First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.

9781853260827.OL.0.m“Bleak House is one of Dickens’s finest achievements, establishing his reputation as a serious and mature novelist, as well as a brilliant comic writer. It is at once a complex mystery story that fully engages the reader in the work of detection, and an unforgettable indictment of an indifferent society. Its representations of a great city’s dark underworld, and of the law’s corruption and delay, draw upon the the author’s personal knowledge and experience. But it is his symbolic art that projects these things in a vision that embraces black comedy, cosmic farce, and tragic ruin.

In a unique creative experiment, Dickens divides the narrative between his heroine, Esther Summerson, who is psychologically interesting in her own right, and an unnamed narrator whose perspective both complements and challenges hers.”

I am really stoked to finally read my first Charles Dickens novel in nearly a decade. During my university heyday, I read three of his works – Great Expectations, David Copperfield, and A Tale of Two Cities. Each work aroused in me an appreciation for the Dickensian tale. At the same time, I am a little apprehensive about reading Bleak House; I had the book for years but held off reading it because I am afraid I have lost touch. But nearly ten years since my last Dickens, I realize that I am due for a re-experience.

I was supposed to read Bleak House earlier this year but after realizing how lengthy it is, I held back. I have changed my mind because it is the 12th and last book in my 2020 Beat the Backlist reading challenge. In completing Bleak House, I am basically hitting two birds with one stone. Well, I am actually hitting three birds because the novel also forms part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. It is didn’t hurt that the novel was recommended by two fellow (and devout) book bloggers.

I just started reading the novel and barely 10% of the story. The introduction and the preface to the novel gave me some understanding and background on what the novel is about. It was in chapter three that I met the the novel’s heroine, Esther Summerson. Esther reminds me of Pip (of Great Expectations) and David Copperfield since they all have the same background – the three of them are orphans. Pip and David are also two of my favorite literary characters because of their tenacity, overcoming every challenge thrown in their way.

In the same Dickensian spirit, I can slightly surmise that Esther is also bound to meet and conquer some challenges along the way. It is through these challenges that Esther learns and grows in the Victorian environment that Dickens vividly paints through his prose. It’s not going to surprise me if the story turns into a coming-of-age. Lo and behold, readers who’ve read some of Dickens’ other works can establish the pattern.

From the synopsis and the introduction, there is another thing that stands out for me. Bleak House is also about the deplorable state of Victorian London. I am hypothesizing that Bleak House is not only the physical manifestation of the structure that houses the firm Jarndyce and Jarndyce. I can see that Bleak House is also an allegory representing how Dickens view London, or at least what has become of it.

Interestingly, it seems that Esther Summerson is the only female narrator in Dickens’ entire literary ensemble. If such is true, then I guess he is the antithesis of Sidney Sheldon who, in eighteen works but one (Doomsday Conspiracy), used female characters as the dames of his narrative. Don’t get me wrong though. I am not trying to contrast the two writers for they belong to entirely different eras. I am just a mere admirer of Sheldon’s works.

With its length and with month end reporting looming, it is going to take me at least a week to complete the novel. Thankfully, the language is easy to follow. Or maybe because I am familiar with the language of English literary classics already. Whatever it is, I am looking forward to Bleak House. It does seem to have a very interesting premise.

How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to. I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend! To my Muslim friends, Eid Mubarak!