Bleak House

I am a week late to write this blog post. And there is a reason for that.

Bleak House is long.

Really long.

And I didn’t like it very much.

The main plot of Bleak House focusses on a girl called Esther, who grows up as an orphan, is adopted at a later age by a Mr Jarndyce and makes friends with two of his other wards, cousins of Mr Jarndyce. Esther finds out the truth of her parentage after many, many other people have. In itself it is not incredibly interesting; most discerning readers will figure out who her mother is after about a quarter of the novel, while Esther is a really dull character to read – she is perfect, humble, and everything that Charles Dickens imagined a good woman to be.

There are a huge number of other plots, presumably to make up for the main plot. However, this is not helpful for those who, like me, are forgetful. There are 58 characters in the novel, and many of them appear in unexpected groupings throughout, meaning that you will have to keep flicking back pages to figure out what exactly is going on, and how people know each other.

Don’t read further if you don’t want the story spoiled for you.

As if to make matters worse, Bleak House is depressing. Most of the characters are wrapped up in the business of the court, which seems to take cases and stretch them out to make the participants miserable. One of the characters actually dies as a result of his interest in a case, leaving behind a pregnant wife. There is also an awful lot of sickness, which just adds to the bleakness. Esther gets a disease which may or may not be smallpox, so her skin ends up looking something like this:

She’s not happy about it.

A friend of Esther’s also gives birth to a deaf, blind baby for no reason (when it comes to plot) whatsoever, and two people die of exposure. Finally, one man spontaneously combusts (!) and we don’t even get to see it! Bleak House is, as the title suggests, bleak. The only thing that really perks it up is the mention of an imaginary man called Michael Jackson who wears a sky-blue coat with mother-of-pearl-buttons. I would not advise anyone to read it, unless they have an awful lot of time on their hands.

Next Week: David Copperfield


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