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An important literary work that's also a joy to read.

There are a few Kindle versions, including a free one and this $1.99 one.

I have both, and the only difference is the $1.99 version includes the 38 images by Hablot Browne from the original serial installments (19 monthly installments of 3 chapters each, released during 1849-1850, with 2 images per installment) and the first edition of the book (1850). Browne did the illustrations for 10 of Dickens' novels.

The images in the Kindle version are low-resolution scans of the original images (or perhaps scans of other scans).

On the Kindle Paperwhite, I don't think the images look very good, and some detail is hard to make out on some of the images. On the 10" iPad running the Kindle app, the images are much easier to see, both in their original size and when blown up to take up almost the full screen. However, the low-resolution images don't look very crisp on the high-resolution iPad display.

I'll attach pictures of the same image on the Paperwhite and the 10" iPad (running the Kindle app) in hopes they'll help give you a better idea what you're getting for $1.99 on either device.

Note that you can see all the images online for free. (I'll put a link in the first comment.) However, the site I link to doesn't tell you where each image belongs in the book, which chapter it goes with. I guess that's the biggest reason I can think of to pay the $2 - the Kindle book has each image embedded in the place where it appears in the print version of the book. The images are of historic significance, each one adds to the story (the artist was working with Dickens), and I enjoy them a lot.

Just set your expectations low if you're getting it for your Paperwhite.
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My wife and I have been reading this together, a chapter a day over the past ten weeks. It has been a revelation for me, largely because I had somehow picked up a prejudice against Dickens, and this is the first novel of his that I have attempted as a mature reader. What an achievement: suspenseful, dramatic, crammed with marvelous characters, and often very funny! Reading it has totally transformed my view of the author, showing him as the master he is, whether on the small scale of sentence and paragraph or the vast one of the entire thousand-page span.

The chapter-a-day approach is ideally suited to a novel that was published in serial form in a magazine. Very often, our discussions would last longer than the readings. My wife and I soon fell into a rhythm. I would close the book and try to summarize where the story had led us and guess where it might go. Then she would open hers and point out the numerous phrases she had underlined: something funny or touching, a picture-perfect description, or a strikingly unconventional use of language. Reading and discussing in this way, we learned from each other, but above all we learned from Dickens. This Penguin Classics edition transcribes the author's working notes at the end, and we can see him working out what to put where as his whole narrative takes shape. His ability to maintain the suspense of a mystery story from one episode to the next -- the essence of serial writing -- is amazing in itself. But to dash off each part in prose that, on almost every page, could be a candidate for inclusion in an anthology, that is simply mind-boggling.

The opening pages are famous, describing as they do a fog over London, a fog that is both literal and figurative, symbolizing the arcane obfuscation of the Court of Chancery, whose slow deliberations will suspend most of the characters in a kind of limbo. Technically, what is amazing is that the first page is entirely made up of sentence fragments: "Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights." And he ends the entire book on a sentence fragment too. "But I know that my dearest little pets are very pretty, and that my darling is very beautiful, and that my husband is very handsome, and that my guardian has the brightest and most benevolent face that ever was seen; and that they can very well do without much beauty in me -- even supposing---."

People accuse Dickens of sentiment, and there are certainly grounds for it in my second quotation above. But that is page 989 of the book, and the narrator, Esther Summerson, has surely earned the right to a little sentiment in finally arriving at her happy ending. Earlier in the novel, there are a number of death scenes, another notorious occasion for tear-jerking sentiment. But I am amazed by the variety with which Dickens treats them. One does indeed bring a tear to the eye; another comes after a burst of false euphoria, like the ending of LA TRAVIATA; another is set up with all the apparatus of a Gothic horror story; and yet another -- arguably the most important -- is delivered with a blow as shocking as the fall of the guillotine.

My quotations also illustrate the two narrative modes that Dickens alternates throughout the novel. One, in the present tense, uses a third-person narrator, looking down on the action sometimes literally from above. The other, written after the events, is the first-person narrative of Esther Summerson, an apparent orphan who is entering her teens as the book begins and remains throughout as the sweet and obliging helpmeet to anyone who shows her a shred of kindness. It is a wonderful contrast: the omniscient narrator versus the one who appears to know little or nothing. But there is a particular charm in Esther's voice, for her modest reluctance to imagine that other people may have a higher opinion of her than she has of herself does not stop the reader from looking beyond her gaze and seeing things as they really are. She must be one of the earliest unreliable narrators in fiction, and one of the most charming. Yet she is an acute observer of other people, and not merely kind but proactive and brave when the occasion calls for it.

