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Bleak House

The Dickens Collection: An Audible Exclusive Series
Narrated by: Miriam Margolyes
Length: 43 hrs and 12 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (152 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award, 2019: Literary Fiction and Classics

Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award 2018

This Audible Exclusive performance of Bleak House features a unique introduction written and narrated by Miriam Margolyes. 

Recognised as one of Dickens' most accomplished titles, Bleak House has impressed critics and audiences alike since it was first published in 1852. The novel boasts one of the most intelligent and engaging plots in all of English literature and is sure to engage the listener's imagination as it transports us back in time to the seedy, grimy and hazardous streets of Victorian London. 

This release is part of the Dickens Collection, an exclusive series of unmissable performances available throughout 2018. 

About the audiobook: 

At the heart of Bleak House is the longstanding case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce - a damning portrayal of the 19th century legal system. Dickens shines a light on the impact that overdrawn court proceedings could have on the lives of those involved, specifically through two of his protagonists, Richard Carstone and his beloved Ada Clare. 

Dickens' unassuming heroine, Esther Summerson, along with the equally benevolent owner of Bleak House, John Jarndyce, attempts to guide the young lovers, Richard and Ada, to live their lives unaffected by the court proceedings. But with the introduction of some typically Dickensian characters such as Grandfather Smallweed and Mr Tulkinghorn, trouble soon ensues for all who cross their paths. 

About the author:

Having experienced the incarceration of his father, Charles Dickens had to abandon his studies at a young age and set to work in a factory so as to support himself. Despite his short-lived education, Dickens went on to write 15 novels, various articles, novellas and short stories. He lectured and led campaigns for children's rights and education and arguably became the ultimate self-made man. Bleak House offers unique insight into the mind-set of a middle-aged Charles Dickens and the exceptional way in which his artistic skill had grown and developed by then. 

About the narrator: 

Miriam Margolyes is an award-winning stage and screen actress, best known for her roles in The Age of Innocence, Little Dorrit, Sunshine, Cold Comfort Farm and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Her stage credits include The Vagina Monologues, Romeo & Juliet, The Threepenny Opera, The Canterbury Tales and her own one-woman show, Dickens' Woman. Miriam has always been a keen admirer of Charles Dickens and demonstrates a profound understanding of his themes and writing style through her skilful narration of Bleak House

Public Domain (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Such a miraculously good new audio version of this great novel is cause for hats in the air.... Margolyes clearly loves this material and brilliantly displays Dickens's genius for plotting, nailing human foibles, and shining light on social cruelties. It's a gobsmacking performance, on a par with Jim Dale's protean work on the Harry Potter novels. Ms. Margolyes contains multitudes." (AudioFile)

What members say

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The Best Audiobook Ever?

I've been listening to audiobooks most of my 62 years, and I have to say this is quite possibly the best one I've ever heard. I'm a Dickens fan, and Bleak House is one of my favorites. But that's not why this recording is so sensational. It's all Miriam Margolyes. Her reading, performance, whatever you'd call it is absolutely perfect, combining her talents in acting, voices, accents with her passion for Dickens and her emotional response to the characters. It all just works together to make the ideal reading, yet somehow also manages to seem like an incredibly talented friend sitting in the room, not just reading, but sharing the book with you.

And about the length: when you listen to an audiobook this good, you don't ever want it to end. The hours flew by and, as I got closer to the end, found I was allowing myself only so much per day, to stretch it out so it wouldn't be over. Alas, it did finally end, but I plan to listen to it all over again -- once I have listened to everything else Ms. Margolyes has read for Audible, including several books I would never have thought to read but for her recording them.

Miriam -- if you ever read this, I've got your readings of Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist too. But please consider doing more (maybe all?) of the Dickens novels, unabridged, of course, like these three. No one, but no one, does them as well as you.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

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3.8 stars

I'm having trouble finishing this audiobook. Ms. Margolyes approaches the text with great reverence, as she is evidently a Dickens aficionado. I think that reverence detracts from her narration, as each sentence is delivered in the deliberate cadence of the Archbishop of Canterbury eulogizing a dead monarch. I don't mean that she doesn't use a different voice for each character. She does do that, fairly well. I mean that every. Single. Phrase. Is treated as. Equally deserving. Of careful. Enunciation. And emphasis.

