Your audiobook is waiting…

Bleak House

Narrated by: Peter Batchelor
Length: 32 hrs and 25 mins
4 out of 5 stars (144 ratings)

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

Held to be Dickens' finest novel, containing one of the most vast, complex and engaging arrays of minor characters and sub-plots in his entire canon. Memorable characters include the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn, the friendly, but depressive John Jarndyce, and the childish and disingenuous Harold Skimpole, as well as the likeable but imprudent Richard Carstone. A suspenseful tale about the injustices of the 19th-century English legal system. This novel set the standard for modern day legal thrillers.

Public Domain (P)2013 Trout Lake Media

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    76
  • 4 Stars
    30
  • 3 Stars
    23
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    9

Performance

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    70
  • 4 Stars
    29
  • 3 Stars
    14
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    9

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    73
  • 4 Stars
    27
  • 3 Stars
    16
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    3
Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Better example of Dickens' art than many others better known...

This is only my third Audible book and while Mr Batchelor has a fine voice his personalizing of the characters was not an addition to the story. Many times it actually detracted fro the story. His voice of Messieurs Smallweed and Vols verged on the annoying and while both characters are annoying I think Mr Dickens words aline served the purpose. I will not avoid books read by Mr Batchelor but I won't be searching them out either. As to the story, there is a reason it is a classic. Dickens weaves a great plot with enough subplots to keep the listeners' interest. The story line is revealed enough at the right time so as to not injury the overall story but also not scarcely so much so as the listeners' intelligence is insulted. That the story was originally produced in serial from it must do as it does. Worthy of a third book and moving on to Evelyn Waugh next.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Servants who sound like. . . Eric Idle!

Any additional comments?

I agree with the reviewer who said they wouldn't not buy another book narrated by Peter Bachelor, but they wouldn't seek one out either.My issue with his narration is that he races through the text. Dickens is full of subplots that intertwine, and cunning observations slipped in here and there. Bachelor reads so fast I haven't time to fully absorb one and relate it to the overall narrative arc before he's racing onto the next paragraph/scene.My other complaint is that the female servants sound exactly like Eric Idle! I laughed out loud the first time it happened, but after a while it became irritating.Mr. Bachelor, for the love of Dickens, please slow down when you read these complex Victorian epics and whilst I love Eric Idle (my favorite Python!) find another voice for the "common folk."

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

oops

wonderful story very well read. A bit surprised that the last five minutes were cut off of the recording

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

For the serious Dickensian

To tackle this novel in any form is no idle pastime, but requires a serious commitment of time and intellect. With its complex interweaved narrative strands (alternating between Esther's first-person narrative and that of a nameless omniscient narrator), its extensive cast of characters, and its frequent digressions, it poses a particular challenge as an audiobook. It is the kind of novel that should have an index, and which in paper form would have had me often searching back through the pages for a reminder about who had said what to whom and when. Since this was not supported in my audio reader, there was no alternative but to soldier on through the thicket. A novel this dense in character and incident would challenge the greatest actor, but with Peter Batchelor on top form my interest never flagged. If I had one quibble it would be with the production itself - the frequent "re-recordings" are spliced in rather too abruptly, distracting from the flow of words. As for the story itself, Dickens' usual slow buildup is taken to extremes here, but the eventual payoff is as moving as he ever achieved elsewhere. The difficulty for the modern reader is to comprehend how a lawsuit can simply continue under its own momentum without any prospect of conclusion for generations despite the best will of its parties to end it. This undermines its effectiveness as the central narrative device that underpins the action of the novel, but as a critique of the legal system of the time, it was epoch-making and quite possibly history-changing. The greatest incidental pleasure is to be had in the minor comic characters such as the paragon of "deportment", Mr Turvidrop, and the evangelist Mr Chadband with his orotund sermonising (ministers of any stripe rarely fare well in Dickens' hands). Serious Dickens fans simply must attempt this, but best you know what to expect beforehand. You will be glad if you can make it to the end.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Cuts out?

I highly enjoyed this book but the very end cuts off in what sounds like the middle of a sentence. Everything else about it was highly enjoyable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Not a good narrator

I tried listening to this story for at least 6 hours and found it really difficult. The narrator has a bunch of accents and he speaks very quickly and I just couldn't understand him well enough to get into the story. I was very disappointed. I love Dickens and will definitely sit down to read this book when I find the time. :-(

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

issues with recording

the beginning of chapter 13 plays twice and I think the end is cut off

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Terrible narrator

A great book destroyed by a narrator (Peter Batchelor) who races thru the book. He reads so fast one can't digest the story. I returned this book and got another reader.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A great book but with some flaws.

