Surprise! Surprise! ‘Bleak House’ isn’t bleak thus far

As the title suggests, I thought ‘Bleak House’ would be all about tears, sadness and disappointments. I was preparing myself to feel that way after I bought the novel. I had read bunch of sad stories so reading another one  wouldn’t be a great matter for me, said I.

I’m still 1/8 of the total pages of the book. I can’t help writing down here what I got so far from the book although my reading is very far from over.

While the book does contain a mournful story about Esther Summerson, one of the main characters in the book, about her childhood, what I instead remember most so far is the presence of two minor female characters who are very comical.

I can’t help smiling when reading parts regarding the two characters. The first one is Mrs. Jellyby, say, an activist about Africa. She aims at educating and improving the lives of the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of Niger. She spends a lot of time taking care of other people while her children, mostly are little, don’t get attention as they deserve. I laugh when coming to the part that one of Mrs. Jellyby’s sons falling down. The part when Mrs. Jellyby’s daughter ‘leaves off biting her pen and makes a return to Esther, Ada and Richard’s recognition’ thus making her looks ‘half bashful, half sulky’ is amusing, too. I can tell these parts signify Dickens’ critics to aristocrats ladies who put so much efforts helping people they may not know all but neglect their own children.

Best laugh, so far, comes when Dickens mentions Mrs. Pardiggle, one of Mr. Jarndyce’s correspondent. Mr. Jarndyce is Esther’s guardian, the owner of Bleak House. If I were not in the train by the time I come to the part regarding this lady, I would laugh out loud. So I chuckle while imagining the faces of Mrs. Pardiggle’s sons when she introduces them to Esther and Ada. The mother introduces Egbert (12), the eldest son, as the boy who sends some parts of his pocket-money to Tockapoopo Indians. She presents the remaining four boys with similar statements, except the youngest one, who swears won’t ever use tobacco and eat cakes.

What entertains me so much is when Esther says how the boys look so ferociously discontent and unhappy. When her mother mentions Tockapoopo Indians, Egbert gives Esther a savage frown. The youngest kid looks even more miserable. It turns out that the children are violent. They pinch Esther when she doesn’t give Egbert a shilling as his pocket-money is ‘taken’ from him. Felix (7), the fourth kid, stamps upon Esther kid and the youngest one terrifies her by turning his face into purple after passing through a pastry-cook shop, absorbed in grief and rage.

I can’t believe Dickens can be this funny after those sorrowful events in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop.’ Truly entertaining. Now, I can’t wait for more surprises and hopefully more foolish parts to come.




Stepping Out From Reading Comfort Zone

Over the past few months, I have unconsciously stepped out from my reading comfort zone.  I just realize about this today. Books by John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy are my comfort zones. I love almost everything they write. Especially for Hardy. His writing style matches my fondness. Hardy’s books steal my heart away only by reading their few pages.

It has all started with Anne Bronte and now Charles Dickens. I disliked first-person narrative yet I love Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’ and ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’ despite they are written in first-person method. They impress me in different ways. They touch my heart deeper than I expect. They move my emotion.

I used to avoid reading any Dickens’ novels because I know his writing style doesn’t suit my preference. I have to seek Dickens’ titles that I believe will meet my liking and after some attempts I find ‘Our Mutual Friend’ then ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Although Dicken’s decision not to further discuss emotional problems regarding Nell Trent’s grandfather stealing behaviors disappoint me, I am profoundly disturbed by the poor girl’s sufferings.

I can’t deny that Dickens is a very great, wonderful storyteller. I am completely amazed by the way he crafts so many characters along with their problems that speak much on what happen at the time. All those fictitious characters, various plots into one just book. Dickens is very brilliant.

After that, I force myself to read ‘Bleak House’. A little bit of force, I mean. I know the novel won’t entertain me as much as I want but I strongly believe it will present me with memorable trip once I finish reading it. I look forward to see what kind of impression that I will obtain after completing reading the book. I gradually learn to cope with things that I dislike because I know I mustn’t get stuck with Steinbeck and Hardy if I want to get more knowledge.

I have to start setting more adventures with authors or writing styles whose books I previously decline to read. The foremost reason is simple; I have to learn about myself on how further I can make peace with things I dislike and that includes books.

‘Bleak House’, my second literary trip with Charles Dickens

Although I had considered buying Thomas Hardy’s novels I ended up putting ‘Bleak House’ in my bag last Friday. I had really wanted to buy Hardy’s lesser-known novels but when I read the first page of ‘Bleak House’ I somehow loved it. I thought I had to broaden my reading horizon, meaning that I shouldn’t read only romance novels.

