Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Publisher/Year: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005
Often considered Charles Dickens’s masterpiece, Bleak House blends together several literary genres–detective fiction, romance, melodrama, and satire–to create an unforgettable portrait of the decay and corruption at the heart of law and society in Victorian England.
Opening in the swirling mists of London, the novel revolves around a court case that has dragged on for decades–the infamous Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit, in which an inheritance is gradually devoured by legal costs. As Dickens takes us through the case’s history, he presents a cast of characters as idiosyncratic and memorable as any he ever created, including the beautiful Lady Dedlock, who hides a shocking secret about an illegitimate child and a long-lost love; Mr. Bucket, one of the first detectives to appear in English fiction; and the hilarious Mrs. Jellyby, whose endless philanthropy has left her utterly unconcerned about her own family. As a question of inheritance becomes a question of murder, the novel’s heroine, Esther Summerson, struggles to discover the truth about her birth and her unknown mother’s tragic life. Can the resilience of her love transform a bleak house? And–more devastatingly–will justice prevail?
What I thought
I absolutely do not view reading as any sort of competition (except, maybe, with one’s self), but I want to begin this review with a self-congratulatory pat on the back because I did it! I finished Bleak House during the dumpster fire otherwise known as 2020! And even better? I enjoyed it!
I just love Charles Dickens. I do. Nobody else can paint such an all-encompassing portrait of Victorian England like ole Chucky D. His books are definitely challenging, but his skill with words, especially evident here, makes the read all the more rewarding. I can’t help but be impressed by the fact that despite the novel’s length, the 700 characters, and the 1200 plotlines, I was still completely invested in this story at its end, which put a silly smile on my face. I knocked off a star because, admittedly, it did feel long at times, but I did truly enjoy this one. And there’s just so much to enjoy–the incredibly crafted writing, the characters who were so vividly written as to leap from the pages (even the minor ones), the mystery, the romance, the melodrama, the biting satire. And speaking of satire–can we seriously talk about how funny Dickens is?
Bleak House is a time-honored classic that surprisingly still offers insight on the legal system and society for modern-day readers, while maintaining the same level of pure entertainment as it did for its monthly readers in 1852-53. For mood readers, this would make a great fall or winter read. 4/5–I’d definitely recommend this one–you can’t go wrong with Dickens!