First, sorry for saving space by not starting with an overall summary of this long complicated the story, I assume that you have read it. If not, there is a very good summary on Wikipedia. And most of the key points of the story can be gleaned from the discussion here. Second, sorry for the length of this review, but this review focuses on characters and there are LOTS of them.

Bleak House has been identified as Dickens' best novel by respected authors and critics. I make no claim to such expertise, but I do not agree with this assessment. Though it is a great novel, in my opinion it is nowhere near as good as A Tale of Two Cities, or several other Dickens masterpieces, due to the flaws discussed below. But on the plus side, as usual Dickens has a host of wonderfully drawn and memorable characters including villains, saints, sensible people and characters who are, to be frank, lunatics. The story drives forward with suspense, entanglements, curious events, amazing coincidences, mysteries, and even a detective story – maybe the first in literature.

Almost a “character” in the book is the interminable litigation over the Jarndyce estate which had the potential of making those determined to be the rightful heirs extremely wealthy. This is a vehicle for Dickens to satirize the ridiculously protracted and apparently directionless chancery proceedings, and how lives have been twisted, impoverished or ruined by it. As a retired litigation attorney, I was amused by this satire.

But in my experience of the novel, I feel it suffers from a significant flaw that detract from its greatness – namely that that the primary characters are not all that interesting. The protagonist, Esther, is the ward of Mr. Jarndyce and lives comfortably in his mansion and without any significant crises or problems to overcome. Her score on the “interesting character” scale in my view is close to zero. Worse, she is a weepy saint - a mother Teresa, loving all, caring for all, working tirelessly and selflessly. While admirable, such a goody two shoes becomes tiresome, particularly as the narrator of half the book. And her weeping! Her tears are constantly welling up, wetting her cheeks, wetting the page, etc. etc. – in response to anything that is even slightly sad, good, or touching. Just looking at a friend will cause her to weep. This is at first sort of OK, but soon becomes cloying, tedious, and insufferable. Give me a break. Mr. Jarndyce, her guardian, is “father Teresa” dispensing support, aid and assistance and love and kind advice to everyone. Also while admirable, not very interesting. A mystery is the source of his wealth, considering that he, like others in the book, is a potential heir to an ongoing will contest the failed resolution of which seems to impoverish the other potential heirs. Dr. Woodcourt is likewise a one-dimensional saint who wins Esther’s love but has little of interest to offer us readers.

The other main characters are also flawed. Lady Honoria Dedlock turns out to be Esther’s mother who did not know Esther survived childbirth (a fact concealed by her sister Miss Barbary who then raised Esther). Esther was the result of a love affair prior to Honoria’s marriage to Sir Leicester, an illustrious baronet, who loves her dearly. Honoria is a vain world-weary humorless woman, utterly unlikable. Because of her link to Esther we are forced to spend far too much time with recounts of her multiple, boring, pointless peregrinations. Honoria’s fear of embarrassment over Esther’s existence prevents her from re-uniting with her daughter after she learns Esther was alive, makes it impossible to sympathize with her as she abandons her loving husband to crawl off to die on the grave of the lover who fathered Esther. It is clear that she never loved her husband nor cared for anyone but herself. Being a bad person does not necessarily prevent a figure from being a good character. But in this case, she was just boring and having no investment in her, I had no interest at all in her demise.

Other flawed main characters are Richard and Ada. Richard is related to Mr. Jarndyce, and is also a potential heir of the Jarndyce estate. Richard comes to live with Jarndyce at the same time as Esther and Ada Clare, another ward of Jarndyce. Richard proves to be feckless and irresponsible, and obsessed with his potential bounty from the Jarndyce estate. For some unfathomable reason, Ada is besotted by him with undying love. While a crush as a youth living in the same house with him could be understood, her continued devotion after he proves to be a worthless lout, is ridiculous. Instead of tiring of him as she grows up, she devotes herself to him more fiercely as though a zombie to a mesmerizing cult figure. Her adored Richard dies when the estate proves valueless, leaving her destitute, and with child, who she crazily names after him as though he were to be cherished and remembered. A head scratcher, that. But Ada herself is perhaps the biggest zero in the book. She says or does nothing on her own of interest or that suggests any hint of intelligence or personality. Her only virtue is her beautiful face, and eyes and hair that Esther carries on about over and over – bringing Esther to tears as usual. Indeed, from modern eyes it looks like Esther had a lesbian love for Ada who she swoons over, cries over, pets and kisses. They lay their heads on each other breast repeatedly, sleep in the same bedroom, dress each other, and spend an inordinate time together. This is the only real and deep love story in the book.

