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Bleak House

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Apologies for my long leave of absence Bill, have finally finished moving house...

 

I am so excited about this...you're absolutely right about the scale of this show allowing it to represent the episodic nature of Dickens' books. The cast sounds superb; I can't wait to see how they go about portraying the relationship between Esther and Jarndyce - one of the most subtle bits of writing I've read in Dickens. It's strange - he seems to be much better at writing about relationships; while his characters can seem somewhat shallow, it's the way they interact with each other that makes them so interesting, and no more so than in the case of Esther and the people around her.

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I think Esther is often given a slightly hard time. To my mind she suffers as much as anything from the conflicts of Dickens' desire to create a more complex central heroine with flaws and unreliability, and his enduring problem with idealising his key female characters after the untimely death of his young sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth.

 

The split narrative creates interest, but as a narrator Esther clearly can't match up to the more omniscient third person narrator; she inevitably has her limitations in advancing us through the story of which she is a part, so she suffers in our mind by comparison.

 

I think her troubled background is a key in understanding her flaws - her lack of understanding of herself has repercussions in her personality, and after the rejection of her childhood it is no surprise she battles with feelings of worthlessness and tries hard to be loved by those around her. It is also understandable that she feels it important to take a 'moral' line in all things.

 

The test of smallpox is a demanding one, together with all the implications of tragic destiny that unfold around her. As Dickens' 'good' women go I think she is one of the more successful, not least for the credibility of her personality.

 

I don't know that I see John Jarndyce as 'creepy'. Remember, Esther isn't his ward, Ada is. Esther was older and taken on by Jarndyce to ensure propriety. Of course, he is older still, but you have to remember the social conditions of the time when it really wasn't unusual at all for there to be such an age difference between husband and wife, especially if the man had money/status but the woman didn't. Ultimately it is not right, but isn't as bad as people suggest here. It's all part of the legacy of blighted, empty, lonely lives left in the wake of Jarndyce & Jarndyce. Even the good-hearted John Jarndyce can't escape.

 

As an aside,

 

"I was particularly taken by his false economy for saving money... Instead of ordering vintage champagne, you make do with the house stuff, thereby saving yourself 30 quid a bottle. QED: you are 30 quid better off... Like the perpetually broke, he has a Micawber-like faith that something will always turn up."

 

Wrong Dickens reference methinks.

 

 

In fact the article was right. Whilst the initial idea is Richardesque, the idea of naive faith that 'something will turn up' is indeed from Wilkins Micawber. In fact, it's even in the dictionary as being 'Micawberish'.

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And it did turn up for Micawber, didn't it? Didn't he emigrate to Australia and become quite important and rich...

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I'm ashamed to say this is the first Dickens I've read, but I don't think I could have had a more thrilling introduction. Without a doubt, this is one of the best books I've ever read.

 

It was so detailed and engrossing. What I liked most about it was that it dealt with every class, from the gutter to the gentry. Dickens didn't miss anyone out.

 

We had Jo, the poor boy who was shunned by those who should have looked out for him

Esther, the poor orphan who was sheltered by the socially conscious middle class, Mr Jarndyce

The Smallweeds, who preyed on others to their advantage

Guppy, trying to make it in a sea full of sharks like Tulkinghorn

 

The depth of the observation here is fantastic. I quite like the depiction of the court of Chancery as purgatory-like, even hellish. It seemed that anyone who had anything to do with it had to put their lives on hold almost.

 

I didn't find Esther prissy. She's certainly aware of her moral values, but I found her to be kind and warm hearted, a little insecure too, but who isn't? I think we often tend to judge literary characters by ur own morals (or lack thereof), standards and modern viewpoints, but I think Esther shouldn't be given a hard time because of our more liberal views.

 

I didn't find Mr Jarndyce creepy. Young women often married much older men and I doubt there was any immorality or depravity in his thinking. I doubt Dickens would have written the novel any differently, despite the fact that it was serialised. We can tell where Esther's affection lies early in the novel and this revelation wouldn't have made sense if Dickens intended her to marry Jarndyce.

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It wasn't that fact that Mr Jarndyce was so much older that bothered me, it was the way he arranged everything without bothering to tell Esther. And Mr Woodcourt (why isn't he ever called Dr Woodcourt) should have said something too, if he had feelings for her.

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I have just finished Bleak House and thought it was really great although my favourite Dickens novel still remains Great Expectations.

 

I didn't realise how big this book was and it took some time to get through it but I was always motivated to do so, there were no boring bits or paragraphs I wanted to skip over and the whole book flowed quite well though there are so many characters, it was hard to remember where everyone was and what they were doing.

