So far, not so bleak

Dear Charlie,

I hope we’re still on speaking terms after my last letter. Not that you’ve been hugely conversational since we started our journey, being dead and all, but I don’t hold it against you.

Another satisfied client…

Now that I’m well into Bleak House, and well away from English Monarchs Doing Un-Victorian Things, my equanimity has been restored. And here you are, clearly, back in your element! Another intriguing story, full of a multitude of moving parts, and with a grave social issue at its core. The English legal system, eh? I’m not sure you’d find it a great deal improved today, but it is hopefully a little less labyrinthine than it was when you sought to call attention to the kinds of painfully drawn-out Chancery cases that destroyed the lives of whole families. I wonder if that means there were more lawyer jokes in your day?

Lady Deadlock, being mysterious

So far, though, there’s been an astonishing lack of bleakness. Other than one mysterious but so far peripheral death, everyone else seems to be getting along swimmingly. Esther’s been rescued from her joyless childhood and her guardian is a genuinely nice guy, Clara and Richard are lovely and in love, Bleak House as a residence has turned out to be quite cozy and endearing, and so far the big bad Chancery case has had very little impact on anyone. Even the little feud between Sir Leicester and Baythorn seems more suited to the pages of the Pickwick Club. Part of me wants to leave the book closed where it is and leave everyone suspended in relative peace.

Of course I won’t do that. You’ve scattered enough mysterious breadcrumbs already to ensure that curiosity will overrule my desire to keep your ensemble in suspended animation. That mysterious death of an apparently minor character has created little ripples in the lives of some very important people, including the perpetually bored Lady Dedlock and the super secretive Mr. Tulkinghorn. There’s more going on here than meets the eye, and eventually the paths of the Deadlocks and the Jarndyce crew will cross, I’m sure. I’m even curious to see what happens to Mr. Guppy and his posse.

But to do that I have to keep reading. And so, my friend, I shall bid you a fond farewell, and remain,

Affectionately yours,





3 comments on “So far, not so bleak

  1. AJW Smith says:

    Bleak House narrowly won my all-time favourite Dickens novel when I did my ‘Read All of Dickens Novels’ challenge last year.
    I recommend that you watch the BBC serialisation of ‘Bleak House’ with Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock. The best TV adaptation of a Dickens story I have ever watched (and I’ve watched quite a few!)

    • melissa says:

      I was thinking of ways to continue this project after the reading is done, and finally getting around to watching some of the adaptations seems like a really good way to do that – I’ve seen bits and pieces of a bunch but I’m not sure I’ve ever finished one. I do use imdb, though, to ‘cast’ the characters as I’m reading, if only to help keep them all straight. 🙂

      But now I’m curious as to what came second and third on your favorites list?

  2. AJW Smith says:

    ‘Little Dorrit’ comes ever so narrowly 2nd. Though I fluctuate, sometimes awarding ‘Little Dorrit’ as my No.1 Dickens novel. I enjoy ‘Bleak House’ more, but I think ‘Little Dorrit’ is a better written story.

    My 3rd favourite is ‘Barnaby Rudge’ which I know is unusual as most Dickens fans don’t rate it very highly.

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