woodcourt. I must mention a suspicion I have had for some time and want to put it on record before it is either confirmed or ruled out.

As we all know, Mr. Woodcourt has expressed his feelings for Miss Summerson and she has told him there is no hope for his love. Of course, Mr. Dickens has indicated to us in many ways that Miss Summerson has unacknowledged feelings for Mr. Woodcourt. While she is betrothed to her guardian, I suspect that Mr. Jarndyce has recognised the more suitable match between Miss Summerson and Mr. Woodcourt when compared to the somewhat creepy engagement between himself and his ward, and that he may be about to sacrifice his own feelings for the wellbeing of Esther. There is also a suspicion that Mr. Jarndyce has found Mr. Woodcourt's mother a better match for himself.

This is just a fancy, but I am nearing the point where all will be revealed.

Mar 18, 2017, 10:03am

>108 floremolla: & >109 pgmcc: I disliked Mr. Skimpole. I found him so selfish and evil in his own way. Not the same overt evil as Mr. Tulkinhorn, but he caused so much damage, so yes, evil.

>111 pgmcc: & >115 pgmcc: I am enjoying your predictions!

Mar 18, 2017, 10:35am

>116 luvamystery65: I would agree with you with regards to Mr. Skimpole.

Mar 18, 2017, 11:31am

Wow! That was a great read. I loved Bleak House It had so much in it.

Mar 18, 2017, 2:47pm

Congratulations, Peter! I'm so glad you liked it.

Editado: Abr 3, 2017, 2:26pm

Hi Bleak House readers! for those of you still reading, how far have you gotten? Stalled out, taking a breather, or making steady progress?

Abr 3, 2017, 10:52am

I've had to put aside for a bit due to an avalanche of books that arrived all at the same time from the library. No more library requests for me until I get caught up, which will be a while. I'll 'get er done' in April. I'm still on Chapter 19, just shy of being 1/3 of the way through.

Editado: Abr 3, 2017, 2:48pm

>120 karenmarie: I'm still listening at a slow pace (i.e., when I have a long drive). Mr. Tulkinghorn has revealed that he knows Lady Dedlock's story and has just threatened her to not make any changes or do anything rash. What a total despicable creep he is.

Editado: Abr 23, 2017, 12:06am

Finished--took 2 months of listening, but well worth it. As the book was coming to a close, I was struck by the themes of discovering long-held secrets; reconciliation; and forgiveness. I think in the past I dwelt on the political and social reform aspects, but this reading brought me closer to the power of family relationships. Mr. George's reconciliation with his family was a strong one; Sir Leicester's unqualified forgiveness another.

Perhaps Esther and Mr. Jarndyce are "too good" or "too perfect" for some; they almost seem unreal. But I think right now at this time in my life and in this time of political turmoil, I welcomed the portrayal of truly unselfish, caring characters who always did their best for others.

Today I found at a library sale The Oxford Reader's Companion to Charles Dickens in which the editor makes the point that much of the twists and turns of the plot pivot on lowly Jo, the street sweeper. Also this editor notes that Mr. Skimpole was based on the author Leigh Hunt, a contemporary of Dickens. In fact, the portrayal was so recognizable that Dickens had to pen a "Remonstrance" to Hunt's son, after Hunt died.

If you ever have the inclination to listen to Bleak House on audio, I can highly recommend the unabridged reading by Simon Vance. Every character had a unique manner and accent; I particularly enjoyed his voices of Mr. George, Mr. Bagnet ("tell him my opinion, old girl") and Mr. Smallweed.

Abr 22, 2017, 5:55pm

Congratulations, Kathy! I'm so glad you liked it and your information and insights are helpful and thoughtful.

If I had a consistently long commute I would consider listening to it; however with only 50-100 miles driven per week it would take me years! I'll have to be happy having read it and re-watched the BBC series.

Editado: Abr 23, 2017, 12:10am

>124 karenmarie: That's how I made listening progress the last couple of weeks--I just started a temp job that's a 45 minute commute, and it made the time fly. I'm considering Nicholas Nickleby next. And I'm going to pick up the earlier Bleak House video--I think there's one with Diana Rigg as Lady Dedlock.

Abr 23, 2017, 6:31am

>125 kac522: I read Nicholas Nickleby about 10 or so years ago and loved it.

Abr 23, 2017, 10:34am

>125 kac522: That's about the commute I used to have, Kathy, and it allows for a lot of good listening.

>126 PawsforThought: So far I haven't any desire to read more Dickens this year, but two have been mentioned recently - A Tale of Two Cities and now Nicholas Nickelby.

(filing away for future reference!)

Abr 24, 2017, 5:52pm

>127 karenmarie: I second the nomination of Nicholas Nickleby!

Jul 3, 2017, 9:41am

So I took a couple of month's break from BH but now that I've picked it up again it seems like I'm making progress. I've read 13 chapters in the last 4 days. I think reaching the halfway point certainly made a difference in how often I feel like returning to the story - it doesn't feel like an uphill battle any more! :D

Jul 4, 2017, 7:17am

Hi nerwende! I'm so glad you're persevering. I found it to be a totally worthwhile read once I got into the swing of things. I hope you do too.