A review of Bleak House Part 1


Okay I know I sought of promised a book review once I finished Dickens’ mammoth Bleak House but honestly, there’s way too much going on in this book and it is not my intention to bore the hell out of everyone. So for the purpose of what I really want to talk about (which is probably just as boring to many of you folks), I’ll give a summary in 100 words.

God I hate challenges, but here goes:

In the Chancery division of a London High Court a particular lawsuit called Jarndyce and Jarndyce has been plodding along for years. It centers on an unresolved Will, where various potential beneficiaries find themselves emotionally drawn to the mess, thus creating a lot of drama for themselves and everyone around them.
The main character is Esther Summerson; most of the story is told in her voice. There is a plethora of weird characters-some die in the end, some get their hearts broken, one spontaneously combusts (I’m being serious) and the others live happily ever after. Off course no Dickens novel would be complete without a destitute, orphan boy. Oh, and one person gets murdered.
Okay that’s 114 words. Best I could do.

What I realized to my annoyance while reading Bleak House, from a writing perspective was that Dickens got away with too much. Or maybe he didn’t which is probably why this novel is not one of his most recognized.

But two things annoyed me the most:

1. The narration itself: constant switching from 1st person to third, and without prior warning in some instances.
2. Treatment of the main character Esther: I understand that getting the reader to identify with the main character is pivotal to any story but did Dickens really have to overdo it by making her so perfect?

This is enough fodder for another post, so I’ll save it for next time. However I will end this by saying that, as relieved as I was to finish that damn book, I did feel a certain desolation as I neared the last couple of pages. As I said goodbye to Esther, I really did feel sad to see her go, even though I found her quite nauseating towards the end. Is this the inherent genius of Charles Dickens coming through and messing with my brain? Or maybe it’s just the standard component of a love-hate relationship, a relationship that is now bleakly over.

NM

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