 

I didn't like Skimpole at all though it was a good character, he was awful, personally I think he was playing up to being childlike just to shun his responsibilties. Tulkinghorn, another great character for us to dislike and Esther was very prissy and simpering, I did think it was creepy for John Jarndyce to want to marry her, he had been a father figure to her and to think that he wanted to overstep that positon and see her in a romantic light was a bit yucky.

 

I did see bits of the BBC adaptation but couldn't remember all of it though it was funny that I finished the book last night, started watching Miss Marple and recognised Mr Guppy from the adaptation in Miss Marple lol.

 

The actual storyline and plot was fantastic, there were alot of characters and sub plots each with their own tales to tell but they were all connected in some way and came together in the end, I also love the subtle hints Dicken's gives us through the book for his characters, there was one scene where Richard was with Vholes and in the same room was a cat waiting and watching outside a mousehole, you had absolutely no doubt what this was refering too and it was very clever, he did this a few times. There was also just enough comedy in the book so it wasn't too bleak just thoroughly entertaining.

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I've been a confirmed Dickens hater since I was 8 and was made to read David Copperfield and though I've picked up Dickens once or twice over the years a few pages just served to convince me that my eioght year old prejudices were quite right - Dickens was wordy, over-long and downright boring.

 

Then I saw the BBC adaptation of Bleak House recently and was so intrigued by various plot elemnts that the TV couldn't cover properly - like what prompted Hortense to do what she did - that I bought the book. I loved it. His charecterisation is brilliant, the writing superb aand ery funny in places and even though I actually knew the basic plot my heart was thumping with tension when Buckett and Esther were looking for Lady Deadlock and I almost wept for poor, loyal Sir Leicester.

 

What a treat. Incidentally in the BBC series the house they used for Chesney Wold was where I went to school and was actually only a mile or so from where Dickens lived.

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I finished Great Expectations and enjoyed it tremendously. I had a lot of FUN with it, which is an experience I don't have with a lot of books, even ones I love.

 

I was told to read BLEAK HOUSE by someone whose opinion I value. Then I saw that the Penguin edition is nearly 1000 pgs long. Maybe later, I thought.

 

This post has pushed me over the edge, however. Fine. I'll do it. I'll quit my job and get cracking. Thanks a lot.

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I'll quit my job and get cracking. Thanks a lot.

That's the spirit, Matthew. And welcome to BGO!

I had a lot of FUN with [Great Expectations]
This FUN aspect reminds me of my own experience with Tom Jones, which, quite apart from being "a classic", is just such a rollicking good read.

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No, and not by a long way.

Mmmm, I'd agree with that. JA was really conceived as a satirical response to Richardson's Pamela (it's supposed to be about Pamela's brother. Obviously Fielding had quite a chip on his shoulder about Richardson's success since he'd already written Shamela...). He does manage to pull more out of it than that but it's not so sure-footed and accomplished as Tom Jones.

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I've been enjoying reading Bleak House but Chapter 11 is frustrating because I can't work out the purpose of introducing Little Swill who I now understand is a comic musician. Is this something that Dickens would have observed and expanded into his novel as light relief following the departing of 'the dear brother'. Perhaps it is pure fiction. What's going on! Help please, m0ix

 

_______________

Life's too short! 6ea2ef7311b482724a9b7b0bc0dd85c6.gif

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I think we have to admit that Dickens is far too often nauseatingly sentimental - his little Nells, little Em'lys etc - overlong, too histrionic and can never make a real woman come to life in the way that, say, George Eliot or DH Lawrence does. Yet he is a master of atmosphere - the strange and the macabre at the start of Great Expectations for instance - and he has created more eccentric and memorable characters than any other English novelist. He was a haunted man, seeing the world with a childlike simplicity, and incapable of showing human nature in anything but black-and-white terms. This is both his limitation and his charm.

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I have just finished this and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

 

I didn't find Esther nauseating and I did not find John Jarndyce creepy.  I did not like Harold  Skimpole but thought the book epic in it's reach and the storylines fascinating.  I constantly imagined what it would be like to have to wait for the next part to be published before I found out what happened next.  A major achievement by Dickens, I think

 

It took me ages to read it but I'm sure that I'll read it again.  

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I read "Bleak House" long ago, but enjoyed the adaptation a great deal (the one Viccie refers to).  I was just talking about it with a friend whose book club is reading Old Filth because I think Nathanial Parker would be a good "Sir" in the adaptation I hope someone makes of Old Filth.  And I probably think that because of his portrayal of Skimpole.  Must add this to the long list of books I need to re-read.  Although I am re-reading Old Filth because I am going to that particular book club meeting.

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