The story of Esther and the mystery of her parentage is one of the two main strands of the plot. For it seems likely that, if the truth were known, a number of great fortunes would be altered. Dickens introduces what must be one of the first professional detectives in literature, Inspector Bucket; although a secondary character, he is shown in surprising depth and displays both forensic acumen and human understanding. There are also a number of lawyers and legal hangers-on who have their noses on a particular part of the scent, ranging from the patrician Mr. Tulkinghorn who keeps his eyes on everything like a big black spider in his web, through the upwardly-mobile clerk Guppy, to the despicable moneylender's agent Smallweed. The other strand is the Chancery suit itself, the interminable Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which promises to confer great wealth once the issue of the proper heirs has been determined. But it has already ground more than one hopeful beneficiary in its mill, and threatens to destroy all the others. John Jarndyce, the only one of that name we meet in the book, has wisely determined to stay aloof from the proceedings, and it is to his home in the country -- the far from bleak Bleak House -- that he brings the two teenage wards in the case, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, along with Esther Summerson, whose connection is less clearly established. In the early chapters at least, Jarndyce's retreat a little way north of the city, has all the charm of Bunyan's House Beautiful, as a respite from the moil and toil of the law courts and the slums surrounding them.

Cliff's Notes (which I did not consult until now) lists over seventy characters in the novel, whether major, minor, or walk-ons. But there are remarkably few of the latter. An individual without a name, such as a fellow-passenger in the coach by which the heroine is traveling, may be identified many chapters later and play a vital role. And there are many figures who appear in one scene to add color or a little humor -- character-roles, as it were -- but then keep coming back many times, often with their particular catch phrases or characteristic business, much as in a modern sitcom. And it is not unusual that even these minor characters will contribute some essential key to move the action forward. There is a large number of apparently secondary characters who are drawn in one dimension at first, but who then expand in surprisingly complex ways. Inspector Bucket is one of these, as are the old trooper Mr. George, the young physician Allan Woodcourt, and numerous others. But the most significant examples are Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock, who are introduced in Dickens' brilliantly satirical second chapter as the epitome of high fashion, as free from personality as a marble bust or a fashion plate. Yet as the novel proceeds, first Lady Dedlock and then her husband begin to show surprising depth, developing a second dimension in terms of narrative complexity, and even a third, in that they each find themselves feeling things that surprise even them. Finally, there are people who are in three dimensions from the start, such as John Jarndyce, who has a way of quietly surprising everybody, and Esther Summerson whose emotional richness deepens even as she herself claims it does not really exist.

I have to say, though, that Dickens' habit of bringing his characters back in enhanced guises can make for very difficult reading. It requires quite a feat of memory to recall when you encountered a figure before, especially if the appearance was a brief one. Normal character lists do not help because they may tell you things from much later in the novel; one of the entries in the Cliff's Notes list, for instance, reveals the solution to a mystery that Dickens himself spins out over 750 pages! Even the endnotes by Nicola Bradbury in this edition are full of spoilers; she does issue a warning, but I can see no reason why notes of this kind are even needed, since they prevent the reader from looking up the period details that really are necessary. What would really be ideal (though I don't know if it exists) would be some kind of hypertext edition that offered information keyed to how far you had read in the book, withholding information that would not be revealed until later.

Dickens' first great success was THE PICKWICK PAPERS, which he undertook to provide text for a series of illustrations by the artist Robert Seymour, who eventually committed suicide. All his subsequent novels were issued with illustrations, and the inclusion in this edition of the original 40 plates by "Phiz" adds greatly to the effect of the whole. What I like about them is the way that illustrator and author keep out of each other's way; the verbal descriptions work on one level, and the pictures on another, without duplication. I especially like the way Phiz puts in detail, such as the increasing dandyism of Mr. Guppy's dress every time he appears, or the way the portraits hanging on the walls of a salon offer a subtle parody of the action below. Phiz also has two distinct styles: most of his etchings give the impression of pen drawings, almost caricatures, but there are half a dozen or so that are distinctly atmospheric, romantic in nature rather than satirical. But is this not appropriate for an author who himself combined both genres and many more in such a magnificent compendium?

