Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Esther Summerson's life changes forever when her aunt dies.  Her aunt never showed her any kindness and Esther's life was bleak.  Her new guardian is a kind man named John Jarndyce.  He also becomes guardian to two other children, Ada and Richard, who are cousins.  John, Richard and Ada are all participants in the long ongoing legal case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce.  This case, to determine the distribution of a great estate, has been going on for years, enriching scores of lawyers yet never seeming to move closer to a resolution.

There is a mystery involving people the Jarndyce household knows.  It concerns the well-known house of the Dedlock family.  Lord Dedlock is considered one of the country's leading lords and his wife is known for her beauty and mystery.  Their secret is well-hidden but there are many who are interested in finding it so it's time is limited.  How these two main families become aware of a connection and how they interact is the fulcrum upon which the book turns.

As always, Dickens is concerned with inequities in the English way of life.  In this book, he has the legal system, particularly the civil legal system, square in his sights.  He also turns a scornful eye upon those who neglect their own families to be 'do-gooders', those who spend their lives hanging onto their friends and families who have some wealth rather than making their own way, and those who take advantage of their children.  Moneylenders and lawyers are put under his withering microscope.  As with other Dickens novels, the reader is also introduced to a host of secondary characters, each of which is fully formed and developed to the reader's delight.  This book is recommended to readers of classic English literature and those interested in a rousing story of adventure and virtue conquering all.

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