It took me just over 2 weeks to finish this book. Granted, I was reading it alongside preparing to come back to uni, and volunteering- but that is a long time to be reading one book for me. Surprisingly, just as boredom began to set in, I suddenly started to really enjoy this monster of a novel…
When I saw this on the reading list for my third year Murder, Mystery, Mayhem module I cringed. Wasn’t Charles Dickens really hard to understand? To even like? I remember trying to read the unedited Oliver Twist when I was 11. Needless to say, that was a bit ambitious. But, returning to Dickens 9 years on, and this is being added to my “Favourite Books of All Time” list.
Dickens has a dense writing style, and often goes off on a tangent of description, which can make his novels slightly hard to follow. Don’t let this put you off. Once you get into the swing of his narrative style, the story opens up for you, and you won’t be able to put it down.
*If you’re good at putting two and two together, then the below may contain some spoilers, just to warn you now.*
This particular novel follows Esther Summerson, a girl with mysterious parentage, but a kind heart, who becomes involved in a world that sits in the shadow of an on-going court case called Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce. This court case is with regards to the fortune of an old Jarndyce, who made two wills- but which was the right one? Whilst the descendants fight it out in the courts of chancery, no one actually knows who should inherit his wealth. This is the backdrop to the story, and the narrative always seems to return to the courts of chancery in London (where wills and such are supposedly sorted out, though the lawyers most seems to just be fannying around, wracking up “costs”).
Esther’s story, told by herself, runs alongside another narrative which follows Lady Deadlock, a cold and proud society lady- with a secret to hide, and a blackmailer waiting in the wings to destroy all she holds dear. I have to say, Lady Deadlock was one of my favourite characters. There were many characters that I point blank hated, or was annoyed by (Harold Skimpole, Richard Carstone), but she was not one of them. Despite her history and secrets, I feel Dickens wanted his reader to like Lady Deadlock, or at least appreciate her force of character.
Upon the discovery of the body of an unknown man and law copy writer, both these worlds are sent into a tail spin, and eventually they’re set on course to collide. The novel follows the secrets that gradually come to light, and then the death of Lady Deadlock’s blackmailer himself… Continue reading “Bleak House, by Charles Dickens: A Review”