17 March 2010
To the Admirable Mr. Dickens,
I finished your latest novel, Bleak House, last night. When I picked it up at around 8:00pm, I didn’t have the intention of finishing it. However, once you left off of berating the court system, the upper classes, and society in general (as I asked you to do in my last letter – I’m sure your remember it) and reengaged the story and your characters, I found myself unable to put it down. It turned out to be an excellent example of the balance between romance and realism so many writers seek.
As per my last letter, I was quite frustrated with your diatribes that seemed to go on and on about the “bleak house” that was London; however, as I look back, I realize the fault was probably mine in my impatience to uncover the fates of your characters and clear up the remaining mysteries.
I see and appreciate your revealing society as a collection of bleak houses. I love that the only setting which is NOT bleak is the home titled Bleak House. Here there was happiness and peace.
In the end, I was very pleased with the fates of most of your characters. While Richard’s death saddened me, I was fully prepared for it due to the parallels you drew between Richard and Gridley. A life obsessed may only end one way, unhappily. I was also terribly saddened by the fates of Lady Dedlock and Nemo (Hawdon), but I love that Lady Dedlock retreated to the cemetery where he lay to die herself – nicely done. Leicester Dedlock certainly came down in the world – clearly as a result of his highhanded and antiquated ideas; however, the fact that George was able to find a place for himself (and Philip) brought me a great deal of joy. After all, George was one of my favorite characters.
I am also happy with Ester’s marriage to Allan Woodcourt – it absolutely broke my heart when she burned the flowers that he had given her, and I’m not sorry she didn’t marry a man she continually referred to as her “guardian.” Thank you for avoiding that uncomfortable and significantly icky ending. I was also thrilled to find that Detective Bucket was not the villain I had feared. He was actually one of the good guys… you fooled me again. (I also love that his wife was his trusty sidekick!)
The ending of the court case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce was also very fitting. It reminded me of a children’s book that is one of my son’s favorites – Eric Carle’s The Greedy Python. It is a story of a snake that gobbles up everything in sight and eventually bites his own tail and swallows himself… sounds like a Chancery Court case to me.
I very much appreciate your efforts to tie up loose ends when concluding your story, but I am left with several questions. 1) Does Jarndyce remain alone or is there some sort of connection forming between him and the elder Ms. Woodcourt? – I do hope so. 2) Does Mrs. Jellyby get a one way trip to her beloved Africa as I so hoped she would? 3) What happened to Grandfather Smallweed? Such a despicable character surely got his just desserts.
I have other concerns, but those are my most pressing. If you could get back to me on these questions, I would be most grateful.