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Bleak House | [Charles Dickens]

Bleak House

Published in 1853, Bleak House is one of Dickens' most mature and ambitious novels. From London's slums to the Court of Chancery, where the endless case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce devours the future of several generations, the author's canvas of Victorian society vividly conveys an indictment of legal corruption, a riveting tale of detection, and a compelling emotional drama.
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Publisher's Summary

Published in 1853, Bleak House is one of Dickens' most mature and ambitious novels. From London's slums to the Court of Chancery, where the endless case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce devours the future of several generations, the author's canvas of Victorian society vividly conveys an indictment of legal corruption, a riveting tale of detection, and a compelling emotional drama.

Not a little Dickens: peruse our full list of Charles Dickens titles.

(P)2006 Tantor Media Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Vigorous satire....[with] a host of interesting minor characters." (The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature.)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (290 )
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4.0 (125 )
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  •  
    Thomas 02-16-08
    Thomas 02-16-08
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    "So good!"

    What a great story and wonderful adventure to read. This novel is truly Dickens at his best (and his most "Dickens like" if you know what I mean). The book won't let go of you, and at times you actually wonder why it's so fascinating. I'd listen for hours non-stop and be amazed that I'm I so into the story. The reason is that it's simply Dickens as only he can be. It's the equivalent of a modern day soap opera (in a good way... it was originally published in 20 monthly sections, and was written as to keep the reader begging for the next installment.) There are twist and turns and love and death. Each section ends with some twist that leaves you unable not to continue on to the next right away.
    The narration is superb. I have listened to numerous Dickens novels, and David Case seems to bring the characters alive better than any other. And that is the most amazing and memorable aspect of Bleak House.... the characters. LOTS of characters, and each developed so fully, with there own history and story lines and mysteries. I was worried going into this book that the vast number of characters would clutter up the novel and confuse the reader, but that was not the case at all. In fact, it does just the opposite, with each character and story line coming alive individually, but working together so well. This is the true genius of Dickens.
    I highly recommend this novel and this audio production of it.

    23 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J B Tipton Minneapolis, MN USA 09-02-07
    J B Tipton Minneapolis, MN USA 09-02-07 Member Since 2007
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    "Dickens done right"

    This is great fun. One of Dickens' greatest works. I can't imagine anyone reading Dickens better than David Case. The recording is excellent. Snap it up.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dana Kirkwood, IL, USA 03-22-07
    Dana Kirkwood, IL, USA 03-22-07
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    "Bravo!"

    In my estimation, Charles Dickens' finest! Humor, character description, vocabulary - all simply sensational! David Case is fabulous as the reader. I will cherish this book for all of my life!

    25 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth Calgary, Alberta, Canada 05-06-09
    Kenneth Calgary, Alberta, Canada 05-06-09
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    "Excellent reading of a classic novel"

    I have to give full marks to David Case for the excellent job he does as narrator of Bleak House. He manages to create believable distinctive voices for many characters of all classes and both sexes, and this made the novel an excellent listen. My only reservation is with Dickens himself, who is at his best when writing satire but who really lays it on thick when he delves into sentimentality. Dickens' characters tend to be one-dimensional, which works fine when he is satirizing their quirks and bad habits, such as the ludicrous Mr. Chadband, whose manner of delivering sermons is to ask absurd rhetorical questions over and over and then refute them. Yet Dickens' sentimentality doesn't really spoil how entertaining the book is in the final analysis, and I suspect the fact that Dickens is a little obvious and heavy-handed in his moralizing is also why he remains a very popular writer to this day.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 04-19-09
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 04-19-09

    trying to see the world with my ears

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    "not a bleak listen"

    Bleak House contains some of the most sentimental melodrama ever written by Dickens. However, unlike most modern novels, Dickens' storytelling and prose, combined with great narration, drew me into the world of the novel and left me wanting more at the end, no matter how incredible the plot coincidences or how larger than life the heroes and villains. I enjoyed every minute of the listen, even the most overly sentimental, drawn-out death scene of one of Dickens' most pathetic characters. I can't explain the power of Dickens (especially Dickens read aloud) to do this; I can only give him and the narrator five stars for it.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Utah 07-30-13
    Amazon Customer Utah 07-30-13 Member Since 2009

    tired teacher

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    "In some ways not so bleak"

    This is a complicated story, as most of Dickens' stories are. There are a lot of characters with a lot of sub plots, but they all come together in the end and make for a great tale. I had to keep in mind that this story was written to be serialized in a magazine, and that explained the length and the detail of this book. However, Dickens' descriptions are so masterful, and David Case's narration so incredibly amazing that the time flew by for me. As with many of Dickens' novels, there is much sadness and much to celebrate in this story. It is a dark story, but it has so much light in it that I could get over the dark parts rather easily. I had no clue what this story was even about as I began listening to it. I admit that it was helpful to read along with the narration. It is readily available as a free ebook.

