After finishing The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald the last novel I read off my Classics Club list I found myself in the mood for Dickens. As if it was fate my result from The Classics Club Spin was Bleak House by Charles Dickens! I started this book during the unpredictable weather of June and finished it in the glorious heat of July. I didn’t quite finish it in time to post about it for the 1st July deadline but I am still very proud to have finished this very long classic.
Bleak House is mysterious, harrowing, and thrilling in equal parts. This twisting tale is narrated by Esther a young orphan. Esther’s childhood isn’t a loving one on the death of her aunt Esther is sent to a boarding school where she starts to discover love. Finally as a young woman she is sent for by her mysterious benefactor Mr Jarndyce who wishes her to become a companion and house keeper. It is living at Bleak House with Mr Jarndyce, and his two other wards Ada and Richard that Esther finally finds real contentment. However there is a cloud looming over the inhabitants of Bleak House and that is the Jarndyce vs Jarndyce case. A law suit that has been raging for years of which Mr Jarndyce, Ada, and Richard are all embroiled in. Esther seems to be the only one with the heart to bring them all together away from the disturbing influence of that draining case. Yet Esther is to be faced with her own problems when the death of an unknown man ‘Nemo’ is to bring to light secrets from her own past. Bleak House is one of Dickens longest novels for good reason; there is just so much going on! I found the beginning of the novel was a little slower to get into what with the vast cast of characters I had to be introduced to. Once all the characters and threads were introduced though I couldn’t put this book down.
Bleak House similarly to my two previous Dickens reads Oliver Twist and Great Expectations is narrated by an orphan, but unlike the two previous this orphan is a female which I thought made a refreshing change. Esther is a wonderful character who I instantly liked. She is kind, loving, sensible, brave and almost completely self-less. However she isn’t perfect and she does recognise that which makes a more believable character. In Bleak House Esther is joined by a host of interesting and colourful characters. I wouldn’t expect any less from Dickens. We have the kind but rather eccentric Mr Jarndyce, the beautiful Ada, hopeless Richard, the childish Mr Skimpole, the boisterous Mr Boythorn, the calculating Mr Tulkinghorn, the distant Lady Dedlock, the brave Mr George, the devious Grandfather Smallweed, and many, many more than I could possibly name here! As I said above it did take sometime to be introduced to all these characters, and to get them all straight in my head. Once I had though they all added something to the mystery and enjoyment of this novel. Although as there were so many I’m not sure individuals were as memorable as those from my previous reads.
I still find that Dickens’s use of language is rather convoluted and highly detailed but the more of his work I read the easy I find it is to get into the flow of his style. Once I’m into the style I find I am free to just get lost in the story. And boy, can Dickens weave a great story. I said this about my previous Dickens read Great Expectations but this time I really mean it. Bleak House really is the most intricate and twisting tales I’ve read of his so far! There were a lot of characters and threads in this novel which made it at first a slow start but I think Dickens weaved them all together beautifully by the end of the novel. And even though I knew the basic premise of the story from a TV adaptation I had watched before I still found Dickens had some surprises up his sleeves for me. Hence why I tried to keep my summary of the story as vague as possible. I would hate to spoil the mystery for anyone who hasn’t read this yet.
Bleak House was a mysterious and thrilling look into the light and dark aspects of Victorian London. I highly recommend reading this novel. This is now my 14th read off my Classics Club list. I now have a copy of The Pickwick Papers, and digital copies of A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities to choose from for my next Dickens read.
Are you a fan of Charles Dickens? What Dickens’s novel do you think I should read next?