“Bleak House” Readalong, Ch 1 to 6

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.

5 Responses to ““Bleak House” Readalong, Ch 1 to 6”

  1. Jennifer Reese Says:

    Someone chose Middlemarch for our book group last month (I’ve told you how I felt about that book — ardent love), probably thinking if it was for book group book she might actually read it. Well, we met last night. I was the ONLY ONE who had finished it. Most people hadn’t even read 1/4 of it and never will. I tried to figure out whether I cared. I guess I don’t. But sometimes I think we should just rename our book club “wine club” and stop the pretense.

  2. girldetective Says:

    Don’t know how many others are in the group, but that’s pretty lame. Also that whoever chose it didn’t finish it. In all your theoretical free time, can you find an additional group so you could have a wine group _and_ a book group? I have three, admittedly about one too many. One’s a classic style with half a dozen or so women, we meet once a month at rotating houses. We have enough book dorks (I include myself in this) that usu. at least half read the book and almost always everyone starts it. One other book group is a public one run by a friend, held in a bar, so most people don’t go to that unless they’ve read the book. The other is the one I started, public, meets at our grocery co-op once a month, and again, most don’t bother to come unless they’ve read the book. Any decent public groups in your area?

    Middlemarch is our book for May, so I’ll be reading it soon, and we can talk electronically at least!

    One thing I’m disappointed in about the Dickens read along is that it’s divided into mostly even chunks of chapters, but not how the serial was originally published. I’d love to be stopping and starting at the same points the original readers were. Probably how I’ll try to read my next Dickens after this.

  3. Amy Says:

    I tend to avoid book clubs, mainly because the ones I know of in my area choose things I don’t want to read. I’m loving the online challenges because there are so many to choose from, I can always find something that suits.

    I haven’t read Bleak House, but I’ve just finished Great Expectations, which in fact does include “orphans, mysterious benefactors, and crazy old ladies.” Loved it!

  4. Patricia Says:

    That would have been better … following the serial publishing schedule. But it doesn’t matter for me because my posts NEVER show up on the hosts site. She wants me to e-mail her the posts so she can post them next time. Maybe I will just read and comment on your blog instead. I did enjoy the book, but unlike just about everyone else on the list, I have a deep dislike for the character of Esther (too Goody Two-Shoes) and I loved Krook. I guess I always go for the “interesting” men.

  5. girldetective Says:

    Is it because you live in Canada? That does sound far too complex, and I’d love it if you’d comment here. Esther, as I noted there, shared a lot of superficial similarities to Jane Eyre, except she doesn’t dislike children and is less spirited so far less interesting to me, though I did enjoy the point that she is narrating her own goodness, so perhaps not to be trusted. Krook is creepy and Skimpole fascinating.