    One of the things I really enjoyed about this book were the names Dickens chose for his characters which were suggestive of their personalities. For example, the protagonist, Esther Summerson, is a happy person in spite of bleak circumstances, and has a sunny, summery disposition. Mr. Woodcourt would court her if she permitted. Dedlock, Snagsby, Bucket, Tulkinghorn and so many more rather unusual names -- I was about half way through the book when I realized that they were chosen for a reason.

    I am sure many of the narrators you could choose from for this book are really good, but it is hard to beat Mr. Case (aka Frederick Davidson). I understand that he is often considered an acquired taste, but let me tell you it is well worth acquiring. Don't give up on him because he comes across at first as a rather snooty Rex Harrison. He is a master.

    I will miss this story now that I have finished. To me, that is the mark of a truly good book.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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    Marilylle 04-17-09
    Marilylle 04-17-09
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    "This is how to read a book!"

    I am delighted with the narration in my recently purchased "Bleak House" ( David Case). I am amazed how clearly he is able to define the many characters and how perfect is his gentle edge of irony when Dickens makes those telling side comments along the way. Wonderful. A great novel, well presented . Works well along with the BBC video series, which we are re-watching at the same time.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Snoodely 11-25-11
    Snoodely 11-25-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Victorian Prolixity"

    Well, yes -- Dickens does go on, doesn't he? At least by today's standards. The same story written by a modern author would have taken half as many pages and half as many hours. But, if you can suspend your modern standards a bit while you listen to "Bleak House," it will reward your patience. With "Bleak House," Dickens composed a masterpiece of literary fiction, by any standard. For its time -- 1852 -- "Bleak House" ventured into daring territory: for example by having part of the narrative written in the present tense, and part written in the past tense by one of the main characters. It does contain an abundance of characters, which might confuse the listener at first. If you have never before read "Bleak House," I would suggest first watching the excellent B.B.C. 2006 cinematic dramatization (not the 1985 version with Diana Rigg). You might find it at your local library on D.V.D., as I did. This movie simultaneously simplifies Dickens' complex plot, while remaining true to the story, and helps the viewer to sort out the characters. Having first watched this movie helped me a lot when I tackled the audiobook version of "Bleak House." The audiobook's narrator -- David Case -- is a consummate actor, with an abundance of voices and accents to distinguish the characters from one another. I highly recommend this audiobook to anyone with any interest in Victorian England, the legal profession, or Charles Dickens.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    Phebe Joppa, MD, United States 02-06-12
    Phebe Joppa, MD, United States 02-06-12 Member Since 2011
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    "The Best Bleak House Ever"

    David Case is my favorite reader, and surely his Bleak House was a labor of love. Each passage and each voice is so perfectly interpreted that I am convinced he knew this novel well. The complex but fascinating plot is presented clearly by his reading; I understood it better than ever before despite reading Bleak House perhaps twenty times over the decades.

    I have yet to hear any reader who could do separate voices, male and female, better or even as well as David Case. His voice for Esther Summerson, the heroine, was perfect, as was the tone of gentle irony he gives her when Mr. Stimpole and Mr. Guppy and other ineffectual villains try to take advantage of her good nature. All his many voices from this novel are perfect, and so distinct they are instantly recognizeable.

    Bleak House is a brilliant and charming novel of Dickens, a mystery and a thriller, and my personal favorite. His heroine is, simply, a lifetime model for women, and the reader is left to work out why, since Esther, the narrator, has no such high opinion of herself. The truth in my opinion is that this novel, read by the brilliant David Case, is more accessible in this audiobook version than if you read it from the text.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine Michaels 04-15-13
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    "Frustrating"
    If you could sum up Bleak House in three words, what would they be?

    Cunningly woven tale


    What did you like best about this story?

    Charles Dickens has a delightful and subtle wit. I find I need to listen closely to understand just what he means, but it's well worth the effort. It was worth the work to follow the characters set up in their individual lives and then watch as Dickens drew them together. I felt I had "aha!" moments when I remembered where I heard a character's name from an earlier chapter.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of David Case?

    I am not familiar enough with narrators to make a suggestion, but anyone else could have been better. I realize there are LOTS of characters, but Mr. Case often started reading a character in one voice and then switched to another character's voice while in midstream. It often made an intricate story very confusing.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Nope.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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