This would not be a bad narrative style for a fast-paced, crisply-written book. For "Bleak House," with its dry subject matter (Chancery Court! Law writing! Debt collection!) and convoluted plot? Ms. Margolyes's style is not ideal. Each scene drags and feels disconnected from the next, making it difficult to pick up narrative threads, such as the attempts of various characters to discovery the law writer's identity. What's worse, much of Dickens's sly humor is lost.

You will note as well that this audiobook is several hours longer than the average Dickens narration. I suspect this is also down to Ms. Margolyes's narration.

I have enjoyed Ms. Margolyes's skilled portrayal of several characters, in particular Grandfather Smallweed, whom she imbues with the perfect mix of querulousness and venom. So I am gritting my teeth and forcing myself to finish the audiobook. Hopefully I will have a greater appreciation for Ms. Margolyes's performance once I've listened to all 45 hours of it. :)

34 of 37 people found this review helpful

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An Old Friend, Revisited

"Bleak House" has long been a favorite friend, but Miriam Margolyes' masterful narrative voices bring to life this epic story and beautiful prose in an elegant and friendly telling. Well worth owning and relistening again and again!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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What A Journey

Bleak House has been a wonderful journey. Prior to listening to this I thought Dickens was somewhat dark and I was reluctant to purchase it. For the first few chapters the story confirmed my previously held opinion. It also seemed excessively descriptive and I wasn't sure I could persist with 40+ hours of it. I'm glad I persisted because it turns out the story has incredible light and I came to love the creative skill in the descriptive passages. This isn't a book for people who don't like stories with multiple threads. For those who do, it is a rich tapestry. The narration in this rendition of Bleak House is superb. Miriam Margolyes' interpretation of the characters adds to the enjoyment of the story. She changes voice as characters interact at an impressive speed. Thank you for such enjoyable narration.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Not know the story is a disadvantage

Enjoyed other novels of this era--Dickens-Dostoesky-Tolstoy--but found Bleak House challenging-to-follow. Learn about story before listening.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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An immortal performance of an immortal work.

You know how many characters there are in this novel? I counted nine new ones introduced in two chapters about a third of the way through. Ms. Margolyes, one of our greatest character actresses, does every single one in an appropriate voice. She even has a different narration voice for the chapters narrated by one of the characters as opposed to the author's voice. She is clear and enunciates wonderfully. And of course, this is one of the greatest novels in literature.

Dickens' books were popular entertainments in serial form, frequently read aloud in family settings, so they perfectly fit this format. Knowing he is writing for someone who will need to recall the prior characters and events, Dickens takes care to provide idiosyncrasies and reminders for the reader -- so it perfectly suits listening periodically.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Thank You, Ms. Margolyes

Ms. Margolyes' performance was phenomenal. I was slightly concerned by her introduction, when describing the narrator, she states, "I don't really warm to Esther," but Ms. Margolyes' masterful reading did not reveal any misgivings on her part. Her range of vocal tone and style is amazing, from warm and comforting (Lady Dedlock) to "fingernails-on-chalkboard" (Grandfather Smallweed). I was truly sorry when the when the performance had finished. Bravo!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Miriam Margolyes is AMAZING!!!

I couldn’t stop listening to Miriam’s reading of this classic Dickens novel!
She did a fabulous job with all the diverse characters in this one story!
Thank you Audible!!

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My first Dickens

I have read a Christmas Carol, to be sure. But this book is the first long tome of Dickens that I have tackled. I’m pleasantly surprised that I was able to keep up. The cast of characters is quite interesting and there is so many of them. To be able to tie them all together was quite surprising as I wound through the narrative. I listened to an audio book as I read along and the performance was wonderful. My wife says, “Your not reading a book, you’re listening to it.” While true, not to have heard the performance would have been a great loss in it’s absence. The language is captivating. That I could put words together as such would give me no little pride. I look forward to my next Dickens book thusly.

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excellent

Miriam Margolies is the best. I never heard Dickens read better. what a great treat.

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  • uk person
  • 05-13-18

genius

I did Bleak House for A level. And consequently never looked at it again for 50 years. But Miriam Margolyes has brought it to life for me. Send a posh car for that woman. Get her an excessively comfy chair. And a footstool. And let her read whatever Dickens she likes. The woman is a genius.

56 of 57 people found this review helpful

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  • K. J. Noyes
  • 04-29-18

Complex story brought to life by a talented reader

Incredibly talented audio-narrator, complex story of deception, intrigue and the law.

