Bleak House

  • by Charles Dickens
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 33 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

First published in monthly parts from March 1852 to September 1853, this novel follows the fortunes of three pedestrian characters; Esther Summerson, Ada Clare, and Richard Carstone. The story they tell embondies Dickens' merciless indictment of the Court of Chancery and its bungling, morally corrupt handling of the endless case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, giving the novel its scope and meaning.Starting with Esther's account of her lonely, unhappy childhood, her role as protégée of the worthy John Jarndyce, Richard and Ada's guardian, the tale develops the relations between the three young people in the Jarndyce household. Numerous other characters contribute to the complex portrait of society which emerges from the novel. They include the romantic, effusive, and unworldly Harold Skimpole (based on Leigh Hunt, poet, journalist, and critic, who published The Examiner in which he introduced the public to Keats and Shelley); the boisterous, short-tempered Boythorn (based on Walter Savage Landor, poet and essayist, mentor to Robert Browning); Krook, the rag-and-bottle shopkeeper who dies a hideous death by 'spontaneous combustion'; Gridley and the crazed Miss Flite, both ruined by Chancery; Mrs. Jellyby, neglectful of domestic responsibilities in favor of 'telescope philanthropy'; the greasy Mr. Chadband, a parson 'of no particular denomination'; and Conversation Kenge and Mr. Vholes, lawyers both.Of particular importance to the moral design of the novel is Jo, the crossing-sweeper whose brutish life and death are the instruments for one of Dickens' most savage judgments on an indifferent society.

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What the Critics Say

"Dickens could not have performed better than Robert Whitfield does here....His brilliant dramatizations range from a homeless street urchin to an arrogant barrister, from a canny old windbag to a high-minded heroine who deserves the happy ending Dickens affords her....This may be one of the most Dickensian novels Dickens ever wrote." (Library Journal)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

30 hours was too short for me

You'd think that with the title Bleak House and a length of 30 hours it would be deadly. Actually it has an engaging story, plus fascinating insights into the legal "system" of 19th century England. You keep wishing people would get smart and that the absurdity of the legal system would be cured, but everyone seems to keep hurtling toward their fates.
As always, Robert Whitfield does a great job of reading. Giving different voices to different characters in such a complicated book helps the reader/listener keep them all straight.
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- UU Ma

Awesome novel, great reading, lousy audio

One of my favorite Dicken's novels. The characters are vibrant, engaging, and funny in the usual Dickens' satirical way. The reader presents them as if he loves (or at least thoroughly understands) each one. He reads the lengthy, pedantic and sometimes silly author's commentary so seriously, so much as though he agreed wholeheartedly with every word, that you sometimes feel you have Dickens in to your house for a personal recital. But, the sound is so distorted, so unclear in spots, so variable in volume, that it is difficult to appreciate the story at times.

Still, there are real benefits to making the effort to listen to (and read) this novel. It was during the listening to this novel that I discovered my idea of the overall theme of all of Dicken's novels.

It is a novel that every lawyer should read and every person contemplating using a lawyer. I'm not saying that the modern legal system is exactly like this, but some of the similarities are amazing.

If the audio was cleaned up, this Audiobook would rate a 5+ in my opinion.
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- Forgiven

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-27-2000
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.