Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bleak House Readalong, Week 8

This is my second reading of Bleak House, and I'm enjoying the heck out of it.  I can't help it.  I know, it's kind of a nineteenth-century soap opera.  It's melodramatic, and there are far too many coincidences, but I still love it.  It's kind of like a Victorian version of Lost, but without the island and the smoke monster. There's lots of characters whose lives end up mysteriously interconnected. . and they were on an island. . . and there was a lot of smoke in Victorian England. . . so I guess it's a lot like Lost!  (But without the plane crash.  Hey, what about a steampunk version of Bleak House?  Maybe a mashup?)

But I digress.  Sometimes I've fallen behind in the reading/posting, and for this, I apologize.  As far as a plot summary goes, if I describe too much at this point, it would spoil it.  I'll just say the action has really moved along here -- one of our characters is on a major downward spiral, one is in serious trouble, one is dead, and others are suspected of the crime.  Inspector Bucket, one of my favorite characters, had been introduced previously, but now he's really involved in the story.  He's one of the first detectives in English literature, if not THE first, which is pretty cool.  He may have been inspired in part by an actual detective in Victorian history, Mr. Whicher.

I have to admit that I've never actually read the print version of the book the entire way through -- it's so long, and I have so much else to read, that I've combined the audio and print versions.  I'm fortunate that my library has the Naxos audiobook version, narrated by Sean Barrett and Teresa Gallagher, and I think it's just wonderful.  Both of them are such great readers, and can do so many voices so well.  I'm always amazed when a male reader does a distinctive female voice, and vice versa.  With both of these excellent readers, I'm able to tell instantly when Ms. Gallagher is doing Mr. Jarndyce, or Mr. Vholes, or when Mr. Barrett is reading Lady Dedlock's part.  There are more than 40 characters in Bleak House (seriously, I once made a list!) and to be able to so many parts so well is real talent.   The right reader can make or break an audiobook -- I am quite sure that the audio of Wuthering Heights may have been what ruined it for me.

Alun Armstrong as Mr. Bucket
And as I've said repeatedly, I think the BBC miniseries adaptation of Bleak House is just fantastic.  Yes, they had to cut a few characters, and condense things a bit -- they've made a thousand page book into an eight-hour miniseries, so a few things had to go.  The series is quite faithful and really captures the essence of the story, if not every single detail.  I honestly can't say whether I liked the book or the series better, they're both just wonderful.

I still have more than 200 pages to go, with a lot of unanswered questions -- who is the murderer?  Will everyone learn Lady Dedlock's deep secret?  Will the Jarndyce case EVER be settled in Chancery Court?  And will Esther find true love?  And will someone finally smack Harold Skimpole upside the head?  See, I told you it was a Victorian soap opera -- stay tuned for the next episode.


  1. The only good thing about my B&N edition is that it has a list of all the characters and who they are right up front. The bad thing is that some of those character descriptions are plot spoilers...

  2. I'd hate that! It's bad enough how many spoilers there are with movies, internet, etc., but it's even worse when it's right in the books! I've had books with family trees which included spoilers and I found it irritating -- to find out when someone dies, or marries, gets divorced, etc.

    And one of the FOOTNOTES in A Tale of Two Cities spoiled the plot! I was so annoyed I swore I'd never read another Penguin classic. Okay, I still read them, but I leave the footnotes for the end of the book. That really made me mad.

  3. The audio must be wonderful with two readers! I've finally reached chapter 30 and feel like the stories will finally start coming together soon. It may take the rest of the year, but this is such fun.

  4. There's nothing more addictive than Victorian literature! I have this idea - which refuses to adapt to my actual experience - that it's a little old-fashioned and stilted and scholarly, but each time I actually pick up a Victorian novel to read, I can't put it down. Glad you're enjoying Bleak House and love your enthusiasm for what you read.

  5. I liked my Penguin edition, it didn't really have any character list, but it did have a rather wordy foreword by Nabokov.

    I am currently reading David Copperfield (the Everyman edition), and so far, this one seems better in quality...


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