And what a wild ride this book turned out to be! Did the book have a happy ending, or a sad ending? Answer: All of the above! Did it have a first person narrator, or a third person narrator? Answer: All of the above! Was the book a comedy, a tragedy, social satire, a detective novel? Answer: All of the above! I mean, this book was all over the place, and yet, was also a fit coherent whole. In the end, all the craziness, and all the oddball characters, and all the narrator shifts, and all the various moods and themes, they all fit together. It all made sense. This to me is proof of Dicken's genius. Very few authors could pull this off. Bravo, Charles!
I have several comments and thoughts about the book. First, I liked the contrast between the tragic part of the novel's conclusion (the death of Esther's mother, the Lady Dedlock, who ran away from her husband, Sir Leicester Dedlock, because she knew he had found out about her having born a child before they were married. She feared he would throw her out and heap scorn upon her, when really he loved her so much that he didn't care. But she didn't know this, and ran off and died in the snow) with the happy part of the novel's conclusion (Esther's finding out that the man she loves still loves her, despite her smallpox scarred-face, and so they get married). There's something for everyone! But isn't this how life is? Some things turn out well, and others end up tragically. Then you grow old and die, unless you're part of the tragedy, in which case you just die.
Second, I love how the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit, which has gone on for years and years, ends. It ends when the lawyers figure out the estates involved no longer have any money to pay for the suit to continue any further, and so they drop it immediately. No thought of justice, or the law...the money's gone so that's the end of it. And ironically, this happens just as a new will is discovered that would have put the suit to a satisfactory end, had it been found in time. And the court breaks out in laughter at this conclusion. Ha, ha, ha!! Man, Dickens did not respect lawyers. Fortunately times change, and no one ever makes fun of lawyers anymore.
Third, I loved how Richard, one of the "wards of Jarndyce", the cousin and wife of Ada, Esther's "darling", never really could figure out what he wanted to do with his life, and finally gets sucked into the lawsuit...studying it and going to court everyday with the hope (wrong!) that it would be resolved soon and he'd come into some money and could live a life of leisure. Instead, he falls in with a crooked lawyer, loses all his money, and becomes unhealthily obsessed with the case. He dies just after the case's conclusion. Wow, this rings a bell. I've known several people who were promising in their youth, but then became obsessed with something, or fell into really bad habits, and their lives just went off the rails. Moral: don't let this happen to you!
Fourth, what was with Mr. Jarndyce's marriage proposal to Esther? He was her guardian, her father figure. And then he proposes marriage, although once he makes the proposal, he doesn't do much to follow through until nudged by Esther, and then when he realizes Esther and Allan Woodcourt still love one another, he quickly arranges them to get together, and he drops the proposal, tells the two of them to get married, and fixes them up with a house. Jarndyce is a very good man, but what's with this proposal. It seems, well, icky to me. Would this proposal have seemed this way to a Victorian audience? Have times changed? Or would the reaction 150 years ago have been the same as mine?
Finally, I like how the two houses named "Bleak House" are really the two happiest places in the novel. Oh, the irony of it all!