Bleak House

By Charles Dickens
Read by Simon Vance

32.95 Hours 01/01/1999 unabridged
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Bleak House opens in a London shrouded by fog—a fog that swirls most densely about the Court of Chancery, where the obscure case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce lies lost in endless litigation, slowly devouring an inheritance in legal costs. Against this ominous background, Dickens’ rich tapestry of a novel weaves together the fortunes and desires of several characters whose fates are tied to the case: Ada and Richard, two young orphans who stand to inherit and wish to marry when they do; the worthy John Jarndyce, their voluntary guardian while the case is pending; and Esther Summerson, Jarndyce’s protégée, whose romance is complicated by torn loyalties and whose heritage is shrouded in mystery and scandal. This darkly comic portrait of London society is often regarded as Dickens’ best.

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Summary

Summary

Bleak House opens in a London shrouded by fog—a fog that swirls most densely about the Court of Chancery, where the obscure case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce lies lost in endless litigation, slowly devouring an inheritance in legal costs.

Against this ominous background, Dickens’ rich tapestry of a novel weaves together the fortunes and desires of several characters whose fates are tied to the case: Ada and Richard, two young orphans who stand to inherit and wish to marry when they do; the worthy John Jarndyce, their voluntary guardian while the case is pending; and Esther Summerson, Jarndyce’s protégée, whose romance is complicated by torn loyalties and whose heritage is shrouded in mystery and scandal. This darkly comic portrait of London society is often regarded as Dickens’ best.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“Perhaps his best novel…When Dickens wrote Bleak House he had grown up.” G. K. Chesterton
“Charles Dickens’s tenth novel, Bleak House, features one of his most holy of heroines…She’s the only woman that Dickens allows a pen and he brilliantly projects Esther as his type of ideal woman, with her modesty, perceptiveness, and moral responsibility.” Telegraph (London)
“There’s nothing new about Dickens being able to create wonderful characters. The difference here is that while Harold Skimpole, Mr. Tulkinghorn, Krook, et al fizz with bright particularity, their job is to service the story…Bleak House represents the author at a perfectly poised late-middle moment in his extraordinary art.” Guardian (London)
“Dickens could not have performed better than [Simon Vance] does here. With a motley cast of characters to challenge the skill of any narrator, his brilliant dramatizations range from a homeless street urchin to an arrogant barrister, from a canny old windbag to a high-minded heroine who deserves the happy ending Dickens affords her. [Vance] is also persuasive as the indignant voice of the author himself, attacking both the injustice of the law and the cruel indifference of society. This may be one of the most Dickensian novels Dickens ever wrote. Highly recommended.” Library Journal

Reviews

Reviews

by nyambol 9/13/2017
Overall Performance
Narration
Story

Brilliant and brilliant

A brilliant novel, brilliantly read. Listening to this reading, I was really struck by some of Dickens' well-known predilections for running out descriptive passages in repetitive tropes, e.g., the famous description of fog in the opening; or his ridicule of Parliamentary politics with MPs Buffy, Cuffy, Duffy, Fuffy, Guffy, Huffy, battling for power and winding up being trumped by, of course, Puffy.

As in many of his novels, Dickens can get carried away with the sound of his own voice in Bleak House. He does occasionally lose track of the narrative among the side lanes of characters' lives. But the characters are always lively, and made visible in the mind's eye. He excels at the portraiture of people living at the social boundaries; the brickmaker who beats his wife; the proud soldier who struggles to stay out of debtor's prison; the feckless youth who stakes his life and future on the outcome of a lawsuit. Coming in for brutal satire is the middle class obsession with "schemes of improvement" for Africa, from the heart of a London in which hunger, disease, and misery are the lot of thousands who are ignored.

I've always liked Dickens' keen sympathy for those whom today we call the underprivileged. I even like his melodrama, and if the sometimes overwrought accounts of suffering and death don't bring a tear -- Jack, you dead.

Highly recommended for its evocation of the dark sides of life in mid-19th Century England, savage satire, and sympathetically comic portrayal of life below stairs and above.

Author

Author Bio: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was born in Landport, Portsmouth, England, the second of eight children in a family continually plagued by debt. A legacy brought release from the nightmare of debtors’ prison and child labor and afforded him a few years of formal schooling. He worked as an attorney’s clerk and newspaper reporter until his early writings brought him the amazing success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. He was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era, and he remains popular, responsible for some of English literature’s most iconic characters.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Fiction/Classics
Runtime: 32.95
Audience: Adult
Language: English