I am more than pleased to announce that I have completed my reading of Charles Dickens' 'Bleak House'. Having read most of his novels, I must say that this is the most difficult to read and my least favourite, although I would still characterize myself as being a Dickens fan.
The story has a litigation as its undercurrent, and a portrayal of the Chancery (legal system in Britain) as being a farce. All of the numerous characters in the novel are somehow influenced by the outcome of a dispute over a will, or wills. The final day in court for the Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce case comes right at the end of the novel and just proves the point that Dickens makes and that is that the Chancery is a farce.
There are too many characters and I eventually was able to hone in on the main ones and follow their progression through the quagmire of wordiness. Dickens takes rabbit trips and indulges in lengthy descriptions and dialogues that do not further the plot nor do they develop the characters. This novel needs some heavy editing.
I came to realize at the half-way point that I was identifying with one of the main characters. It became intensely personal and I would say that were it not for Richard and his predicament, I would have lost all incentive to finish the book. I found that his state of mind and his reaction to his circumstances was what made him the most real character in the novel. (no spoilers here)
Other characters in the story were either a product of their time and culture, which we in the 21st century have a difficult identifying with, or an overblown imagination by the author, who while trying to create interesting individuals for his novel, ended up creating people who do not exist anywhere in reality.
My overall impression of the story is that it is a British soap opera. This becomes evident early on, but when reading a Dickens novel, one reads not only for the story, but to discover the beauty of the English language painted by an artist of the first order.
In this case, however, the painting is simply too large.