“Bleak House” by Dickens


I finished Bleak House, y’all! Thanks mostly to my friend Amy at New Century Reading, who did a readalong where we did one of the serialized chunks a week, so it took us 20 weeks. I really enjoyed having a longer reading project alongside the books I read one at a time, and looked forward to reading my 40 or so pages of Bleak House every week on Sunday. I think I’m going to try to keep up the habit of one big reading project for books that I continually don’t feel I have the gumption to finish in one sitting. I’ll be doing Brothers Karamazov this summer with one of my book groups, but some other candidates are the short story collections of Alice Munro and Angela Carter, or other Dickens books.

Bleak House
is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Sprawling with both funny and sad parts, a huge cast of characters (rather too many of whom die, in my opinion, yet it IS called Bleak House, so not like I wasn’t warned). Esther Summerson is our main character, a young woman told since she was young that she’s tainted with the sin of her illegitimate birth. At first, Esther seems too kind, too nice, but she becomes more complex and interesting over the course of the book, especially as we’re slowly shown that she’s not exactly a reliable narrator.

This book has something for everyone. Romance, mystery, tragedy, lost love, murder, humor, social commentary and I’m sure I’m forgetting some things. I had only a few minor concerns by the end–the over-romantic portrait of the domestic angel accompanied strangely by the condescension of others for Esther in this role, and the lonely end for one of my favorite characters, Mr. George.

Fair warning: do NOT read a character list as you go, or follow links. Spoilers abound, and there are some good ones in here.

4 Responses to ““Bleak House” by Dickens”

  1. hopeinbrazil Says:

    Thanks for this review that helped to moved Bleak House way up on my TBR list.

  2. Amy Says:

    I’m glad I finally took the time to read it. It’s (so far) my favorite of Dickens’ books. I think taking these big classics slowly is a nice way to work through them. I’m eyeing Moby Dick…

  3. girldetective Says:

    Amy, I was thinking Anna K

  4. Amy Says:

    I’d be up for Anna K. Haven’t read it in years.