Bleak House (book review) Charles Dickens

130117: this is a later later addition: as a reading project i have read several dickens this year, as follows:


this is a later addition: i watched the most recent bbc miniseries of this book. yes i guess this was 'telenovela' before tv was even created. this is certainly not a sedate, literary, treatment, but zips along. the story is there- perhaps too much brought forward- and the characters all defined, given, cast well. on the other, it is obviously made for the small screen, with much set in salons, with no expansive scenes, with even london represented in only a few streets, dark, crowded, convincing. advantage bbc, sets already there. so did it work? i do not really know. i compared it to the experience of reading, usual problem with look of this character/that character, this place/that place, usual simplified scenes, generally acted well. charles dance is great as lawyer you have to hate. gillian anderson strong as the lady. maybe if i had watched it slowly with a week between each episode, or if i had not read the book... watch if you like watching, read if you like reading...


story of this reading: i read (somewhere) that in a hundred years academics will study Stephen King in the same way we currently study Dickens. i have read a dozen King and some (8) Dickens. i was tired during some 'Indian' philosophy reading, needed a break, at the coffeehouse, so decided to read an ebook i could down immediately from the city library... had to be one available so i got a King [book:The Long Walk|8133367] and was duly diverted. when such situation arose again i decided to get a Dickens, and this was the one available...


170113 first review (not likely to ever read it again): satire is mode. you know what you are getting with Dickens, that it was bestseller of its day, that it will be long, sentimental, caricatures rather than characters, that it might work better as tv miniseries, from which is where i mostly know him, that it will be propulsive, to keep readers over the monthly chapters. brother a lawyer, i had already heard that the case of jarndyce and jarndyce is by now essential reference to convoluted, prolonged, meaningless law cases, ones that will end by dispensing judgements swallowed by court costs...


so i was ready for it. i give it a four possibly more for the extensive plot, certainly not for characters, and decide to in reading compare it to Wilkie Collins, particularly [book:The Woman in White|5890], and try to figure out why i liked that sensation novel more than this. i did read that twice. i was also much younger, had yet to read [book:Swann's Way|12750] (which in comparison is all interior character and almost no exterior plot), so was perhaps impressed that a long narrative could keep my attention. i would have to say that wiw seemed to have a clear, involving, mysterious, romantic plot. this is more particularly 'urban' in having so many plots, in having characters as caricatures, in having little irony in central narrator and often even in omniscient voice... there is the great use images of London fog introducing the book but that is brief and obvious...


it is difficult for skeptical me to fully credit how wonderful our narrator is, how immediately loved and loving, in all situations, and if there are villains aside from the chancery court, these are the small, grasping, pathetic, men and women who try to benefit in less than ethical manner, from the proceedings of 'equity' and skirt 'law'... but, aside from one character defined by his fetish of irresponsibility (on the other he is also so in all circumstances), all the key characters are consistent, are exactly and remain exactly what they seem. this reduces any plot irony around direct characters. and there are a. lot. of characters. i read (somewhere) that Dicken's innovative skill was indeed 'urban' in that in a few words he could sketch identifiable types so you could just get on with the plot...


so, the plot. i do not think there is really much reason to read this but plot. in reading any 'classic' i start by trying to read the work 'cold', and only then read the preface, introduction, chronology, biography of the author- i did read about 500 pages before i decided to go back and read it in this case, but it really made no difference: there are still a. lot. of characters. and a. lot. of plot(s). so this, no less than say [book:The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo|2429135], is possibly just as well followed in visual form, in this case a long tv miniseries. this does not 'have' to be in this medium, there is no great writing, no particularly verbal techniques, no psychology that need be written- but there is 'story'. story as works in any medium. and is probably easier to take as visual rather than verbal, for though i did not skip there were more than a few moments such threatened...


for if nothing else, this is a. long. book. i suppose there are many readers for whom plot, suspense, identifiable and completely lovable characters, understandable motivations, direct psychology, are what they want to read. i have read now only three Dickens, really enjoyed the twist ending of [book:Great Expectations|2619] but this does not happen here. i did like the vast panorama of Victorian society. i did like the plots. pitied are pitiable and of course death is reason to care. i liked the balanced ending. i was pleased the good were rewarded, the bad fail <spoiler>here is some unremarked irony: 'winning' the case ends with no remaining funds after court costs!</spoiler>. i was impressed with how he brought it all together. i can give it a four for these reasons. i enjoyed it also as historical document of not only the times but also the popular taste of the times... i do not know if i will read another of his, perhaps i will move on to what is said to be French equivalent in Zola, or move to later 'classics' such as Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy, then the English modernists i have so far neglected...


better break from philosophy than Stephen King...


note: just got recs from efriend Richard- suggested [book:David Copperfield|58696], [book:Nicholas Nickleby|325085], so decided ok i will take those next (also ebooks so from library)...


note: i was going to rate it a three, as i have no interest in reading it again- but who are these people who read a book more than once...

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

140718: this is read 3 times. this is the book that made his name. it has been translated but i do not know how: a lot of the pleasure is in the voice, the unique version of Nigerian english used, per

if you like this review, i now have website: www.michaelkamakana.com 220611: this is probably the most academically accurate of the translations I have read of this book, but still prefer commentary o