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Bleak House (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 1036 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141439726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141439723
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (287 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bleak House is a satirical look at the Byzantine legal system in London as it consumes the minds and talents of the greedy and nearly destroys the lives of innocents--a contemporary tale indeed. Dickens's tale takes us from the foggy dank streets of London and the maze of the Inns of Court to the peaceful countryside of England. Likewise, the characters run from murderous villains to virtuous girls, from a devoted lover to a "fallen woman," all of whom are affected by a legal suit in which there will, of course, be no winner. The first-person narrative related by the orphan Esther is particularly sweet. The articulate reading by the acclaimed British actor Paul Scofield, whose distinctive broad English accent lends just the right degree of sonority and humor to the text, brings out the color in this classic social commentary disguised as a Victorian drama. However, to abridge Dickens is, well, a Dickensian task, the results of which make for a story in which the author's convoluted plot lines and twists of fate play out in what seems to be a fast-forward format. Listeners must pay close attention in order to keep up with the multiple narratives and cast of curious characters, including the memorable Inspector Bucket and Mr. Guppy. Fortunately, the publisher provides a partial list of characters on the inside jacket. (Running time: 3 hours; 2 cassettes) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Bleak House is such a natural for audio that it comes as no surprise to read in Peter Ackroyd's biography of Dickens that he himself read it aloud to Wilkie Collins and his own family. No matter how good he was as a readerAand he did go on to present public readings regularly after thisADickens could not have performed better than Robert Whitfield does here. With a motley cast of characters to challenge the skill of any narrator, his brilliant dramatizations range from a homeless street urchin to an arrogant barrister, from a canny old windbag to a high-minded heroine who deserves the happy ending Dickens affords her. Whitfield is also as persuasive as the indignant voice of the author himself, attacking both the injustice of the law and the cruel indifference of society. This may be one of the most Dickensian novels Dickens ever wrote. Highly recommended.AJo Carr, Sarasota, FL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The second narrator is a character in the book, Esther Summerson.
P. Schumacher
This was a slow book for me to read but very well worth the time it took.
PAN66
The Everyman's Library edition shows the quality of this series of books.
Arthem

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

135 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Al Kitching on November 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
It's a monster of a book, and that's not really a reference to the length necessarily (although at 900+ pages, you can't help but be a little daunted). Bleak House has big plans for you, it wants to grab you and shout at you and whisper at you and tell you ten thousand things all at once in dozens of different accents. It's a book, really it is, with a mission, and an appropriately large dollop of missionary zeal.

Dickens was already a household name when he wrote it. He'd already cast his net far and wide over an increasingly eager audience (Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby had all garnered great praise for him, and Martin Chuzzlewit's extensive American episode - after his trip there in 1842 - had helped his popularity no end in the US). He was world famous. He had also just begun editing the weekly journal Household Words, a publication he hoped would help highlight the social injustices of the age. Bleak House is confident and furiously angry in many respects addressing, as it does, much of the same agenda that Household Words railed against week in week out.

The plot centres on the interminable case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce, a years-old law suit creaking its way through Chancery (a reference to two cases: Day v Croft, a suit begun in 1838 and still being heard in 1854; and Jennings v Jennings, begun in 1798 and finally settled in, wait for it, 1878, although, as Dickens says in his Preface, 'if I wanted [more]...I could rain them on these pages, to the shame of a parsimonious public').

"Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in the course of time, become so complicated, that no man alive knows what it means.
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98 of 106 people found the following review helpful By sid1gen on March 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is the second book by Dickens I have read so far, but it will not be the last. "Bleak House" is long, tightly plotted, wonderfully descriptive, and full of memorable characters. Dickens has written a vast story centered on the Jarndyce inheritance, and masterly manages the switches between third person omniscient narrator and first person limited narrator. His main character Esther never quite convinces me of her all-around goodness, but the novel is so well-written that I just took Esther as she was described and ran along with the story. In this book a poor boy (Jo) will be literally chased from places of refuge and thus provide Dickens with one of his most powerful ways to indict a system that was particularly cruel to children. Mr. Skimpole, pretending not to be interested in money; Mr. Jarndyce, generous and good; Richard, stupid and blind; the memorable Dedlocks, and My Lady Dedlock's secret being uncovered by the sinister Mr. Tulkinghorn; Mrs. Jellyby and her telescopic philanthropy; the Ironmaster described in Chapter 28, presenting quite a different view of industralization than that shown by Dickens in his next work, "Hard Times." Here is a veritable cosmos of people, neighbors, friends, enemies, lovers, rivals, sinners, and saints, and Dickens proves himself a true master at describing their lives and the environment they dwell in. There are landmark chapters: Chapter One must be the best description of a dismal city under attack by dismal weather and tightly tied by perfectly dismal laws, where the Lord Chancellor sits eternally in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Chapter 32 has one of the eeriest scenes ever written, with suspicious smoke, greasy and reeking, as a prelude to a grisly discovery. Chapter 47 is when Jo cannot "move along" anymore.Read more ›
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By the_lighthousekeeper on May 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is without a doubt as relevant now as it was when Dickens wrote it. In fact, its probably more so. As G.K. Chesterton said, when Dickens wrote this book, he had grown up. We have the civil courtroom as it really is, a grinding machine that breaks lives underneath it every day. We see the lawyers who feed off of all this human misery, and encourage their clients to wreck their lives while piously portraying themselves as upholders of the law.
Of course, this book is about a lot more than just the law. One of the most amusing subplots involves various women involved in charity. As the character Mr. Jarndyce says, there are two kinds of people who do charitable work. Some accomplish a great deal, and make very little noise, and some make a great deal of noise, and accomplish nothing. Of course, most of the ones in this book are of the second catagory. The most memorable by far is Mrs. Jellybee, who obsesses over a colony in Africa while her own family falls apart around her. It's exactly like people today, who want to save the whales or free Tibet while people in their own neighborhoods starve.
The characters in this book are excellent, and far more realistic than in most of Dickens's works. Mr. Jarndyce is the heroic father figure, but he is a real one, who tried to be kind and guide his family but can only watch helplessly while his nephew slowly destroys himself trying to overcome the court, which of course is impossible.
Many people have had trouble with the character of Esther Summerson, and her relentless goodness and self-effacement. I think she is a fantastic character, and is Dickens's way of reinforcing the message of the book, that you need to find happiness in your own life, and things like lawsuits do nothing but destroy happiness and should be avoided.
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