One of Charles Dickens’s most critically admired novels, this story of a monumental and life-consuming court case features one of his most vast and varied casts of colorful characters.
In Bleak House, competing claims of love and inheritance—complicated by murder—have given rise to a costly and decades-long legal battle that one litigant refers to as “the family curse.” The insidious London fog that rises from the river Thames and seeps into the very bones of the characters symbolizes the pervasive corruption of the legal system and the society that supports it, targets of Dickens’s satirical wrath. Displaying Dickens’s familiar panoramic sweep and brilliant characters—including the mysterious orphan Esther Summerson, her gentle guardian John Jarndyce, the haughty Lady Dedlock, and the scheming lawyer Mr. Tulkinghorn—the novel is also a bold experimental narrative that unforgettably dramatizes our most basic human conflicts.
Bleak House is a satirical look at the Byzantine legal system in London as it consumes the minds and talents of the greedy and nearly destroys the lives of innocents--a contemporary tale indeed. Dickens's tale takes us from the foggy dank streets of London and the maze of the Inns of Court to the peaceful countryside of England. Likewise, the characters run from murderous villains to virtuous girls, from a devoted lover to a "fallen woman," all of whom are affected by a legal suit in which there will, of course, be no winner. The first-person narrative related by the orphan Esther is particularly sweet. The articulate reading by the acclaimed British actor Paul Scofield, whose distinctive broad English accent lends just the right degree of sonority and humor to the text, brings out the color in this classic social commentary disguised as a Victorian drama. However, to abridge Dickens is, well, a Dickensian task, the results of which make for a story in which the author's convoluted plot lines and twists of fate play out in what seems to be a fast-forward format. Listeners must pay close attention in order to keep up with the multiple narratives and cast of curious characters, including the memorable Inspector Bucket and Mr. Guppy. Fortunately, the publisher provides a partial list of characters on the inside jacket. (Running time: 3 hours; 2 cassettes)