In addition to the illustrations, endnotes, and Dickens' own chapter plans, the Penguin Classics edition contains a useful chronology, notes on the Court of Chancery and Spontaneous Combustion (one of the more gruesome deaths in literature), an extensive bibliography, and three separate introductions: one by Dickens himself, mentioning some of the real sources for his invention; one by the editor Bradbury, infuriatingly academic but making some good points; and a lucid preface by Terry Eagleton. All these are better read after the novel itself than before, but Eagleton's essay especially makes a stimulating cue for later discussion, extracting the diverse strands of this glorious tangle of a book, for the delighted reader to weave together.
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on August 18, 2015
This classic novel by Charles Dickens- "David Copperfield" is so awesome! I avoided reading it for quite some time after getting through "A Tale of Two Cities", "Oliver Twist" and "Great Expectations" because of how long it was (not far from 1000 pages) and so finally I decided to try it. Not gonna lie, the beginning is a little tough to get through because it is a little slow, and takes a bit for the book to really get intresting and settle into a nice, even reading pace.
BUT DON"T GIVE UP!!! You will not be disappointed! I literally set this book aside for a while when it didn't seem very good, but thought better of it and continued reading, and I was very rewarded! It is full of great, colorful characters and an intresting life story. There's a little bit of everything in this book, mistreatment, treachery, adventure, sadness, happiness, romance, drama... the works.
This is my favorite of his books (a very, very close second being "A Tale of Two Cities"), and don't be daunted by it's length. Every page is worth it!
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on March 30, 2017
Let me be clear -- I absolutely love David Copperfield. It was assigned summer reading one year in high school, and while many students bemoaned the length and didn't finish the book, I reveled the detail, the characterization, and the numerous inconsequential but charming incidents. It became my favorite book, although I have only read it once between then and getting this copy, about ten years later. I immediately noticed that this copy was much smaller, but chalked it up to smaller print and an exaggerated memory. Then I read first third of the book in two hours -- not normal for me for an airplane novel, let alone Dickens. The plot seemed to be progressing at a breakneck pace, and there were numerous character details and incidents which I remembered fondly and waited to read again, only to feel as though their time had passed.

Needless to say, I became extremely suspicious, I checked the inside jacket and -- ABRIDGED. While many of my high school classmates might have breathed a sigh of relief at the assignment's abbreviation to a mere 276 pages, I was devastated that instead of revisiting an old friend in all its detail, I was reading a summary of the plot points. I personally do not understand why anyone would abridge any novel, but I accept that some people must prefer to read abridged versions. My problem, however, is that nowhere on the Amazon page does it say that this version IS abridged, nor does it say so on the front or back covers of the book (if it had, I would have returned the book immediately)!!! So there is no way of knowing until you receive the book that you have not, in fact, received Dickens' entire work -- and even then you have to do some snooping in the inside cover to find the truth.

If you want to enjoy the full, true David Copperfield experience -- and what an experience it is -- DO NOT BUY THIS VERSION.

If you want the long-form SparkNotes to get through an assignment, you've come to the right place.
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on August 28, 2011
If you've decided to read Dicken's BLEAK HOUSE, one of the longest of the great English-language classics, your next decision is probably which edition to read.

The Signet paperback edition is perfectly readable, as are most other simple editions. They have the text, and often the original illustrations, and sometimes a helpful introductory essay by some scholar. But, if you're in the long haul, you probably would want an annotated edition with lots of reader aides. Your two most obvious choices are the Penguin paperback and the Oxford World Classics paperback.

Either one is a good choice and should be satisfactory, but I made a point of comparing both editions (I had a real jones for plowing through this novel, which is still mentioned in law school classes), so I can offer some insights.

Penguin edition: regular retail price (not the Amazon discount) $13. Total pages 965 of which the novel (including the author's preface and the illustrations) uses 894 pages, with 12 pages of footnotes (grouped by chapter, keyed to the page number). Size of type 8 points, dimensions in inches 7 1/8 H x 4¼ W x 1 9/16 Thick, weight just a smidge over one pound. The chapter name is at the top of each page. There is an appendix of Dickens's jottings on the development of the plot, which is (in my opinion) not very useful.

Oxford World Classics edition: regular retail price: $12. Total pages 945 + 29 pages of introductory notes, of which the novel uses 914 pages (in this edition the illustrations take an entire page, which is blank on the back), notes use 29 pages (keyed to the page number). Size of type 8 points, dimensions 7¾ H x 4½ W x 1 13/16 thick, weight approx 1¼ pound. The introductory notes include two simple maps of the London and of the Inns of Court, circa 1850, - but you can find similar maps on the internet.

