Monday, July 4, 2011

She's a Bleak...House!

I mentioned last entry that Bleak House was next on my list and that I hadn't enjoyed the Dickens I read in the past. Maybe it is growing up a bit, or maybe it is the setting (being on vacation would put anyone in a good mood), but I was amazed by this book. There were so many interconnected subplots, a detective story, social commentary, all set against the backdrop of this criticism of the English legal system: Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the longest-running Chancery case ever.

I'm sure this book has been analyzed very thoughtfully, better than I ever could, so I won't get into all of that. Just a couple of things struck me. A lot of the themes of this book are still relevant 150 years later, no small feat. However, there are major cultural shifts at work also. The female narrator, Esther, stands out as a culturally ideal woman of her time. She never has a negative word to say and is always happy to do whatever people ask of her. While I like Esther (she is impossible not to like) I am glad that society has developed such that women are valued for their thoughts and opinions as well as their appearance and acquiescence to the ideas of the gentlemen around them.

As I write this, I am watching my husband and daughter play in the pool. The book I thought would be a boring, slow vacation read turned out to be anything but!

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