The three saints, and Richard and Ada are surrounded by interesting scoundrels, odd-balls., and whackos. One example is Mrs. Jellyby a lunatic who devotes herself obsessively to a dubious foreign charitable cause, while criminally neglecting her own children, and abusing her daughter, while her husband silently witnesses this mistreatment without lifting a finger to protect his own children. Yet another insufferable character is Mr. Skimpole, a scheming parasite who pretends not to understand what money is and sponges off others. Mr. Jarndyce’s indulgence of this fraud calls into question Mr. Jarndyce’s judgment. And Mr.Smallweed is a humorously twisted old villainous wretch who suffers from an odd disease that confines him to a chair, down from which he keeps sliding when in his apoplectic rages.

There a host of dastardly characters populating this book including Miss Barbary, Honoria’s sister who viciously and cruelly raises Esther until she, Barbary, dies. And then there is Mr. Vholes who squeezes Richard dry with fees for useless legal work, and Hortense, a scheming, jealous, wild and evil housemaid who eventually commits murder.

Other oddball characters include Mr. Krook an alcoholic and a hoarder who dies of spontaneous combustion; Guster, a maidservant who constantly goes off in fits at the slightest provocation; and Mr. Turveydrop who is exceedingly vain and worthless and a sponge off his son and daughter in law. There are lots of other odd characters.

The most sympathetic character is Jo, a destitute waif, who meekly puts up with his plight, cooperates when needed, and dies young of his rough life.

There are some menches include Mr. George, who helps Jo when help is needed and otherwise acts admirably; Inspector Bucket, a detective who solves two mysteries in the book; and Mr. Snagsby, Jo’s only friend, who regularly gives Jo some money on which to survive.

One character, Mr. Tulkington, is a lawyer for Sir Leicester. Honoria asks him to do some investigation (secretly directed to finding her former lover). This causes him to suspect she has a secret she is keeping from his client, and which could harm his client’s interests. So he himself tries to determine what Honoria is hiding and his investigation leads him to discover her love affair and the fact that it produced Esther. He confronts Honoria with these facts and tells her he must inform his client of this information. Tulkington is apparently seen by some as one of the villains in the book, though it is not clear what he does wrong. He is not a warm person for sure, but what he does is driven by his duty to look out for his client’s interest and he wants Honoria to come clean with her husband. Had she done so, she would have found Sir Leicester forgiving and all would have been well. But she ran away instead, and then Mr. Tulkington himself is murdered by Hortense.

There are literally dozens of other characters in this book, something that often made my head swim. I had to keep a chart to remind me of who was who.

Bottom line is that this is a great story by a great story teller, but with some significant flaws. In my view not Dickens’ best, but definitely a great book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Delightful! Dickens meets Austen

This was a delightful story! Well read! It feels a bit like dickens, with comical and sad illustrations of the times, and a bit like Austen with plenty of romantic twists and marriage proposals! Highly recommended!

Sort by:
  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Daniela Crouch
  • Daniela Crouch
  • 10-27-16

terrible performance

really cannot recommend this recording, very poor performance, it's one monotonous drawl, completely emotionless and could have been done better by a computer

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Louise
  • Louise
  • 02-03-19

poor choice of reader

I have enjoyed other performances by Batchelor but Im afraid for this book he is totally wrong. Large parts of the book is written in a womans voice and he is completely unable to pull this off. Different characters were hard to distinguish and the text became dense and tedious.
Give this one a miss.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for liz Noakes
  • liz Noakes
  • 09-13-18

Classic

Another great classic book by Charles dickens. Would recommend all of his stories to anyone

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for xxxx
  • xxxx
  • 01-06-17

Dowloaded audio files but none were playable

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

dowloaded 4 large audio files but none were playable on Audible or Windows Media. Can I have my money back?

1 of 2 people found this review helpful