Monday, May 08, 2006

Book Club: Bleak House

We have this lunch group of people who wanted to read the classics. My friend M decided it would be nice to go back and read or re-read some of the things we were supposed to have read in school. Since I was an English major many years ago, I've read classics, and we were able to eliminate things we absotively, posolutely refused to read (for me, Billy Budd, Sailor, Melville...ick!).

To this point we've read The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway), To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee), and Treasure Island (Stevenson). Not too bad, right? To get a list of books started, we all suggested 2 books we'd like to read (Pride & Prejudice anyone?), and then we've been selecting a leader (or forcing someone to lead us if necessary). One of the books suggested was Bleak House (Dickens). I wanted to read it...they made it into a movie, how bad could it be?

Well, to start with, my copy is 894 pages, so I figured we'd have a little trouble making it through, but when members started losing interest left and right, we changed to an easier book. I was about 2/3 through the book at this point so I finished it up.

I would highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates language. Dickens was a master of verbal irony and witty writing. This story has a host of characters who are all tied together in the end and includes orphans, illegitimate children, murder, spontaneous combustion, aristocrats, street sweepers, and a detective who solves the case. Along the way, you get tragedy, comedy, romance, and a view of Dickens' time and place. And, with 894 pages to fill, it includes much more. Commentaries will tell you that it's a criticism of London's court systems, and it is. What makes it a classic, is that it's more than that. It's about human nature, the good and the bad, and people who are both good and bad. It takes a little work to get into Bleak House, but it's worth it in the end. Now I can watch the movie and point out all the inconsistencies...but no one else will have read the book, so I probably could have made them up and skipped 894 pages. Oh, well! It looks impressive on the shelf, right?

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