What a monster of a book! It took me a solid two months to read Dickens' Bleak House. I watched the mini-series last year on 4 DVDs, that should tell you how much there is in this book. Bleak House is quite a soap opera. Instead of revolving around the General Hospital or Brady's Pub, at it's center is the court case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce. The case is about the settlement of an estate. It's been going on for years and years with no end in sight. It's ruined the lives of all involved and those who wait for a judgement are driven to madness. The exception is John Jarndyce.
Mr Jarndyce tries to balance the evil done by the case by doing acts of kindness to all he can. At the beginning of the novel, he takes into his care two distant teenaged cousins, left orphaned and penniless until the case is settled. He also becomes the guardian to a young, neglected woman by the name of Esther Summerson. Most of the novel revolves around Esther, who is all that is good in the world. She should sing and have animated baby animals following her but instead she has a cast of quirky characters: a smitten law clerk, a ner'do well, an orphaned laundress, and the bitter daughter of a philanthropist, to name a few.
Like in all soap operas there is high drama, illicit affairs, blackmail, jealousy, disease, murder and even spontaneous combustion. Dickens balances the ridiculousness with the more serious topic of abject poverty and the sometimes ineffectiveness of charity.
There is just too much in this book to give a thorough synopsis. All I can say is that there is a lot going on and it's usually entertaining. I wasn't taken with the law aspects of the books and skimmed through most of it. It sometimes lagged but the last few chapters more than make up for it. Definitely worth reading if you like chunky books.
Also Reviewed by Darla @ Books & Other Thoughts