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Old 07-26-2011, 07:30 PM   #16
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The Spontaneous combustion chapter caused quite a stir and Dickens really gets across the horror of it. At the time he was criticised by some who didn't believe it was possible and that Dickens had made up the whole idea himself! He defended himself by citing specific cases.
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Old 07-28-2011, 04:31 PM   #17
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I finally managed to finish it! One of the reason it took me very long is because after the first half I started finding it really tedious - true as it is that

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Dickens' characters are vehicles for his social commentary, they are characterizations!
after all of them have been introduced, indulging on them felt very repetitive, and eventually wearisome. As for those few characters whose personality changes as the novel develops, it felt to me more of a mask falling off and revealing a different persona rather than the character being developed - most notably in the case of Lady Deadlock.

As for the women, I agree completely with what has been said already, they are indeed rather flat, and already midway through I could not stand Esther's properness and compassion, which to me were sickeningly sweet - she is probably the character that stirred the most violent reactions in me, though for the wrong reasons - and the passiveness with which she is so easily transferred from John Jarndice to Allan Woodcourt is one more aspect of the
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taking what ever bone was thrown her direction and not being confrontational in the face of the wrongs she encountered all around her
Hamlet referred to.

In terms of the narrative tension, I wonder whether it suffered from serialization - if the various groups of chapters were released in monthly installments, I presume Dickens somehow had to "remind" the readers of the plot, so that many "surprises" had been announced quite a bit earlier (e.g. the first eyeing between Esther and Lady Deadlock has more than a hint to the relationship between the two).

Now the positives - I quite enjoyed the descriptions of London, and indeed I found a cinematic aspect to some of them. For instance, I can imagine a camera zooming away from Mr. Snagsby to fly with the crow into Mr. Tokinghorn's chambers in this description:

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The day is closing in and the gas is lighted, but is not yet fully effective, for it is not quite dark. Mr. Snagsby standing at his shop-door looking up at the clouds, sees a crow, who is out late, skim westward over the slice of sky belonging to Cook's Court. The crow flies straight across Chancery Lane and Lincoln's Inn Garden, into Lincoln's Inn Fields.
Here, in a large house, formerly a house of state, lives Mr. Tulkinghorn.
I also liked the vividness with wich lowlifers were described - in this respect I particularly liked Jo and Phil, who does not speak much and yet is very well characterised. And Mr. Tulkinghorn is also an interesting character to me - appearing out of nowhere, evil but in a principled way, with his little indulgences and shortcomings, like his overconfidence in his knowledge of human nature, that eventually leads him to a fatal misjudging of Hortense's reactions.

What I really found touching is the deep, passionate, desperate love of Sir Leicester, this most upright of man who is ready to forget all he stands for his fallen woman, and the description of the vigil was probably the most moving part of the novel for me.
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Old 07-28-2011, 07:11 PM   #18
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I also liked the vividness with wich lowlifers were described - in this respect I particularly liked Jo and Phil, who does not speak much and yet is very well characterised. And Mr. Tulkinghorn is also an interesting character to me - appearing out of nowhere, evil but in a principled way, with his little indulgences and shortcomings, like his overconfidence in his knowledge of human nature, that eventually leads him to a fatal misjudging of Hortense's reactions.

What I really found touching is the deep, passionate, desperate love of Sir Leicester, this most upright of man who is ready to forget all he stands for his fallen woman, and the description of the vigil was probably the most moving part of the novel for me.
Jo was one of my favourite characters. He is a good example of the deep human sympathy Dickens could create and the death of Jo is very moving.

I agree that Sir Leicester develops powerfully as a character and Lady Dedlock shows a remarkable suppressed passion--much more so than is the case with Esther (Chapter 35 excepted}. Her switch from John to Allan is just not convincing and IMO one of the weakest sections of an otherwise fine novel.
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Old 08-02-2011, 10:21 AM   #19
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I just finished, and didn't like it as much as I was hoping. The last time I read Dickens was in high school, and I really enjoyed his work (Great Expectations in particular).

I found myself trudging through parts of it. The whole Chancery sub-plot I found uninteresting and initially confusing.

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Her switch from John to Allan is just not convincing and IMO one of the weakest sections of an otherwise fine novel.
That part confused me. She is completly enamoured with John (and had reconciled Allan as a thing of the past), and the next minute John tells her to be with Allan, and she agrees.