Both are scrupulously based on authoritative printings of the novel and nicely printed, so much of the qualitative difference is in the footnotes. The two sets of footnotes are different, often to different places in the text, but both demonstrate a thorough grasp of Dickensian lit (I learned that there are at least two longstanding periodicals devoted to Dickens, countless books on him and his times, and that he wrote a wealth of newspaper articles and letters that are relevant to stuff in this novel).

I would be hard pressed to choose one of the two editions -- I finished this book by having one edition by my bedside and the other with me everywhere else -- but the Oxford edition, although a trifle more bulky, seems to have (slightly) more helpful footnotes.
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on February 19, 2015
It's important, when reading this, to remember that "David Copperfield" was originally published in 20 monthly installments, rather than as a single work of fiction. Each installment was only 3 to 4 chapters long, and the final two installments were released together as a double-volume. This was kind of like 19th-century Netflix; you got to watch the two-part series finale all at once rather than have to wait another week to see how it all turned out.

When read as a single novel, there's a fair bit of repetition involved (and Dickens famously was paid by the word, which led to the invention of such loquacious characters as Mr. Micawber, who never uses five words when 50 would suffice). I read it basically a chapter a day, with most chapters taking up about 30 minutes of my time. In this method I still got through the book faster than the 19th-century target audience would have done, but still got to live with the story for more than two months of my life. I felt somewhat bereft when it was all over.

While "David Copperfield" is deemed highly literary today, it was also the cutting edge of popular entertainment when it was written and released. The book follows David Copperfield (whose life, in many respects, followed the broad contours of Dickens' own life) from birth through adulthood. There are many self-contained episodes throughout the book, but there's also a fairly regular cast of characters who show up in every installment. Each of these characters are vividly portrayed, and quite memorable: David's childhood nurse, Peggotty, and her extended family; David's two school classmates, Steerforth and Traddles, whose lives go off in quite different directions; Agnes, Dora, and Emily, the three women in David's life; Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick, who serve both as comic relief and as David's moral compasses; and the Murdstones and Uriah Heep, because every story needs despicable villains. You won't forget many of these people in a hurry.

While not all of these characters are present for the whole novel, they each get their own story arc; nobody disappears throughout the book, and David runs into them over and over again even as his life takes him to different places and social ranks. This is true, incidentally, of minor characters, many of whom return in the final chapters just so we can see what they've been up to.

"David Copperfield" is a richly rewarding experience to read; while there are lots of soap-opera twists, alternating with moments of high comedy and profound tragedy, the writing style is also very compelling, with Dickens being a master of comical or cynical observations; it's laugh-out-loud funny in many places. Dickens was also interested in the law, which is how I make my living; his sardonic observations on the state of 19th century British jurisprudence are accurate and funny; the profession really hasn't changed all that much in the past 150-plus years, has it?

Best of all, among all the Dickens' novels, this may be the one with the fewest anti-Semitic statements; I was only able to count one in the whole of the book's 64 chapters.
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on January 3, 2016
In my last quarter century, I am reading a "booket list" of classics that I had missed in the past. Up to reading "Copperfield," my favorite was "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Dumas. Now I have a new favorite. In my mind, this is the perfect novel. The characters are so different and so effortlessly revealed. I felt like I really knew these people. It was interesting to me how he allows you to encounter his characters as they reappear surprisingly later in the story. It is so well woven together and such a pleasure reading! And it includes a great love story.
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on January 24, 2016
I had not read any Dickens for years since I enjoyed "A Tale of Two Cities" and "A Christmas Carol." Several decades ago, I started Bleak House, a hefty 880 pages in this edition, but ran out of steam after only a hundred pages. But I vowed I would try again and I am most glad that I did. One has to remember that like most of his books, this one first appeared in segments in magazines and other periodicals--and that Dickens was paid by the word. So to say it is "wordy" is the understatement of the century. Nothing occurs without detailed discussion of many pages. Couple this with Dickens' incomparable ability to generate numerous plots, fascinating characters, and gripping descriptions of 19th century London (dark, foggy, and moist), the pages mount up with what appears to be limited unified plot development. Here, it takes Dickens 400 or so pages to set up his plot and many sub-plots. But once the reader gets past this point, the book becomes quite interesting and engrossing.

This book of course is famous as Dickens' indictment of Britain's Court of Chancery, the Equity Court presided over by the Chancellor. The central focus is the endless litigation involved in settling the distribution of the Jarndyce estate among the various heirs. This litigation had been going on for decades, with nothing much settled. Dickens was quite familiar with legal London having worked for a time in transcribling records of equity proceedings. This book sort of bookends with "The Pickwick Papers," which is highly critical of the common law courts. As a lawyer, I found his highly unfavorable observations in some ways similar to what goes on in our own legal system. So this is a good book for prospective law students--however, relatively little of it actually deals with the Chancery Court. In the end, results for the heirs (nothing) and lawyers (happy fees drawn from the estate's resources) is typical here as well, especially in class action suits.

