Friday, July 06, 2007

Bleak House

Bleak House, Charles Dickens.

A murder mystery, a love story, tragedy, wry wit, biting social criticism, Bleak House has it all. Bleak House revolves around the lives of those caught up in a tangled court case that has dragged on for so many years that it's become a legal legend. It's a rich, beautifully written masterpiece, with twists and turns to rival the most tangled of modern soap operas.

The plot is exciting, a delight to read, and even more delightful are Dickens' characters. Dickens is gifted at writing memorable vivid characters both as they seem to themselves and as they appear to the outside world: Lady Dedlock, haughty and bored and fashionable, weighted with grief and a guilty secret; her husband, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, pompous and loyal; lovely Esther, modest and selfless, a darling to all around her and all the more charming because she doesn't quite realize her own charms; the ridiculous Mr. Guppy, who fancies himself quite a catch; Miss Flite, wise and completely mad.

The writing itself is wonderful-- this book begs to be read out loud. I read it to the boys as they drifted off to sleep, to the dog, and even just to myself simply for the pleasure of speaking and hearing the ways the language rolled off my tongue. Dickens' wit is marvelous, dry and sly, like an inside joke, and he makes fun of nearly everyone.

I loved this book, and that's not something I say lightly. It made me think. It made me laugh. It made me cry, even though I already knew how the story ended. It made me wish I'd read it long ago.

I watched the Masterpiece Theater production before reading the book. If you have a chance to watch, the Masterpiece Theater production of Bleak House is brilliant, and inspired me to finally pick up the book despite its daunting 991 pages. Watching a book before reading it is strictly against my reading rules, but in this case I'm glad I made an exception. Gillian Anderson portrays the world-weary Lady Dedlock perfectly, and Phil Davis' "Shake me up, Judy!" Mr. Smallweed is absolutely spot-on. Fantastic.


Anonymous said...

I used to loosely try and read books before movies also, but changed when I saw the Colin Firth version of "Pride and Prejudice" in the 90's. After seeing it several times, I was intrigued enough to tackle the book. Knowing the story so well REALLY helped me to understand the book. I went on to see other Jane Austen inspired movies and then to finally, last year, read all of her books-something I know I wouldn't have done without having seen the movies first.
I've gone on to do this with other authors, most recently Elizabeth Gaskell. It helps me more than words can say to be able to picture the people and scenes from the movies in my mind as I plow my way through these intimidating volumes. :)
Bleak House is on my list of must-watch movies. Maybe after I've seen it a few times I'll go on to read the book. (wink)
p.s. I'm here from semicolon.

Darla D said...

I just finished reading Bleak House, too, and it wasn't until I was talking about it with a friend that I heard about the Masterpiece Theater production. So I'm putting that in my Netflix queue to watch - probably a few months from now, when the story isn't quite so fresh in my mind. I enjoyed reading your review (I just discovered Sherry's Saturday Review and found your blog from there). I'll definitely be stopping by again soon.

Ps. Poohsticks is one of my family's favorite games! :-D

Petunia said...

I loved, loved, loved the Bleak House movie and am glad to know that the book is just as wonderful. I'm not a fan of Gillian Anderson but I thought this was the perfect role for her. She was always on the screen when I found myself crying.