I couldn't resist trying this, despite a running length of 43 hours. This was a story I remember vaguely from a BBC adaptation, a very complex one, so I hoped I'd cope. Miriam Margoyles is an actor I knew I'd be able to enjoy listening to for long periods. She is also, as is evidenced here, a very talented audio narrator, one who (as she admits herself) here has to voice dozens of distinct characters and keep each sounding consistent throughout, from children to adolescents, young men and women, the poor and the gentry, old gentlemen and eccentric old ladies.

And boy, does she pull it off! At times I forgot I was listening to a women, she is almost age and gender-less to the ear. Very impressive. And it made this a very enjoyable read.

The story is incredibly complex and layered. I'll admit that I've since borrowed a York Notes from the library so I can revisit some chapters to follow the storylines. There are so many names coming thick and fast that this makes Bleak House a challenge as an audiobook.

I would have liked Margoyles' introduction at the end of the book rather than the start, as an afterword or note on the edition - her comments on Esther made it hard to judge her objectively, though I found I had a very different opinion of her to the narrator. The few snippets and facts about recording an audiobook made for interesting listening.

With so many characters and stories, the simplest description of this is a legal one - two wards of court and their companion await a long-overdue ruling on a Will. The Law is almost a character in the book, its workings grindingly slow and painful, catching people up on its teeth as it turns.

Esther, I found very sympathetic, for the most part, but very much a creature of her time, a demure "little woman" putting others before herself and almost too good. Ada is her "dear one" (I grew tired of this phrase) and seems very young, especially with regards to loving her distant cousin, Richard, who is vulnerable to vacillation and youthful passions.

There are large numbers of secondary characters, some with storylines that tangentially intersect with that of Ada, Richard and Esther. Some stuck in my mind (Jo is as pathetic as I found Little Nell), others I had to look up after their chapters.

A dark work, with the usual Dickens commentary (some explicit in the narration) on poverty and social reform. He takes good swipes at the legal system, makes it look pretty ridiculous.

There are deaths aplenty, abuses and neglect, sad situations - it feels like Victorian London in all its underworld glory.

This was a challenge to concentrate on, for this running length, though I found Esther's chapters easier to follow that Dickens'. As Margoyles says in her introduction, a second read of the text on paper might be beneficial.

This won't ever become my favourite Dickens, nor is it the most memorable for either heroes or villains (there are many murky 'grey' people here) but it's definitely worth the effort to become more familiar with.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Barbara Passlow
  • 05-09-18

Two National Treasures

Miriam Margolyes has crafted a uniquely different voice and personality for every fascinating and brilliantly drawn character created by Dickens in this famous book - bringing the whole to life in an extraordinary way

The people and the times are indelibly impressed on the memory and seem like old friends - with great subtlety and a deep understanding of human nature at its best (and occasionally - at it's worst) by the pen of Dickens
I have lived with this production for days and nights -and though I have read and re -read Bleak House many times throughout my life - it is THIS rendition which will always now stay with me - indeed the wonder of an audible, portable library means it will be with me always if I feel like the reassuring company of these old friends so wonderfully conveyed

Miriam Margolyes is an actor of genius and she perfectly expresses Charles Dickens brilliant portrayal of a society of other times and other language, woven together by his powerful understanding of human nature and his natural compassion
This is a remarkably successful, complex subtle reading of a truly great story
A treasure indeed !!



18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Carla
  • 09-17-18

An extraordinary performance from Miriam Margolyes

As a reader I've never been a huge fan of Dickens, but it turns out that read aloud they become hugely enjoyable. And giving the job to Miriam Margolyes in the case of this Bleak House was a stroke of genius. A beautiful, thoughtful reading, moving seamlessly, astonishingly and utterly convincingly from voice to voice to voice through the umpteen voices of the huge and multifarious cast of characters. Superb. 5 stars isn't nearly enough.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean Leary
  • 05-26-18

Bleak House review

Miriam Margolyes is the best narrator of Dickens that I know. She is able to bring the vast array of characters to life, each with a different voice. This is a wonderful performance of this story.


6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew Thornton
  • 12-21-18

A perfect re-telling of a classic story.

