I finally finished this book! The first half really felt interminable to me. In fact, I went and read other books and then came back to it. Too many characters that I couldn't remember them when they were re-introduced. Thankfully, ereaders have a search function! The book really turned around for me once I hit the mid-point at Esther's illness. Then at last there was a murder to investigate. The second half was much more interesting, and I couldn't stop reading until it wrapped up the loose ends and the complexity and connections of all of the characters were revealed. I really did enjoy the cinematic aspect in regards to the descriptions of the places and the weather. You could really picture Victorian / Dickensian London in your mind as you read.
I would have liked the characters to be fewer and more developed. I think that is why people have said they really felt for Sir Leicester by the end. He was one of the few characters that changes throughout the course of the book and therefore doesn't seem so flat.
The relationship between Esther and her "guardian" was creepy since marriage was in contrast to his father figure role. Her love for John was based on her dependence of him for shelter, money, etc and an admiration for his fine character rather than romantic passion. I am glad she ended up with Woodcourt and a healthier love. Was I the only the one who wondered if Mr. Jarndyce and Mrs. Woodcourt would match up? One thing that bothered me is that it is never explained why John is so good and has so much generosity towards and love for Esther and his wards, especially since Richard questions if his motives might be tainted by the Jarndyce vs Jarndyce suit. Why is John so wise to avoid the trap of the Chancery court system?
I also liked the characters of Mr. Snagsby and Caddy Jellyby. Mr. Snagsby is brought into the story by circumstance it seems - even though he just wants to be left alone - and he tries to do right by Jo and Maid Guster. Both Caddy Jellyby and Mrs. Bagnet are strong, likable women and are the dominant spouses in their marriages, yet they are also loved and respected by their spouses. I really detested the character of Mr. Vholes, much more than Tulkinghorn.
I suppose the book ends as it does so that the nobler, purer, less sinful characters have a happy ending rather than a tragic one.
This book has been on my TBR list for a long while, so I am glad I stuck with it. I bought the BBC miniseries several years ago on iTunes and had previously watched the first few hours. That may have affected how I read the book since I had preformed images of some characters in my mind. I plan to go back and watch the entire series now. Here is a link to a recent interview with Gillian Anderson if anyone else is a fan of hers like me. She has some more classic miniseries in the works.