Not to mention the age difference between John and Esther, and her being her "Guardian"; That creeped me out a little.
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Old 08-03-2011, 03:22 PM   #20
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I started watching the BBC miniseries as soon as I finished the book. I feel that alot more things make more sense in the actors delivery than they did in the text for me. I mean, i'm incredibly biased at anything with Gillian Anderson in it, but it really is superb.
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Old 08-03-2011, 04:13 PM   #21
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I started watching the BBC miniseries as soon as I finished the book. I feel that alot more things make more sense in the actors delivery than they did in the text for me. I mean, i'm incredibly biased at anything with Gillian Anderson in it, but it really is superb.
Those BBC series are usually top class containing all the important plot elements and a huge amount of the dialogue as well. I haven't seen Bleak House yet. {I'll be on the lookout for a DVD of it}

Just out of curiosity, how does Esther seem as a character in the series? Do you find her more believable than in the book. As I said earlier, I really think she should have married John Jarndyce. Allan seems like a superfluous plot driven character added by Dickens to marry Esther off to someone younger than John.

How are the scenes in the slum sections?
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Old 08-04-2011, 07:11 AM   #22
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Just out of curiosity, how does Esther seem as a character in the series? Do you find her more believable than in the book. As I said earlier, I really think she should have married John Jarndyce. Allan seems like a superfluous plot driven character added by Dickens to marry Esther off to someone younger than John.

How are the scenes in the slum sections?
Esther seems more like a young woman swept up in the whirlwind of it all. Her flightiness seems less silly on film, though sometimes still as confusing.

As for the scenes in the slums - they go visiting in the first hour of the series and see the baby die. It was heartwrenching. My partner cried because she didnt know it was coming.
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Old 08-05-2011, 01:48 PM   #23
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So this last discussion reminded me of that BBC for television production. I have that on DVD and I watched the first two episodes over the last couple of nights. I had forgotten that the entire section concerning Esther's childhood was not included except for the occasional flashback to her aunt telling her she should never have been born.

Also I know that Gillian Anderson was included as Lady Dedlock for star power, based on her long run in The X-Files that I never saw any of. Anyway in her acting does she always have that one same expression on her face, or is that just something that she affected for this role?

Great dramatization of Bleak House though.
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Old 08-05-2011, 11:11 PM   #24
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Who is Lord Coodle and Sir Thomas Doodle?
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Old 08-06-2011, 05:42 AM   #25
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Who is Lord Coodle and Sir Thomas Doodle?
They are silly sounding names used by Dickens to satirize certain types of vacuous silly aristocrats he feels are stupid. He uses the same techique in Hard Times, though there the names are symbolic of social positions and/or ethical attitudes. e.g. "Bounderby" is a vicious, horrible capitalist who is a "Bounder"--an untrustwothy villain and cheat.
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Old 08-06-2011, 09:57 AM   #26
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They are silly sounding names used by Dickens to satirize certain types of vacuous silly aristocrats he feels are stupid. He uses the same techique in Hard Times, though there the names are symbolic of social positions and/or ethical attitudes. e.g. "Bounderby" is a vicious, horrible capitalist who is a "Bounder"--an untrustwothy villain and cheat.
Most of Dickens' characters fill that description to many character types. In this case the difference is Coodle and Doodle are imaginary to the story. ..thanks fantasyfan.
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Old 08-06-2011, 07:52 PM   #27
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Paola, thanks for the word 'cinematic' which perfectly describes Dickens' descriptions, those being my what really kept me reading. I became rather fond of Sir Leicester by the end of the book.

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Who is Lord Coodle and Sir Thomas Doodle?
Thank you for asking this as I also wondered who they were.

And for the explanation, Fantasyfan.
d
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Old 08-07-2011, 03:28 PM   #28
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Paola, thanks for the word 'cinematic' which perfectly describes Dickens' descriptions, those being my what really kept me reading. I became rather fond of Sir Leicester by the end of the book.
d
I found myself liking him more too. Paola's comment about the "passion" of Sir Leicester's love is really so significant. It's his capacity to love--something his lawyer doesn't have--that redeems him.

Early on, he's simply a nastily arrogant aristocrat with an inflated idea of the importance of his position and title. By the end, he has realised the worth of his wife as a human being and has thus becomes humansed himself.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 08-07-2011 at 03:33 PM.
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Old 08-07-2011, 04:11 PM   #29
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on Boodle, Doodle and Coodle I've also found this reference in wikipedia (I think one of these guys is described by Dickens as the prime minister):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boodle%27s
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Old 08-07-2011, 10:48 PM   #30
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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.
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/show...moby-dick.html

Last edited by Bookworm_Girl; 08-07-2011 at 11:45 PM. Reason: Fixed typo
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