I’ve been meaning to read Bleak House ever since I watched the Masterpiece Theatre miniseries last summer. I finally got to the book in May, and it took me about a month to read, but it was excellent. I’ve always loved Dickens –I grew up reading Oliver Twist over and over again — but Bleak House seemed daunting both because of its length and its title. Who wants to read about a house called “bleak”?
It turned out to be a wonderful book. It was very long, and very detailed, but that is what makes Dickens such a masterful storyteller. His characters are all so beautifully developed, even if they have certain qualities that are sometimes outrageously exaggerated. (The mother who devotes herself entirely to philanthropic work while ignoring her own children, the grown man who completely lacks all common sense and sense of duty as a citizen or father, etc. Typical Dickensian humor.) The main character, Esther, is almost heartbreakingly kind and self-sacrificing. Each character — and there are many — is so unique.
As you might imagine, a lot of the more subtle nuances of Dickens’s style went over my head when I was a young reader — particularly his humor. I found myself laughing out loud at Bleak House more than once. His plays on words, the ridiculous things his characters say, and the satirical representation of a convoluted legal system were all very amusing.
At times I found myself wishing it was two hundred pages or so shorter, but most of the time I just enjoyed the leisurely ride through London and the English countryside and the beautiful language that delivered the picture to us. If I ever read this again, I’m going to map the story out. I’d love to see the character arcs and plot points illustrated. And it would help me keep track of the characters. (So many!)
If you’re not up for reading it, I highly recommend the television series. It’s exciting and suspenseful and dark! And it has the beautiful Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock.