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by Charles Dickens
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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)
From Library Journal
Bleak House is such a natural for audio that it comes as no surprise to read in Peter Ackroyd's biography of Dickens that he himself read it aloud to Wilkie Collins and his own family. No matter how good he was as a readerAand he did go on to present public readings regularly after thisADickens could not have performed better than Robert Whitfield does here. With a motley cast of characters to challenge the skill of any narrator, 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. Whitfield is also as persuasive as the indignant voice of the author himself, attacking both the injustice of the law and the cruel indifference of society. This may be one of the most Dickensian novels Dickens ever wrote. Highly recommended.AJo Carr, Sarasota, FL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In OLIVER TWIST, a character comments, "The law is an ass." In BLEAK HOUSE, Dickens amplifies and dramatizes this remark into almost encyclopedic length. This reviewer recommends that interested parties resort to the printed version, for taking it down and putting it back on the shelf provides an excellent upper-body work-out. However, for those who insist on the audiobook, this version is a workmanlike job. Robert Whitfield reads well enough, though he lacks the imagination and life force to do full justice to the author. That he can plow through the whole thing briskly and indefatigably is itself an achievement. Beware also of a few annoyingly bad edits. Y.R. (c) AudioFile, Portland, Maine
?Perhaps Bleak House is his best novel. . . . When Dickens wrote Bleak House he had grown up.? ?G. K. Chesterton
From the Trade Paperback edition.
The eight-hour Masterpiece Theatre miniseries of Charles Dickenss Bleak House stars Gillian Anderson (The House of Mirth, X-Files) and features a screenplay written by Andrew Davies (Bridget Joness Diary).
Part romance, part melodrama, part detective story, the novel spreads out among a web of relationships in every level of society, from the simpleminded Sir Leicester Dedlock to Jo the street sweeper. A savage but often comic indictment of a society that is rotten to the core, Bleak House is one of Dickenss most ambitious novels, with a range that extends from the drawing rooms of the aristocracy to the poorest of London slums.
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