Bleak House by Charles Dickens

I wasn’t looking forward to reading the next novel by Charles Dickens on my list. Many people had told me that it was one of their favorites, but I wasn’t convinced. Bleak House is a massive tome that’s about a lawsuit in England’s Court of Chancery. I thought the novel would be tedious and filled with legal mumbo jumbo. I was wrong. One of my favorite aspects of Dickens’s writing is his characters. This novel is filled with a ton of them, and let me tell you folks, they are characters.

I apologize, but I do have to mention the case. Jarndyce v Jarndyce is a legal battle over an inheritance. The person made several conflicting wills. Dickens worked as a law clerk and saw firsthand the inefficiencies of the British judiciary system. Being Dickens, he decided to write a novel to highlight these absurdities. What I shouldn’t have doubted was that he’d make it entertaining.

I’m trying to decide how to summarize the novel, which is 723 pages, and has so many subplots that I’m sure I’ve already forgotten some. There are at least twenty main characters and twice as many minor characters. Again, my apologies, I’m not going to summarize it. What I will tell you is that this novel now ranks right with David Copperfield. When I finished David Copperfield I was convinced that he couldn’t top it. Bleak House didn’t surpass David Copperfield for me, but it is on par with it.

For those who feel like tackling this monster of a novel, I suggest reading it quickly or keeping a journal of the characters and events. Or I fear you might forget what has happened if you set it down for a few days or weeks.

This novel is on my 1001 books you must read before you die and it’s the fifth out of ten novels by Dickens that I’ve set out to read this year. This means I’m really behind on this project. I love Dickens, but did he have to write so many large novels.

One afternoon I sat by the Thames and read some of this book. Below you’ll find some of the photos.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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27 Responses to Bleak House by Charles Dickens

  1. Carl V. says:

    I may have to give this a try sometime as it does sound intriguing. I had always avoided even finding out what the book was about because the title of the book does not engender confidence that it will be anything but, well, bleak.

    • TBM says:

      That was one of the issues for me and then the legal battle. I’ve never wanted anything to do with the law. If you read it, I would love to know what you think of it.

  2. Bleak House was one of my favorites.

  3. Novroz says:

    interesting way to introduce a book 🙂

    I havent yet read anything by Dickens. I heard so much about that David book but had never heard of Bleak House before.

  4. aFrankAngle says:

    Tough task to sit along the Thames … to read … to take pictures …. oh the horror. 😉

  5. patricia says:

    Good for you!

  6. melouisef says:

    Just check the Man Booker shortlist, anything you fancy?

    • TBM says:

      I just checked out the books in contention and wow, what a list. I haven’t read any of them, but they all sound great. I’m not sure I could choose one until I’ve read them. How bout you? Have you read them and do you have a favorite to win? The odds makers say it’ll be Mantel or Self.

      • melouisef says:

        I have not read any but did get The Lighthouse.
        Will probably attempt it within the next couple of weeks.

        Never read any of Mantel although i know she won last year.

      • TBM says:

        I hope to get to all of them. My list is growing rapidly each day, but I love to read. I hope you enjoy The Lighthouse and review it.

  7. Valentina says:

    It is always been my question. Why Did Charles Dickens have to write such long novels? Well, at his time, people were did not live in the fast lane, didn’t multitask and didn’t expect things to get done yesterday.

  8. Valentina says:

    Sorry, see what I mean? I type too fast, I meant people did not live in the fast lane.

  9. I am one of the many claiming that as my favorite Dickens’ novel, and one of my favorite novels period. The novel does overflow with characters – all of them different and important in their own ways. Some of the minor characters from this novel stick with me more than main characters from others. I think of Mrs. Jellyby rather often. I’m always jealous of your photos – it must be quite lovely to be able to read so many great authors in their native land, with a view of the Thames.

    • TBM says:

      Ah, Mrs. Jellyby and Mr. Jellyby. That’s what I love about Dickens. his characters are originals that are quite memorable. I feel so lucky to be able to read Dickens in England. It really does add to my experience and understanding.

  10. Fergiemoto says:

    Another beautiful place to read a book!
    I found some free ibooks of Dickens including the Bleak House. I’ve downloaded them onto my iPad. Looks like I need to get started with some reading.

  11. Caroline says:

    I’m really tempted to read this and am sure I will like it but it’s too long for me at this point in time. I chose Great Expectations for our Dickens in December event. It’s sad but such is life at the moment but on the other hand Great Expectations is another favourite of many.

    • TBM says:

      Great Expectations is coming up on my list. I’ve read it before and it is the reason I fell in love with his writing over 20 years ago. I’m really curious what you’ll think of it. I plan on reading A Christmas Carol for the December event. I’ve been saving that one all year to read during the holiday.

  12. zelmare says:

    I’m really glad you enjoyed a book that you didn’t actually feel like reading. What I want to know is – how on earth could you concentrate on the book, while sitting next to the Thames, with all of that (from the photos I gather it was a busy spot) going on in front of you? 😉

    • TBM says:

      It was difficult not to set the book aside, but I did manage to get through some of it. I had to read some of Dickens by the Thames though. It added so much to the experience.

  13. lynnsbooks says:

    Read a few Dickens but not this one – I really enjoyed the dramatisation – it was really well done.
    Lynn 😀

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