Monday, March 22, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I think the title of this post should be: It's Monday...What Am I NOT Reading?

March has not been so great for reading. I killed in January and February, with 22 books each month, I have only finished 2 so far this month! TWO! That's just terrible!

I'm currently in the middle of a gazillion books, I just can't seem to finish any of them.

Classics I'm working on:
  • Bleak House
  • Armadale
  • Mansfield Park
 Young Adult:
  • Shiver
  • Ballad
  • The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
  • Let the Right One In
Books that I'm dying to get to:
  • Incarceron
  • The Dead-Tossed Waves
  • Shutter Island
  • The Semantics of Murder

Friday, March 12, 2010

Reading Journal: Bleak House (Serial #2)

Per usual I'm behind on posting, and I'm actually in serial part 4--and stalled there at the moment. So I guess I'll work on catching up here. I've tried so hard to finish a Dickens' book, but I always seem to get stalled. I did not have this problem when I read Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. And I started Armadale a few days ago, and I'm totally hooked. Dickens just can't hook me in the same way.

In the case of Bleak House, whenever Dickens' deviates from Ester's narrative I begin to lose interest and the story looses its forward momentum. The second serial part (chapters 5 through 7) spent two chapters in Ester's narrative. Chapter 7 was set at the Dedlock house again, but was interesting because it dealt with a ghost story.

Chapter 5: A Morning Adventure
  • Ester, Ada, Richard, and Miss Jellyby go on a morning walk and run into the crazy lady that sits in on Chancery Court every day. She insists that they visit to her room. She lives above a bizarre shop, the owner of which knew Tom Jarndyce (of the Jarndyce suit) and told the group the story of Tom's suicide.
  • It's also becoming clear that Richard and Ada have a thing for each other. Meaningful glances and all that.
  • They also learn that the old lady has a male neighbor who rarely leaves his apartment and is commonly believed to have sold himself to the devil.
Chapter 6: Quite at Home
  • The group travels to Bleak House, the home of Mr. Jarndyce. He sends a note to greet them along way begging them not to mention the kindness he has done for them and to greet him as an old friend.
  • Ester is given the housekeeper's keys. I suppose this was to be expected, as she is not a relation, but I still rather taken aback as she was told she was to be a companion to Ada, but I don't remember a mention of her being a housekeeper.
  • Ester gives a description of the house, and her first impression is that the name does not do it justice.
  • They meet Mr. Skimpole, who is described by Mr. Jarndyce as a child. He seem to dote on Mr. Skimpole and enjoy his company, but as far as I'm concerned it can never be good when a man will not own up to his responsibilities just because he wants to be able to do whatever he wants to do in that moment.
  • And I was right about Mr. Skimpole who tricks Richard and Ester out of thirty pounds, an amount I understand to be significant to people of their means. Even Mr. Jarndyce was upset when he found out.
Chapter 7: The Ghost's Walk
  • This chapter takes us back to the Dedlock's home Chesney Wold in Lincolnshire. The Dedlocks are away in Paris, but the housekeeper's grandson and attorney's known to the Dedlock's attorney Mr. Tulkinghorn are given a tour of the house.
  • Ms. Rouncewell relates the story of a previous tenant during the King Charles era. The wife and husband disagreed who should be ruling England, and one day his actions led to her becoming crippled. She would walk back and forth on the walkway using the stone balustrade. One day she fell there and proclaimed that she would walk there even in death until the house is taken down in shame.
  • The walkway is now known as The Ghost's Walk as her footsteps can be heard and, as Mrs. Rouncewell says, "must be heard".

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reading Journal: Bleak House (Serial #1)

After a month-long spate of YA paranormal romance, I've decided to delve into a chunkster classsic (one of the goals I set for myself in 2010). I thought about trying Middlemarch again, but I thought maybe for my first chunkster I'd try a book I hadn't failed at twice already.

So I chose Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. Last year I read The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, which, along with analyzing one of the first "trial of the century" phenomenon, also analyzed the new obsession with detectives and crime solving in the 1800s. This book pulled heavily from Collins' The Woman in White and The Moonstone as well as Inspector Bucket from Bleak House.

I've only just finished the first four chapters of the novel, which was the first section published as a serial. I'm going to try and write about each section of the serial, for your benefit, but mostly for mine--I've got to try and keep everything straight!

Chapter 1: In Chancery
  • The most noticeable (and interesting) part of this chapter is the pains Dickens went through to set the scene. Close to six paragraphs are dedicated to describing the fog-laden, dreary weather. We get it.
  • This chapter introduces the on-going and never-ending suit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. It's apparent that, other than tons of paper, a name of infamy, and misery to those involved, this suit has produced nothing substantial over the years.
  • There is mention of two young people who will be given to the care of their cousin--but it's not really clear what is going on.
Chapter 2: In Fashion
  • Introduces us to Lady Dedlock and Sir Leicester Dedlock.
  • Mr. Tulkinghorn, the Deadlock's lawyer, arrives to discuss matters dealing with Jarndyce and Jarndyce. We learn that Lady Dedlock has some kind of claim in the suit.
  • Mr. Tulkinghorn is about to tell the Dedlocks what has occured in the suit, but Lady Dedlock interrupts by fainting.
Chapter 3: A Progress
  • And with chapter 3, I feel the story has finally begun. Or at least a true narrative begins to take shape.
  • Dickens moves into first person and begins the story of Ester Summerson. She is a character clouded in mystery, but she is not aware of it. Her godmother tells her that she and her mother were a disgrace and ruined her life--she is a bastard and an orphan.
  • When her godmother dies, Ester learns from Mr. Kenge that she was actually her aunt. She is told that Mr. Jarndyce has arranged to place her at a school where she will be educated and learn to be a governess. At this school, Ester is well-liked.
  • After about six years, Mr. Jarndyce arranges for Ester to become a companion to a young lady he is taking on as a ward. She is taken to Mr. Kenge's law firm where she meets Ada Clare and her distant cousin Richard Carstone, both of who are orphans.
  • This is where the narrative intersects and the reader realizes that this is the meeting the Chancellor refers to in the first chapter. The Chancellor approves Mr. Jarndyce's request to have Ester and Ada live at Bleak House.
  • As they leave they are accosted by an old lady that is clearly familiar with the suit they know nothing about.
Chapter 4: Telescopic Philanthropy
  • The group spends the night at Mrs. Jellyby's, a woman who dedicates her life to causes at the detriment of her children and home.
  • Much of Ester's nurturing nature is revealed in this chapter, as the Jellyby children fall for her immediately and she feels compelled to mother them.
  • The oldest Jellyby daughter comes to Ester in the night and confides that she is unhappy and cries herself to sleep at Ester's side.

I'm really still waiting for the main plot to begin. And what is with the secrecy of the Jarndyce suit? If it is so well known, why don't any of the main players seem to know anything about it? Where do the Dedlocks fit into the Ester narrative? When will something happen?