“This is the Court of Chancery, which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire…”

The title of Bleak House is a bit deceiving.  The BrownBaggers Book Group discussion of this novel by Charles Dickens in January was not at all bleak, and the presence of the house in the novel is a pleasant one although a prevailing bleak atmosphere through most of the book might warn many a reader away.  Again there are surprises.  This book, as most of Dickens’ books, is full of humorous characters and events.

Dickens’ use of language is always impressive.  Alliteration, repetition, and lots of playful words join with the characters’ names like Lord and Lady Deadlock, Mr. Krook, Miss Flight, and Mr. Guppy being only a few.   Of course, since Dickens was apparently paid by the word, we are bombarded.

The reader weaves and ducks through the plot of this apparently dense novel as it winds through various seemingly unconnected events, coincidences (the latter also so Dickensian), and characters, and we are suddenly in the midst of a murder mystery that I, for one, did not see coming.

At the beginning of the book a principal character says: “And I am bored to death with it. Bored to death with this place, bored to death with my life, bored to death with myself.”  I don’t think you will say this if you get to the end of Bleak House, but good luck.

The PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater” production of Bleak House is very good.  You might give that a try first.

For February, there’s still time to start reading (or listening to) our next selection, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. If you enjoy the novel or can’t make our normal Thursday session, JMRL will also be showing Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog) on February 24 at 1 pm. This adaptation of the novel was directed by Mona Achache and will be shown as part of the UVA Department of French Film Festival. Following the film, there will be a discussion of the book and film. Refreshments will be served — hope to see a good crowd! 


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