Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dombey and Son and Bleak House - Review

Domeby and Son - Charles Dickens
Stars: 4.9 of 5
Rating: PG
Fun: 5 of 5

So it's a Dickens day (since that's what I've been reading for Grad School). I love me some Dickens and this one is no exception. Dombey and Son is, in the words of my professor, 'perhaps Dickens only feminist novel..' and I think he's possibly right. Throughout this weird book that at times reminds me of Alice in Wonderland (though not as much as the Old Curiosity Shop might), there are some truly interesting, strong heroines driving the action despite the status quo.

Like most Dicken's novels, D and S has several different plots going on at once: there's the sucession of Dombeys for the House (little Paul and his sister Florence being the offspring of Mr. Dombey and expected to uphold the family business and name); there's also the rambunctious and ridiculous next-door neighbors, Walter Gay, his unlce Sol, and their buffoonish friend Captain Cuttle; and there's the general London populace of hack teachers, stuffy little old ladies, evil crones, criminals, and deviant (as well as devious) socialites.

Interestingly, Florence is the main hero of the book (not Son), and the book mostly chronicles the strained and unnatural relationship between her and her estranged father. How it all turns out, I won't say, but rest assured that Edith Domeby is a character you don't want to miss out on if you like to read about amazing women. Think Sidney Carlton as a woman, with a little Mr. Darcy thrown in, and you've got Edith Dombey - aloof, clever, fascinating, sarcastic, devious, cynical, intelligent, powerful, nurturing, and pissed off. I love it. Also, Mr. Carker, a truly creeptastic villain, is not to be missed.

Bleak House
Stats: 5 of 5
Rating: PG
Fun: 4 of 5

Bleak House is possibly my favorite Dickens novel of all time. (If Edith Domeby could visit Bleak House, it would be perfect.) This book has everything and somehow managed to keep it all together. And I mean everything. We start off with three orphans, two who are wards in Chancery (no money cause it's tied up in an unmercifully entangled law suit). Their guardian adopts the third ward, an illegitimate young woman named Esther. Of course they all become friends (two of them, the wards in Chancery, fall in love with each other, of course), and all is well thus far...if only Rick (one of the Chancery wards) would grow up and get a job.

The second plot thread is what occurs at Chesney Wold, the ancient estate of Lord and Lady Dedlock. (What great names!) There we get the feeling that Lady Dedlock might be keeping a secret from her husband about her past - and so does her evil solicitor (the villain is a lawyer!) and he decides to investigate. What he finds out is quite surprising.

I won't say anymore about the plot in general, because it's so much more fun to read along. But I will say this for the book: Bleak House is famous for a lot of interesting quirks, the first being that is has one of the first out-standing detectives in fiction, Mr. Bucket; second, it has a very strong message about social responsibility as well as a wonderfully harsh criticism of Christian Missionaries and charity; third, Lady Dedlock is amazing, even when all she can say is that she is 'bored to death'; fourth, it has a very revolting study of 'artistic and aesthetic philosphy'; and fifth, it is perilously close to being an un-Dicken's like unhappy ending.


Anonymous said...

Do you have to add my user name before I show up as a contributor? Well, now you have it, if that's so. - Heather

R.E.II™ said...

extreme reading ..sounds interesting