I like Miriam Margoyles but she surpasses herself here. This complex twisting story means the odd helpful reminder of who's who aids the narrative; Dickens of course gives us the text, but our storyteller brings each character to life so well, her voice acting so vivid that I felt truly drawn in. Ultimately, the story bursts with new life. It was utterly compelling. Thoroughly recommend this title; now on the lookout for more!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • K. I. Myers
  • 05-05-18

Sublime

Listening to this audiobook has been an absolute joy.
The story, of course, is well known, but the reading of it by
Miriam Margolyes has been wonderful. She has such a talent for characters and the music in her voice has made the long hours of this book go by far too quickly. I’m sad now it is finished but I’d love to find anything else she has narrated.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • H. P.
  • 08-10-19

superlative narration

Simply the best narration I've ever heard: worth it for this alone. You will be amazed

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. S. G. Jones
  • 08-02-19

Thank you Miss Margolyes

Miriam Margolyes brings every character to life in this long and convoluted tale of Victorian chancery.

Without her brilliant rendition I doubt I should have persevered to the end.

A genuine tour de force.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Val Pope
  • 09-21-18

Miriam Margolyes is a genius!

Oh, my word, what a brilliant reading of this Dickens classic by a consummately skilled performer. Every single voice sounds totally convincing and someone who can make the odiously twee Esther appealing deserves a medal as big as a frying pan. Even that basket of keys jingling away every time Esther sets foot in Bleak House (possibly the most irritating part of the novel) is rendered tolerable by a very slight tongue-in-cheek hint that the narrator finds Esther as irritating as I do. Top marks for that!
Lady Deadlock is superb, Guppy is idiotic , Tulkinghorn is terrifying, little Flite is tragically pathetic - every single character is credible and every character is given a voice that matches what's in the reader's imagination when reading the book in cold print. This is a serious tour de force by a brilliantly talented actor, The audio is worth every penny of the purchase price and I'll listen to it again and again. Thank you Ms Margolyes and thank you Audible for a brilliant Dickensian treat.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • David Bell
  • 07-01-18

A Phenomenal Performance

Miriam Margoyes delivers one of the greatest performances I have ever heard of an audiobook. She is a great lover of Dickens and this shows in every moment of Bleak House. Each character, and there are many, is faultlessly delineated and springs to life with real joy. Being such a long work and with so many narratives and characters, the reading could easily muddle the strands and confuse characters (e.g. Simon Callow's one-note reading of The Tale of Two Cities). Ms Margoyles and her director keep everything in control and the story unfolds effortlessly. if there are Oscars for audiobooks, she should get one. Hugely enjoyable.

UPDATE. Just found out that Miriam won a 2019 Audie Award in the Literature and Classics category for this recording. Congratulations!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-20-19

Loved every minute

Yes it is long. But I enjoyed Margolyes performance so much that I did not want it to end. I think this is my favourite Dickens story.

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  • Lynnette
  • 08-06-19

Very long but a real education and lovely story

Reader was wonderful and extremely talented. Story was new to me as now in my sixties I have chosen to read the classics many read in their younger years. I loved the old language and simplicity of people. This is an era where many of today’s sayings come from. A sad and happy story, I was moved to tears in places. A very complex story of interwoven relationships makes Charles Dickens a clever author.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-21-19

Loved it

Love Miriam Margoyles narrating this book. Really brings the characters to life. Great story. Loved it!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-19-19

Very enjoyable

This is a long book but the story moves along and is interesting. The narration is exceptional and adds greatly to the enjoyment. I 'read' it over a couple of months and it was quite easy to recall between listenings. Of course it is quite ironic and Dickens has fun with some characters and is very sentimental with others. We'll worth it

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  • Pauline King
  • 06-25-19

Perfection!

My favourite novel by Dickens, read by Miriam Margolyes and I had 43 hours of sheer delight! I have read the novel three or four times over the decades and never enjoyed it as much as with Ms Margolyes perfect rendition. She brought the characters to life, lifting them from the page and parading them in front of me while I responded with sighs and laughs and tears as the story unfolded. I am so pleased I chose to purchase this and can't recommend it highly enough, especially to all lovers of the works of Charles Dickens.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-11-19

Charles and Miriam, You've done It Again!

Miriam brings Charles Dickens' Bleak House to life with an extraordinary array of voices and accents. This certainly helps keep you aware of who's who in this amazing tome.Well done on out lasting the Jarndyce law suit!

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  • vicster
  • 06-02-19

Make Miriam Margolyes a Dame! what a triumph!

Sickens comes to life through Miriam Margolyed triumphant performance. Story and characters to forever remember .