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Paperback Bleak House Book

ISBN: 0141439726

ISBN13: 9780141439723

Bleak House

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Book Overview

Charles Dickens's masterful assault on the injustices of the British legal system As the interminable case of 'Jarndyce and Jarndyce' grinds its way through the Court of Chancery, it draws together a disparate group of people: Ada and Richard Clare, whose inheritance is gradually being devoured by legal costs; Esther Summerson, a ward of court, whose parentage is a source of deepening mystery; the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn; the determined sleuth...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Better get a different edition!

It isn't the text -- that's brilliant. Ms. Holway's editorial material is too distracting. The endnotes are filled with trivia that add nothing to your appreciation of the story; most of the footnotes are gratuitous commentary that you might be able to figure out for yourself from the context. The only academic piece I needed was the background of the courts system, and once that is out of the way, just let us absorb the Victorian aura on our own! I'm just learning to ignore her notes so that I can get on with it as Dickens intended.

Excellent edition of a classic

I have nothing to say about Bleak House, other than that it stands beside David Copperfield as Dickens' greatest achievement, and thus, at the pinnacle of English literature. Failing to read Bleak House is like never tasting chocolate. And, as with chocolate, you might not like it, but if so, then you know there is something wrong with you. The Everyman's Library edition shows the quality of this series of books. The binding is strong, the built-in page-marker useful, the typeface is clear, and the pages are sturdy. All good assets in a book that you will likely read several times. The editors must be praised for including a preface by GK Chesterton. However, they place the introduction by Chesterton at the end of the book as a sort of anachronistic footnote, and place at the beginning of the book, an introduction by Barbary Hardy. The contrast between Hardy's rambling, confused, and petty introduction, and Chesteron's impressionist but accurate comments, are not to the benefit either of this edition or Barbary Hardy. Hardy sound her one shrill note of feminism, and then confusedly repeats other people's exegesis of Dickens. Her expectations of Dickens commit the triple crime of faulting a caveman for not knowing calculus - that is, she expects Dickens simultaneously to know the impossible, the inappropriate, and the ineffectual. The Penguin edition of Bleak House contains an introduction by Nabakov, which, while overanalytical and dryly academic, was at least insightful. If you must waste your time (as I did) reading scholarly dissections of the great Dickens, I recommend the Penguin edition. If you can resist the temptation to set foot into Barbary Hardy's whiny little swamp, then the Everyman's Library edition is far superior.

The Summit

It's a monster of a book, and that's not really a reference to the length necessarily (although at 900+ pages, you can't help but be a little daunted). Bleak House has big plans for you, it wants to grab you and shout at you and whisper at you and tell you ten thousand things all at once in dozens of different accents. It's a book, really it is, with a mission, and an appropriately large dollop of missionary zeal. Dickens was already a household name when he wrote it. He'd already cast his net far and wide over an increasingly eager audience (Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby had all garnered great praise for him, and Martin Chuzzlewit's extensive American episode - after his trip there in 1842 - had helped his popularity no end in the US). He was world famous. He had also just begun editing the weekly journal Household Words, a publication he hoped would help highlight the social injustices of the age. Bleak House is confident and furiously angry in many respects addressing, as it does, much of the same agenda that Household Words railed against week in week out. The plot centres on the interminable case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce, a years-old law suit creaking its way through Chancery (a reference to two cases: Day v Croft, a suit begun in 1838 and still being heard in 1854; and Jennings v Jennings, begun in 1798 and finally settled in, wait for it, 1878, although, as Dickens says in his Preface, 'if I wanted [more]...I could rain them on these pages, to the shame of a parsimonious public'). "Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in the course of time, become so complicated, that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least; but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes, without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant, who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled, has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grand-mothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps, since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee house in Chancery Lane, but Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the Court, perennially hopeless." Circling this legal colossus is a cast as memorable as any that Dickens assembled before or after. The demure and imp

Dickens's best book, should be required reading for lawyers

This book is without a doubt as relevant now as it was when Dickens wrote it. In fact, its probably more so. As G.K. Chesterton said, when Dickens wrote this book, he had grown up. We have the civil courtroom as it really is, a grinding machine that breaks lives underneath it every day. We see the lawyers who feed off of all this human misery, and encourage their clients to wreck their lives while piously portraying themselves as upholders of the law. Of course, this book is about a lot more than just the law. One of the most amusing subplots involves various women involved in charity. As the character Mr. Jarndyce says, there are two kinds of people who do charitable work. Some accomplish a great deal, and make very little noise, and some make a great deal of noise, and accomplish nothing. Of course, most of the ones in this book are of the second catagory. The most memorable by far is Mrs. Jellybee, who obsesses over a colony in Africa while her own family falls apart around her. It's exactly like people today, who want to save the whales or free Tibet while people in their own neighborhoods starve. The characters in this book are excellent, and far more realistic than in most of Dickens's works. Mr. Jarndyce is the heroic father figure, but he is a real one, who tried to be kind and guide his family but can only watch helplessly while his nephew slowly destroys himself trying to overcome the court, which of course is impossible. Many people have had trouble with the character of Esther Summerson, and her relentless goodness and self-effacement. I think she is a fantastic character, and is Dickens's way of reinforcing the message of the book, that you need to find happiness in your own life, and things like lawsuits do nothing but destroy happiness and should be avoided. No one changes the world in this book. They just help those that they can and try to go on with their own lives. That's why this book shows a more mature view of Dickens. This is great reading for anyone, especially anyone involved in the law. Five Stars for this book!!

One of his best

I found this the best written prose that I have read so far by Dickens, and it ranks amongst the best written books that I've read by anyone. His assassination of the British establishment sometimes almost made me wince, yet I always found it entertaining and not preachy. I didn't find the plot as good, or the characters as sympathetic as A Tale of Two Cities (my favourite), but it beats the melodrama of Great Expectations by a long shot. I actually found this a far more damning indictment of society than Hard Times, contrary to what I'd been led to believe. Highly recommended.
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