Bleak House (Oxford World's Classics)This post is where I do two things. One is I tell you that I discovered this program from Amazon where I can kill two selfish birds with one stone:

A. I can post pictures of book covers without worrying about copyright violation. Which is always a source of paranoia for me.

B. I get money if you buy stuff. I realize this is a long shot, but I’m thinking it’ll totally work for me if I can just generate a few hundred thousand more followers and make the content of my posts either a million times more generic or a million times more specific

So the pictures thing is good…

The OTHER thing I’ll do today is offer a brief look at Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I hesitate to call it a review, because my track record isn’t great at actual, legitimate reviews. Mostly, when I talk about books I read for my bucket list, I just list things I didn’t like, followed by one or two things I enjoyed. Then I round the post out by either recommending it or warning you to never even look at the cover.

This will not follow the normal pattern, mostly because I’m totally ambivalent about my recommendation.

Let me begin by recalling to you that, when I was in high school, all my friends called my father “Atticus.” This was because he had several striking similarities to Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. For instance, he was very thoughtful. Also, he was highly concerned with integrity. Finally, both of these character traits often intersected with the legal system, although my dad never had to quell a riotous mob at the local jail in the middle of the night.

Also my nickname was not Scout. Which stinks.

Anyways, I grew up knowing a thing or two about legal battles. And one particular legal battle runs throughout Bleak House. The story opens with a little background information on the suit between Jaryndice and Jaryndice. No one really knows all the ins and outs of the suit, since its gone on so incredibly long (generations) and now involves so many people. Everyone is tired of it, though, and ready for it to end. Which it never will.

Then the voice that spoke of the case is quiet, and the character of Esther Summerson is introduced, as a second narrator. She talks about her parentage, how she might be an orphan. She’s being raised by an aunt who is ultra-severe, and describes Esther as “your mother’s shame.” Obviously, something interesting surrounds Esther’s birth, but we don’t know what.

Also, obviously, the aunt needs to die as soon as possible. Dickens shows that he is a true genius by killing her off quickly.

I was hooked. Esther is involved somehow. Who else is involved? Who are her parents? Why does it matter? Was her aunt just being theatrical, or is Esther seriously so horrific that she was her mother’s Shame? So it was a mystery story without all the dead people. Except for the aunt, who, as I said, died early.

I just realized that’s a complete lie. A ton of people die in the book. But most of them are not murdered. And if they ARE murdered, no one really cares. So it’s a mystery story that’s not ABOUT all the dead people, which may be another sign of genius from the author.

Problem: The book is loooooooooong. Part of my report for school (that’s why I read it) was talking about why the heck it is so ridiculously long. The most popular notion is that Dickens was trying to communicate a ton of stuff, including legal, social, familial, feudal, hierarchical, female, male, rich, poor, legitimacy, and dependency concerns, to name a few. I’m not going to lie. It got overwhelming.

But it was still interesting. You got the sense that everyone and everything mattered somehow, so you don’t want to miss anything. So I chalk another one up for Dickens who kept me reading whole chapters I really didn’t want to pay attention to. That’s skillz, my friends.

Another good point: happy ending. Sorta.

Ultimately, I liked it. I don’t think everyone would (or should) like to read this book. It’s interesting, but it’s not really a page-turner. It’s more of a “read a few pages then put it down and come back to it when you have a free, sunny afternoon to sit outside and read a few more” kind of book. Interesting, yes. Hilarious at times, yes. Quick read? Not so much. It’s a quick read like Pamela Anderson is a modest woman. We’ll see how the grade goes. I will keep you posted.

Bleak House (Ironic Title)
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