Two Weeks into “Bleak House” and Going Strong!

Bleak House by Charles DickensOh gosh, I have been a terrible blogger lately! Last week was crazy, but it’s finally spring break, so I have a little bit more free time to spend writing.

For the last 2.5 weeks, I have been participating in Wallace’s “Bleak House” read-along over at Unputdownables. I actually started out the read-along very behind; for various personal reasons, I wasn’t able to start reading until the first week was over! But over the last week and a half, I have caught up and am really enjoying the book! I was quite nervous about starting this novel; I somehow had the idea that it was going to be a very difficult book to read. I had heard Dicken’s reputation of being very wordy, and I took that to mean confusing, like when I read philosophy writing in which the author keeps saying the same thing in different ways, but I still don’t understand the point he is trying to get across — like the overabundance of words just muddles up what the author is trying to say. Thankfully, I am not finding that to be a problem with Dickens! I am really enjoying his writing; it is much more humorous than I was expecting, and his long descriptions are really wonderful!

For the first two weeks of the read-along, I read through ch. 9. During these chapters, we were introduced to a plethora of characters and the infamous court case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, that ties them together. So far, the background of the case is a mystery; all we know about it thus far is that it has been going on for so long that the original participants have died, it has led to a man’s suicide, and that it has something to do with an inheritance. However, the details of the case are as shrouded in fog as the Victorian London in which the novel is set.

The story is alternately narrated by an unnamed, omniscient narrator, and Esther, a young woman who grew up in very dreary conditions (she was raised by an aunt who made her feel worthless) but who has now been rescued from her sad situation by John Jarndyce, an elderly man who takes her in as a companion to his orphaned niece, Ada. Esther has a major self-worth problem; she is constantly putting herself down, warning others that she is not clever, and apologizing for her short comings. However, everyone seems to love her, sobbing when she leaves, endlessly complimenting her, and giving her affectionate nicknames.

I’m not sure what else to say in this post; it would be impossible to summarize what has happened in the 134 pages I have read so far!

Although I am enjoying “Bleak House” much more than I expected, I am getting a little bit lost. There are so many characters, and I can’t keep them all straight, or remember who they all are. Thank goodness for the list of characters at the beginning of my copy (the Barnes & Noble Classics edition); its short descriptions of characters are wonderful for reminding me who people are!

I will try to take better notes while reading this week, so I have more to talk about. I’m still not sure if I will write a weekly post about my progress through “Bleak House” or keep the bulk of my discussion to my comments on Wallace’s blog. However, if I do regularly blog about “Bleak House,” I will be sure to provide a bit more reflection than this post offered! I got behind on my blogging last week, but this week will be better, I promise!

For now, I will leave you with my favorite quote from week two of the read-along, which comes at the very beginning of ch. 8.

It was interesting when I dressed before daylight, to peep out of window, where my candles were reflected in the black panes like two beacons, and, finding all beyond still enshrouded in the indistinctness of last night, to watch how it turned out when the day came on. As the prospect gradually revealed itself, and disclosed the scene over which the wind had wandered in the dark, like my memory over my life, I had the pleasure in discovering the unknown objects that had been around me in my sleep. At first they were faintly discernible in the mist, and above them the later stars still glimmered. That pale interval over, the picture began to enlarge and fill up so fast, that, at every new peep, I could have found enough to look at for an hour. Imperceptibly, my candles became the only incongruous part of the morning, the dark places in my room all melted away, and the day shone bright upon a cheerful landscape, prominent in which the old Abbey Church, with its massive tower, threw a softer train of shadow on the view that seemed compatible with its rugged character. But so from the rough outsides (I hope I have learnt), serene and gentle influences often proceed.

Such a beautiful description of the dawn!

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