charles dickens

Victorian Challenge 2012 – Completion

Another challenge finished only with hours to spare! I had finished most of the books for this challenge long before but got stuck with the last book. Well, I have finished the challenge and am glad to have participated. 🙂

Completed Books: 1. The Big Bow Mystery. Israel Zangwill.

2. The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

3. The Prestige (2006). (Movie set during the Victorian era)

4. In the Fog. Richard Harding Davis.

5. Bleak House. Charles Dickens.

6. Framley Parsonage. Anthony Trollope.

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Back To The Classics Challenge 2012 – Completion

I love the classics and I loved this challenge. It wasn’t hard but things could have been easier if I wasn’t so pressed for time in 2012. Thanks to  Sarah at Sarah Reads Too Much for hosting it!

Completed Books: 1. A Classic Play – A Midsummer Night’s Dream. William Shakespeare.

2. Read a Classic set in a Country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime  – Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare.

3. Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction – The Big Bow Mystery. Israel Zangwill.

4. Reread a classic of your choice – The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 

5. Read a Classic that has been translated from its original language to your language – Aslauga’s Knight. Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. 

6. Any 20th Century Classic – The Railway Children. Edith Nesbit.

7. Any 19th Century Classic – Bleak House. Charles Dickens

8. Classic Award Winner  The Plague. Albert Camus.

9. Classic Romance – Evelina. Fanny Burney.

Chunkster Challenge 2012 – Completion

Chunkster Challenge 2012

Ah finished! And that too just by the skin of teeth!

I participated under the “The Chubby Chunkster” participation level of the Chunkster Challenge 2012, the challenge was to read four books of adult literature (fiction or nonfiction) of 450 pages or more between  January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012.

Last year was a tough one. I barely managed to finish this ‘chunky’ challenge. Here’s hoping 2013 will be better.

Completed Books: 1.The Agony and The Ecstasy. Irving Stone.

2. Bleak House. Charles Dickens.

3. Evelina. Fanny Burney.

4. Framley Parsonage. Anthony Trollope.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House by Charles Dickens was published as a serial during 1852-1853 and as a book in 1853.

Bleak House is the story of Jarndyce v Jarndyce, a cripplingly long case running at the Court of Chancery. Young lives wither away, people lose themselves and their lives but Jarndyce v Jarndyce drags on. It is also the story of Esther Summerson and the secret behind her birth that ultimately brings about the ruin of a noble family.

I love Charles Dickens and I really wanted to read Bleak House for a long time. But I kept putting it off because I was afraid of lugging around this mammoth of a book. At over 1036 pages, this is now officially the longest book I have ever read. But the book didn’t feel long. I enjoyed reading it and didn’t notice how long it was taking me to finish it.

Dickens’ biting satire on the futility of the British judiciary system especially the system of Chancery is simply brilliant! At times the senselessness of it all made me burst out in laughter and at times it made me sad.

After finishing Bleak House, I realized how dark the book actually is. It has the typical Dickensian comic moments (for example, the antics of the Jellyby family and the Smallweed family, Mr and Mrs. Snagsby’s married life, Mr. Guppy’s romantic adventures; etc) but all of them have darker undertones. The Jellyby children are dreadfully neglected and some of that neglect borders on child abuse. The Smallweeds are grasping and cruel people. Mr. Snagsby is an unhappy man. Mr. Guppy is pompous and greedy.

Bleak House is essentially a character driven novel. All of the characters, even the minor ones, play an important part. I would have loved to discuss all of the characters of the book but of course that’s not entirely possible.

Esther Summerson is one of Bleak House’s main narrators and central characters. She is the archetypal ‘good’ Victorian woman, dutiful, ever understanding, uncomplaining and patient. She is so angelically good that she is awfully bland. However, I liked Esther. She is better than those whimpering, fainting and naive heroines that were so widespread in Victorian fiction. Esther’s romance with Allan Woodcourt reminded me of Jane Austen’s stories.

