I’ve found reading with a friend, be it book group, husband or online community, a great way to tackle chunky books that previously intimidated me, such as Don Quixote, Infinite Jest, The Baroque Cycle. So when I found out at O Canada Y’all that there was a Bleak House readalong, I threw my hat in the ring, in spite of having an overfull dance card.
I managed to finish the first six chapters of Bleak House by the goal date of today. Technically, I have till next Thursday to post my thoughts at The Unputdownables as well as here, but I think it’s best to jump in, and not wait till I “have time.” Ha.
Bleak House was a slow start to me. There’s some heart-thrilling prose, but the first chapter is about the legal system and a long-drawn-out case, so it would be easy to give up. Soon enough, though, fascinating characters appear on stage: Esther, an orphan, her dead godmother Mrs. Dedlock, the wards of the court, Ada and Richard, and my favorite thus far, Mrs. Jellyby, who neglects her own family and home to lavish attention on the poor savages in Africa.
Reading about Mrs. Jellyby made me feel very good about my parenting and housekeeping.
One downside. The edition chosen for the readalong is the Barnes and Noble, which has both notes on the page and end notes, plus illustrations. Alas, the substantive, more interesting notes are at the end, while the ones at the bottom of the page, to which my eye is easily drawn, are not things that I need explanation for. They just trip me up as I read. I don’t need to have gout, reticule, coppice and barouche defined, and if I did, I could probably figure them out from context, thanks. It’s a quibble, though.
Illegitimate orphans, mysterious benefactors, crazy old ladies–and this is just in the first few chapters. I look forward to meeting the rest of the cast in the next 700+ pages.