Saturday, 26 March 2011

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

One of Dickens’ best loved books – and no wonder. Bleak House is a complex many-threaded tale filled with an astonishing array of characters including gentle Esther, menacing Tulkinghorn, kindly John Jarndyce, ambitious William Guppy and illerate but wily Krook. At the centre of the narrative is the legal case of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce. This has been going on for years and concerns some disputed wills (never fully explained) but many of the characters are hoping to gain from the outcome of the court action – or gain along the way from ongoing fees.

Dickens keeps his readers guessing – Who is Nemo? What is his link to Lady Dedlock? Just how hopeless will Richard turn out to be? Some of the characters are essentially “good” such as Esther, Ada and John Jarndyce. Others are much more nuanced although some are real caricatures – such as Mrs Jellyby. And what a wonderful creation is Stimpole – he was so irritating that it is hard to believe he would have survived without someone taking a blunt instrument to him!

I hate to say this but I thought the narrative dragged a bit in the last third…..

David Copperfield remains my favourite Dickens’ novel but Bleak House is not far behind….

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