And once again Dickens’ love for curly, golden haired but dim-witted young women comes to the fore! Lucie Manette from A Tale of Two Cities and Dora Spenlow from David Copperfield are other sterling examples of this species. This time the gold haired young woman is named Ada Clare. Esther serves as a mouth piece for Dickens and remains unnaturally attached to Ada. We are told innumerable times how pretty Ada is, how golden her hair is, how angelic she is; etc, etc. The good news is Ada is less insufferable than Dora Spenlow(Oh how I hated her!) and a bit more proactive than Lucie Manette.

Richard Carstone is the average inept, short-sighted man who ruins not only himself but also his family. Even though Dickens paints him in a sympathetic light there is not much to like about him in my opinion.

The lawyer Mr Tulkinghorn is an opportunistic and often cruel man who barely flinches while blackmailing and ruining people’s lives. He is one of the best literary villains I have ever come across. Dickens certainly shows no love towards lawyers as Mr Tulkinghorn along with Mr. Vholes are two of the most despicable characters of Bleak House (although Grandpa Smallweed and family certainly give them a run for their money).

Harold Skimpole is an irritating character. Every time he came into the pages with his constant refrain “I am a child…” I felt a strong urge to smack him!

Sir Leicester Dedlock started out as an old aristocratic man without much depth but his behaviour near the end of the book surprised me. Lady Dedlock’s secret past life is a major plot point but I felt her character lacked depth.

Dickens, as usual, creates vividly alive settings for his story. The ugly squalidness of Krook’s shop and lodging, the miserable existence at Tom-All-Alone‘s and of course the eponymous Bleak House, all create the perfect background for his long, multithreaded tale. I could actually see those places with my mind’s eye. That is one of the reasons I love reading Dickens’ books so much.

Bleak House was a long but worthwhile reading experience. It is now definitely among my top three books by Dickens.

Top 10 Tuesday: Top Ten Posts I Think Give You The Best Glimpse of ME

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created & hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s Top 10 is all about us, the bloggers. It’s about posts that showcase our true self, posts we would want people to read if they want to get to know us better, posts that we are proud of and posts that are close to our heart.

1. Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!: Agatha Christie is undoubtedly my favourtie mystery writer. Last year I did a post  celebrating her 121st birthday. What would have the world been like if she had never been born? For me, imagining a world without Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Parker Pyne, Mr.  Quin is impossible!

2. For the Love of Short Stories: Short stories are not popular with everyone. I for one love them! For me it takes considerable skill on the part of a writer to convey emotions that require a whole book to play through in just a few short pages. So, I did an entire post in praise of short stories.

3. What’s Your Literary Wall of Shame?: Every reader has books they want to read, books they are ashamed to admit they haven’t read yet. I opened up about my literary wall of shame and strangely had fun doing it!

4. Dickens and Collins: 7th February 2012 was the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. To mark the occasion I participated in  Charles Dickens Month and made Dickens related posts all month long. My favourite from these posts was a post called Dickens and Collins, contemporaries, friends and two of my favourite Victorian authors.

5. My Welcome Home posts: In these posts I discuss books that I’ve brought home. I’m a cautious book buyer. Most books that I read are borrowed from libraries and other sources. So, any book that makes my home its home is special to me. Among these posts one of my favourites is my Welcome Home post featuring books of September & October 2011. It contained some of my personal thoughts on reading and the idea of ‘fun’. It is a post that is close to my heart.

6. A Bookish Inheritance: The love of books runs in my family but only on one side. I did a post on this called A Bookish Inheritance which remains one of the very few personal posts I did in this blog.

7. London Lavender: I really love it when I don’t expect anything from a book but the book totally surprised me by becoming a favourite. London Lavender was one such a book. I loved reading it and reviewing it!

8. Girl in Hyacinth Blue: I normally don’t read books I don’t know anything about. I’m also not much of a fan of contemporary books. I picked up Girl in Hyacinth Blue rather reluctantly but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise!

9. The School for Scandal and Other Plays: I had never even heard of Sheridan when I chanced upon a collection of his plays and it took me less than an hour into the book to realize that I had found one of my all time favourite playwrights in him.

10. About Me: And of course the About page of my blog. It is not much but it does give everyone a pretty basic idea about me and what this blog is about.