Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fashion and whiskers have been my weakness

Well readers, true to my word, I finally finished reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens, since the poll deemed it so. I am not an avid fan of Dickens and frankly expected this book to be dry, boring and bleak.

Bleak House chronicles the court case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce and all those who are connected with it in some way or another. The court system is portrayed very harshly as a massive, time-consuming and expensive endeavor that never seems to get anything done.

"Suffer any wrong that can be done you, rather than come here."

Ester Summerson is our main narrator (for the most part) and she is under the care of one of the Mr. Jarndyce and friends with his young cousins, Rick and Ada, the other Jarndyces in the aforementioned law suit.

Dickens covers the whole scope here, from the high and mighty family of the Deadlocks down to poor little Jo, a boy who lives covered in filth in the heart of London and is as poor as can be.

"Sir Leicester is generally in a complacent state and rarely bored. When he has nothing else to do, he can always contemplate his own greatness. It is a considerable advantage to a man, to have so inexhaustible a subject."

Ester falls somewhere in between - there is a mystery about her birth (which is no real mystery, at least not to me) and she gets a lot of marriage proposals for a girl who gets smallpox and has her face altered for the worse. I found her to be most frustrating and annoying because she always is chipper and trying to work hard and do her best to make everyone around her happy that she seems to have no emotional range. Which might be why she got all those proposals, who knows?

"I often thought of the resolution I had made on my birthday, to try to be industrious, contented, and true-hearted, and to do some good to some one, and win some love if I could; and indeed, indeed, I felt almost ashamed to have done so little and to have so much."

Late in the game, 700 pages or so late to be clear, there is a murder and a great hunt to discover the true killer. Again, although it seems like Dickens wants to throw us off my suspecting a few different characters, I could tell how things were going to go down.

I think that I get too distracted by the social commentary aspect of Dickens writing to actually enjoy the story. I did laugh and chuckle at some of his phrasing and I think that he may be the best at naming secondary characters, but I really did not care about the characters. And that for me is a big deal. But I have to give credit, Mr. Turverydrop, Mrs. Pardiggle, Mr. Jellby, Mr. Smallweed and Mr. Bucket are all pretty great names.

"Everything that Mr. Smallweed's grandfather ever put away in his mind was a grub at first, and is a grub at last. In all his life he has never bred a single butterfly."

Next up is the Idiot, since that got just as many votes as Bleak House. I know my man Dostoevsky will not let me down and am really excited to read this one.

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