Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bleak House - Charles Dickens

Bleak House is one of the most absorbing books I have ever read. I read this book in bed, on the train, outside the State Library waiting for a friend, outside Melbourne Central waiting for another friend, on the treadmill at the gym and in the park at the end of my street, and every time I looked up I half expected it to be foggy, and to see hansom cabs rattle past instead of protestors and trams.

Basically Bleak House is the story of a lawsuit and its effect on those who live in its periphery, but really it's a lesson in characterisation. There are 1088 pages in my copy of the book, and I swear a new character was introduced on each page. As a random selection, there's Tulkinghorn, the creepy menacing lawyer, there's the man-child Richard Skimpole who starts off as a delighful character, but whose childishness just makes him quite awful in the end and there's Richard Carstone who begins as a sunny care-free character but who pays the price for becoming with consumed with the law suit, or the 'family curse' as it's known. My favourites though are the Bagnets - Mrs Bagnet is an awesome mother-hen of a woman who bosses everyone around, and Mr Bagnet expresses his views solely through his wife -

Mr. George produces his present, which is greeted with admiring leapings and clappings by the young family, and with a species of reverential admiration by Mr. Bagnet. "Old girl," says Mr. Bagnet. "Tell him my opinion of it."

"Why, it's a wonder, George!" Mrs. Bagnet exclaims. "It's the beautifullest thing that ever was seen!"

"Good!" says Mr. Bagnet. "My opinion."

But as he also says -

"George," says Mr. Bagnet. "You know me. It's my old girl that advises. She has the head. But I never own to it before her. Discipline must be maintained."

I could go on about this book, but I won't. It was epic, and challenging, and hilarious, and hearbreaking and I'm glad I read it.


Emily Cross said...

Definitely I#ll have to add this to my TBR pile. Great review, thanks for posting :)

Goedi said...

Loved this book. Like most Dickens, I can't just keep on plowing, but every time I pick it up, I love the world he creates, get jealous at how easily he seems to do so, and put it down.
Seen the movie adaptation with Scully? It's really good.