Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Bleak House

That's not a witty metaphor or a clever allusion.

It's a literary reference of the purest form.

I'm sitting on an east coast train, slightly teary tissue scrumpled up on the table, and I've just finished Bleak House.

When I started blogging about my reading I was doing so, and I said I was doing so, partly in the hope of improving my literary diet. Yet when I look over my book-related posts, that's not the impression I get.

The last book I read actually isn't that shameful. It was Kate Atkinson's latest Jackson Brodie: Started early, took my dog (or something like that). It's good, it made me think about loss, and children, and the loss of children. But I don't think it can be a good sign that one day I want to read all the series in a row because they're all starting to blur into one.

So, anyway, I bought Dickens. All of them. Sixteen books sitting on my shelf. A challenge.

And I started with Bleak House, all 880 pages of it. In 8 point print.

To be fair, this isn't the first Dickens I've read, I've enjoyed, years ago, both A Tale of Two Cities (no italics, I'm on my phone) and David Copperfield, but nonetheless I approached the weightiness of Bleak House with trepidation.

Was I really strong enough?

A revelation! It's brilliant. I know I should have known that, but somehow I'd forgotten. People aren't still reading this stuff a hundred years later just because a few dreary critics and English teachers say they should. They're reading it because they are carried along by the plot, because they see those they know in the characters, because it makes them laugh (another shameful revelation there - despite English A-level and literary (though not English) degree, I had no idea that Dickens was funny) and cry, and because it makes them look at the world afresh.

And I'm not just saying that because I'm a Chancery lawyer.

My plan was to intersperse Dickens with nonsense, as light relief, but in my suitcase, along with two books the titles of which I have already forgotten (although I packed them only hours ago), is Hard Times.

And I know which one I want to read.


  1. Do you know, Hard Times is the only Dickens book I've read....but it's very good. Good luck with your challenge.

    1. Obviously I'm actually being too lazy actually to stand up and get it out of the suitcase (plus then I'll have to admit I need the loo, and then you've got the whole what do you do with your bag and stuff problem) but I am very much looking forward to it (the book, not the loo).

  2. Chancery Lawyer? That piqued my interest. You'd have a lot in common with my beloved husband, who is both Chancery Lawyer (on Chancery Lane too :D) and Dickens fan. I am neither :D

  3. Dickens was my 'specialist author' at uni, so it is rather shameful to admit that I have yet to read Bleak House and only made it half awy through 'Our mutual friend'. David Copperfield is my favourite (so far).

  4. I love Bleak House, I studied it at A Level which amazingly didn't put me off. I've read it three times since, it's one of my comfort books. I'm a big Dickens fan, the only one I've struggled with was Little Dorrit but I'll give it another go one of these days.

  5. I am in dire need of some good reading so I think I'll seek out Bleak House. I've just read 50 Shades of Grey after seeing so may people rave about it on Facebook. Not impressed to be honest. Far too repetitive, and continual use of the same dull language "Oh my." has left me bored. Dickens it is next!

  6. Love Dickens, spesh Bleak House. We must do a Dickens for Book Club...

  7. I found the Starting Early/dog/Brodie book in a hotel last summer. Loved it and have read a couple more but that first one, although the most recent, was the best.
    Shameful in my lack of Dickens reading so will give myself a literary kick up behind and try again.

  8. I have to be honest, I'd never thought of reading Dickens, I guess I'm in the genre that thinks it's for English Lit courses only! The writing, back in the day, is just so unique and puts the modern books/writing of today to shame! I think I may have to dip my toe in the Dickens saga. xx


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