Bleak House

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What to expect

Bleak House opens in a London shrouded by fog—a fog that swirls most densely about the Court of Chancery, where the obscure case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce lies lost in endless litigation, slowly devouring an inheritance in legal costs.

Against this ominous background, Dickens’ rich tapestry of a novel weaves together the fortunes and desires of several characters whose fates are tied to the case: Ada and Richard, two young orphans who stand to inherit and wish to marry when they do; the worthy John Jarndyce, their voluntary guardian while the case is pending; and Esther Summerson, Jarndyce’s protégée, whose romance is complicated by torn loyalties and whose heritage is shrouded in mystery and scandal. This darkly comic portrait of London society is often regarded as Dickens’ best.

Critics Review

  • “Dickens could not have performed better than [Simon Vance] does here. With a motley cast of characters to challenge the skill of any narrator, his brilliant dramatizations range from a homeless street urchin to an arrogant barrister, from a canny old windbag to a high-minded heroine who deserves the happy ending Dickens affords her. [Vance] is also persuasive as the indignant voice of the author himself, attacking both the injustice of the law and the cruel indifference of society. This may be one of the most Dickensian novels Dickens ever wrote. Highly recommended.”

    Library Journal (starred audio review)
  • Bleak House represents the author at a perfectly poised late-middle moment in his extraordinary art.”

    The Guardian (London)
  • “Features one of his most holy of heroines…He brilliantly projects Esther as his type of ideal woman, with her modesty, perceptiveness, and moral responsibility.”

    The Telegraph (London)
  • Bleak House is one of the greatest novels by one of the giants of English literature. It is also, in the words of one legal scholar, ‘the ultimate indictment of law, lawyers, and the legal system in the English language.’”

    Crime Reads
  • Bleak House is a satirical look at the Byzantine legal system in London as it consumes the minds and talents of the greedy and nearly destroys the lives of innocents—a contemporary tale indeed.”
  • “Perhaps his best novel…When Dickens wrote Bleak House he had grown up.”

    G. K. Chesterton, English author and theologian

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