Title: Bleak House
Author: Charles Dickens
Genre: Classic Fiction
Pages: 830
Rating: 4.5 of 5

Everyone loves to rip on lawyers, and Charles Dickens was no exception. Much of this book revolves around a lawsuit in the courts of chancery that has dragged on for generations, destroying lives through false hope in a system of law and lawyers that has little to do with right and justice. Dickens’ views on the English legal system are best summed up in this quote:

“The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.”

Dickens is in top form throughout the book: devastating social critique, politely sarcastic turn of phrase, absurd yet somehow familiar characters, heart wrenching tragedies, amazingly convenient coincidences, and all. In spite of the name, this isn’t Dickens’ bleakest book. He achieves a nice balance between sweet selfless heroes, well-meaning but foolish people, and loathsome villains. For the most part, this is the kind of book where (as Oscar Wilde’s Miss Prism would say): “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily.” Some romantic situations may be a bit off-putting to modern sensibilities (e.g. guardian-ward & cousin-cousin), but they should be understood as a product of its era (and ended up playing out better than I hoped).

I highly recommend this book for fans of Charles Dickens. If you’re new to his work you might want to start with A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and/or A Tale of Two Cities, but I’d say that this one comes in close behind those. (Also, I will be using this for my Classic by a Favorite Author category over at the Back to the Classics 2021 Challenge)

7 thoughts on “Right & Justice vs. Law & Lawyers

  1. I’ve always felt like this was a book for a seasoned Dickens reader. His tone is such that you don’t mind being preached at 😀 More authors should take note!

    Have you seen the bbc adaptation?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed on the mature Dickens reader classification! I don’t normally like preachy fiction (one reason I seldom read Christian fiction), but Dickens is the master…he can preach as much as he likes and I’ll happily read it.

      I haven’t seen the BBC adaptation. Other than multiple versions of “A Christmas Carol,” I’m not sure that I’ve seen a screen adaptation of Dickens …I tend to mentally “delete” movies & TV shows that don’t completely wow me, so I probably have (I have vague memories of a version of Nicholas Nickleby).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to admit, if something has the “Christian” label and it’s not nonfiction, chances are pretty small that I’ll check it out. It’s just not worth it 95% of the time.

        I watched it because it had Scully in it 😀 Anderson has aged quite well over the years.
        As for A Christmas Carol, I only watch the Muppets version now 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Love the Muppets version! The only other version I’ll watch is the one starring Patrick Stewart. Like the Muppets version, most of the dialogue is straight out of the book. The only thing I don’t like in it is that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come looks like a giant Jawa (and they do the whole stupid “falling into his own grave” thing that all screen versions do even though it’s most definitely not in the book)

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      3. I saw one back in the 80’s, when one of our neighbors got a tv and they invited us over. I remember it vividly because she had made fudge. So I got to watch tv (something new for us), stay up late, eat fudge and be at someone else’s house. And I remember the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was scary as all get out to me. No clue which version it was though. Never tried to search it out as I didn’t want to ruin the memories 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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