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There are TWO posts today...Sorry about that :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bleak House Read-along Mid-Way check in post

That is a wordy title, but that is what this post is all about.  Checking in to see where everyone is with this classic tome.  There have been conversations and musing happening on Twitter too, so feel free to pop in there as well #bleakalong.  We've also had a song written about Bleak House by Jill of Fizzy Thoughts.  The women is crafty is all I can say.  And she makes me laugh, which is always a good thing.

With respect to other readalongers, how far along are you?  I know some were doing both the audio and the written version.  Some readers were having difficulties due to the characters out the wazoo to keep track of.  Still others are continuing along doing both, because it helps them.

As for me, I am cruising right along.  I'm up to Chapter 42 - In Mr. Tulkinghorn's Chamber or page 589 of 881.  However, I'm getting a bit bleh.  I enjoy Bleak House when I read it, but there's no umph in there for me.  Bleak House is like a nice stroll along a country road, looking at the flowers and such and occasionally saying, "Oh look at that!", but then settling back down to that leisurely stroll.  That's fine, I just feel like I need a little something, something.

So what is Bleak House all about, really?  Well, there is this long drawn out court case called Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Chancery Court.  There are many invested parties, probably too many to count.  People have lived and died, and I think a generation may have passed, and still this suit is not settled.  People have been destroyed both financially and mentally by Jarndyce and Jarndyce.  Interestingly enough Mr. Jarndyce himself is a lovely and generous man, but even he doesn't know which way is up in this suit.  I don't think this case will ever be settled.

This case is the backdrop for Dickens' cast of characters, each of which demonstrates what is wrong with British society at this time.  People interested in far away causes, while their children  go hungry and dirty.  The whole court system and it's community of lawyers, clerks, and bullshit that goes along with court cases, all the while not even caring that the case will never be settled.  The law system accepts the ineptitude that is Chancery Court, and this is appalling.

The characters themselves are numerous, and every one is connected in some form or fashion with J and J, either directly or indirectly.  The most prominent of characters is Esther, and by extension Ada and Richard.  Esther has a guardian angel in Mr. Jarndyce, and was brought to London to be Ada's companion.  Ada is in the story certainly, but I'm pretty far along, and she's not that important.  Esther is.  Through Esther, we meet other characters and learn how tough life can be for women during this time, and how unscrupulous and powerful family lawyers can be.  Oh Esther!  Are you supposed to be the only bright shiny thing in this story?  The only good that comes out of everything?  Esther is so kind, always knows what to say, how to counsel others, she truly is a saint.  Yes, this is a bit snarky, but really the girl does no wrong.  The more I think back on her, the more I realize that she is the only unaffected person in the J and J suit, and that she is nearly perfect in all ways.  Ok enough of her.

Here are some random thoughts about other characters and events thus far, but no spoilers.  (btw, did Dickens have a chart or graph with all of these characters as he wrote this book?  Just saying that's a lot to keep track of, so it speaks to his literary genius I guess.)

  • At the beginning when Esther is a child, her godmother, what a piece of work.  The maid too.  I guess it would have killed her to be a bit nicer.
  • Mrs. Jellyby - a slap across the face would do nicely for her and her African causes.  When your oldest daughter needs you at one of the most important times of her life,  you cop attitude  really, you dirty fat piggy.  Can you tell I don't like her.
  • Peepy - oh sweet little boy how i would take you home, give you a good bath, and a decent future.
  • Mrs. Pardiggle - sternly reading bible verses will not make poor people less poor or give them food to eat.  Just saying.  Oh, and your kids despise you and will probably grow up to be lazy louts!
  • Jo the street sweeper - by far he is my favorite character, and who my heart goes out to the most.  He is I think 10 years old and has experienced so much bad in his young life, yet he is one of the most decent people you'll ever meet.  
  • Mr. Tulkinghorn - may you catch something in your zipper.  Damn!  don't think they had those back then.  Regardless, you give lawyers a bad name, and are a disgusting creature.
  • Mr. Smallweed - Ditto!
  • Mr. Guppy - please stop trying to be a big man in the law, you're just a clerk and a weasel and could never hope to obtain the hand of someone as wonderful as Esther 
  • Richard - speaking of weasels, you never wanted to work a day in your life so stop this charade. I hope this suit never gets settled and you end up alone, cold, and miserable.
  • Mr Jarndyce - no ill will towards you, really.  You remind me of an absent minded older relative.  Kudos for taking an interest in the wards of J and J, and for being a generally nice guy.  Although possibly a bit too nice at times.  Love the growlery and the wind is in the east!  Much better than my usual ,"I'm not in the mood, so back the frack off!"
  • Lady Dedlock - I don't know what to say.  In some respects I empathize with you and your issues.  (Saw that one coming, and it's subsequent consequences/affects.)  Yet, you still maintain this air of coolness and superiority.  That's exactly what's wrong with the class divide. And yet your issue is the complete opposite and has nothing but your best interests at heart.  Isn't it ironic, don't cha think?
  • Mr. Turveydrop - My dear sir, you and your patron the Prince Regent would be appalled at my deportment on a daily basis.  And I love it!  
  • Caddy Jellyby - adore her to death.  Didn't like her at first, but she certainly came around under the guidance of Esther.  Good work Esther.  And Caddy is handling life the best way she can.  
  • Mr. Skimpole - why anyone helps you is beyond me.  They should drop you off in the slum area of London and see how you make out.  You are a complete idiot and don't deserve the breaths of life you are given.  
  • Ada - what is your purpose in this story except to be a silly little pet of Esther's.  
  • Charley - another young lady I adore to death.  Your guardian angel was certainly looking out for you sweetie!  Glad it has worked out well.
Other thoughts that are spoilery so highlight to read:

I'm thinking Esther had either smallpox or chicken pox, since her face was scarred afterwards, and her eyesight left her for a time.  That can happen with chicken pox cases that occur in adults.  Did it even exist back then?

Oooh!  Esther is Lady Dedlock's child.  As much as I was like HA! hope this brings you down, once I read the circumstances, I felt bad for the Lady.  She thought her baby died, and then to find out and miss all that time with her, that was just sad.  And they still can't have time together.  As for Tulkinghorn's finding out, don't get me started.  He's such an asshole, because he acts like he is protecting his client, but he likes to see the Lady squirm.  I think he holds his clients in contempt, and likes to torture them when he can.  

I think this post is long enough, don't you?  Overall, I like all the little side stories and things that occur  it's just quite a long book!

So, how are you doing with Bleak House?  Like it so far?  Don't?  Want out of the readalong?  The choice is yours and I won't be mad.  We'll still be friends :)

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