I am happily chugging along with my reading of Bleak House. At the moment, I have managed to complete around 10 chapters without any flagging of interest.
Bleak House is a monster of a book – almost 1000 pages or so. When it comes to the overall book, I have barely made a dent. The first 7 chapters merely serve as an introduction to the various characters whose lives we will be following. And there are plenty of them. The major character and one of the narrators is Esther Summerson – a young, orphan girl whose background is a mystery.
Two other characters – Ada and Richard are distant cousins (and orphans). All three of them are under the guardianship of John Jarndyce and come to love with him in Bleak House. John Jarndyce is currently battling a decades old lawsuit, which is the bane of his existence. By the way, Bleak House is in no way bleak at all, but rather a rambling, adorable house on top of a hill.
Apart from these major characters, there are tons more minor characters who are introduced. I can already appreciate how difficult it must be to connect the dots between all of them (for both the author and the reader).
My Thoughts on the Book So Far
I can’t begin to explain how clever this book is terms of writing. Although I have read less than a quarter of the book, I am very impressed.
The book starts with a description of the London fog. Very quickly we learn that the fog is also a metaphor for the state of the Jarndyce vs Jarndyce court case. I know there is some writerly/editorial word to refer to this sort of clever writing (is it allegory? allusion? no, I don’t think so). But whatever it is, it’s really well done.
Apart from this, Dickens uses satire very cleverly to make a gentle (and in some cases, not so gentle) mockery of the characters. See his description below of the Dedlock family – one of the oldest and most renowned families in England:
It appears that there is no end to the Dedlocks, whose family greatness seems to consist in their never having done anything to distinguish themselves, for seven hundred years.
There’s plenty more stuff like this. He lampoons do-gooders, lawyers, beedles, and many more people both high and low. I wonder if this book might have ruffled a few feathers here and there when it was first published?
Another part of the book that I can relate to is the basic story of the never-ending court case. The court system of 18th century England is alive and well in today’s India. I personally have witnessed my grandmother battling a court case for a number of years; she has even passed on, but the court case continues with the settlement nowhere in sight. It’s rather scary how little progress has been made both in our personal court settlement as well as the justice system (which has been very kindly handed over to us by the British) in general.
Anyway, that’s how far I have progressed on the book. More posts and updates to follow.
I have also decided to start a hash tag on Twitter (#bleakhouse) to record any thoughts as they occur to me. I invite you folks who are reading this book to use the #bleakhouse tag if and when you want to tweet about this book.
Amanda from The Zen Leaf is hosting this readalong.