I guess today we would call this a "mystery," and quite a good one at that. Writing superb ones seems a primary British occupation. But there is much more to this than an exciting "who done it." Dickens generates an unlimited cast of quite fascinating characters--the upper class folks in charge, maids and servants, independent merchants, derelicts, and various other colorful inhabitants of London (a prime character itself). Each character's speech patterns, from Oxford English to cockney, is captured perfectly--this was after all the high point of the British class system. The lower classes know their place, and rejoice in serving the wealthy; and dank London is overflowing with extreme poverty, hopelessness, and despair. But there are also some warm and happy folks as well, willing to help their less fortunate colleagues. This focus on Victorian London is a valuable dimension in itself.

This Oxford Illustrated Dickens edition is enhanced by the inclusion of 40 original illustrations, two pages of brief descriptions of the characters (which is absolutely essential to keep things straight), and an introductory essay by Obert Sitwell on Dickens and the novel. Though a long grind, reading the novel in its entirety I found to be a enlightening and engrossing experience well worth navigating through endless sub-plots and characters. A happy ending is had by all.
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on January 2, 2017
My Grandfather introduced me to Dickens on my tenth birthday, giving me Oliver Twist and stating, (as I was a voracious reader even then) "If you haven't read Dickens, you haven't read." Well... I cannot comment on that but I had read most of Dicken's before I was twelve and in my second (or third) reading of some of his books I have just finished re-reading David Copperfield. A very large book...coming in at eight hundred odd pages in my addition (which also has the most delightful pen and ink illustrations) be ready for a long but satisfying journey into the life and times of Dickens.
Dickens stated David Copperfield was his 'favourite child' .... he was well pleased with the result and many claim it was largely autobiographical.
Yes.... I love it...although very wordy and descriptive... but not my favourite. I much prefer Great Expectations or Tale of Two Cities.
However once again the reader is treated to a bevy of unforgettable characters. Apart from David Copperfield, there is his austere but warm and giving Aunt, Betsy Trotwood.... the charming and loquacious Micawber and his doting wife, the dreadful Murdstone siblings, the vile and undulating Uriah Heep and the simple but loveable character of Mr Dick. Dickens somehow manages to name his characters in such a way the name befits the character.... like the loving Peggotty... David's childhood nurse. Long before a descriptive word was read I could picture this warm and loving woman.
Sadly Charles Dickens died early in life at the age of fifty eight. Nonetheless he was incredibly prolific, and in an era where the production of a novel must have been quite a task, this in itself is remarkable. I salute Charles Dickens.... who wrote many masterpieces and is still being read almost two hundred years later and perhaps for many years to come.
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on June 12, 2015
BLEAK HOUSE has been a joy to read, and for me its nearly 1000 pages was not enough. So many memorable characters, intertwining plot threads and twists, moments of suspense, intense sadness, political and social commentary, and humor. Many things happen in the nearly 1000 pages of BLEAK HOUSE, but if there is one somewhat unifying thread it is the Court of Chancery case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which is a confusing inheritance case which has been mired in the court for decades, it would seem, and the wealth of which is being slowly bled away by shady lawyers and court costs. This is Dickens commentary on the legal system of his day. While this case hovers over several of the characters caught up in its clutches, there is much more to BLEAK HOUSE. Dickens was on the top of his game when he wrote BLEAK HOUSE. His opening description of London, shrouded in mist, obscured, setting the tone and image of the rest of the novel, that the people and events you are about to read are not what they seem to be:

“Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwhich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.”

And, as in all of Dickens' novels, there are the great characters, with equally fitting names: the Smallweed family; Mr. Tulkinghorn, the vile lawyer; Mr. Guppy, of Kenge and Carboy; Jo, the destitute boy cross-street sweeper; the lovely but troubled Lady Dedlock; Mr. Snagsby; the master detective, Mr. Bucket; Mr. Harold Skimpole, who claims to be but a child, to know nothing of money or time, and so borrows liberally from people with never an intention to pay anything back; and dozens more.

I don't want to give away plots, as if I could summarize a 1000 page novel, so I won't. If you are already of fan of Dickens but for some reason had not yet tackled BLEAK HOUSE, do so. If you've never read Dickens, I can't think of a better place to start than with one of his very best.
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