Therefore, I bought ‘Bleak House’ instead of Hardy’s ‘Two on A Tower’ or ‘Desperate Remedies’. After all, I had completely enjoyed the love story between Helen Graham and Gilbert Markham in ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ that I thought that day I had to embrace heavier topics. And so my choice was ‘Bleak House’.

I didn’t Google what the novel was all about prior to the purchase. I just once heard the title. And it has turned out the novel is indeed super rich. I even can feel the weight of its content upon my brain at the moment. The thing is Dickens puts so many information within a book. You can find a lot of characters carrying different stories in a novel. And each of it signifies serious problems, deep concerns upon social or legal affairs.

And so is ‘Bleak House’. As I compose this post, I am still far away from the ending of the book but my brain has complained of receiving too many stories. Thankfully, I told myself to be really patient when it comes to read Dickens’ books before buying ‘Bleak House’ so whenever my heart wanted to stop my brain whispered it then said, “hi, be patient”.

Apart from the severe themes in ‘Bleak House’, I am grateful that, at least for now, the book isn’t as heartbreaking as ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Hence, I don’t have to deal with a sort of emotional fight while reading the book unlike my experiences with Nell Trent, which is completely sorrowful.

So well, that’s the introduction of my second reading journey with Dickens. I’ll update in this blog what I find, feel and think about ‘Bleak House’. Till then, let’s read again!


‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’, my second experience with Anne Bronte


picture source:

Reading the first few pages of ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ after long struggle for completing ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ makes me feel like finding an open road after months inside a humid, vast forest. So refreshing!

It took me by surprise finding the novel at the Kinokuniya bookstore last Saturday for prior visits proved nothing interesting in its classic literature bookshelves. So, I didn’t expect it so much. I thought my options would be books by Charles Dickens, again and again. Good thing about life is that it surprises you when you least expect it to happen. And so it did.

I read the title and although I glanced at other titles, I knew my eyes stuck at the book and I brought it to the cashier. I didn’t know much about ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’, by the way, but somehow the information that I read that the book is the best by Anne Bronte intrigues me. Besides, my first experiences with Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’ is quite impressive so why don’t I read her another book?

Without further consideration, I bought the book. Along with the English edition of ‘Supernova’, I got two books for payment. I couldn’t be happier than that day. By the time I write this post, I am at the page 28 out of 590, LOL. A very long way to go. Yes, I know that. But given its straight-forwarded writing method, first person narrative, and definitely a much easier language than Dickens’, I believe I’ll finish the book sooner than the time I took for ‘The Old Curiosity Shop.’




Nell’s grandfather; a shocking picture of one’s loss against ill-wills

If you have read “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens you may resume reading this but if you haven’t, I suggest you shouldn’t because this post contains the most shocking, the most terrible sample of one’s struggle against ill-wills.

What I will talk about can be read in the 9th paragraph of this link: .

Nell’s grandfather addiction to gambling is the source of all their misery. Apart from Daniel Quilp’s wickedness, Nell’s grandfather is the one who should take the blame for their impoverishment. I am really, really shocked when I find out how he holds his belief that gambling is the best shortcut to wealth even after he and Nell runs from the shop-cum-house.

My feelings are mixed up when I read the part.

On one side, as I said earlier, I am astonished with the fact that his addiction remain strong, so strong that Dickens describes the old man’s eyes sparkle when he hears the sounds of some people playing cards as one of the gambling method. It feels like the old man’s life spirits come back.

On the other one, I as a reader, am happy because coming to the part wakes me up from the previous reading journey that almost bores me, honestly. Prior to the part, most plots are about their trips and sorrowful stories all along the path that they take. So, this part, particularly on the point when he steals Nell’s money, refreshes the reading process.

I give credits to Dickens who is able to raise my anger to this old man. I can’t believe what he does to his own granddaughter who rescues his life that far. It doesn’t make sense for me to know there is an old man who is so beaten up that he takes away essential things that Nell saves just to keep their stomachaches filled. The scene when he forces Nell to give her purse when he is about to join a group of gamblers at the inn is really frustrating, makes me so furious. It’s like, how could he?

Later on, I try to take a bigger picture on all this. As usual, as a reader of classics which sometimes portray unthinkable characters, I have to view things by using a lot of parameters; psychology, economic, social, etc, which helps me understanding what he does. The fact that they are both poor though Nell actually has a job as the assistant of the wax-working owner doesn’t make him any less happy. He has problems much more than just making ends meet or paying off his debts. His addiction, self-battle against wrong deeds is the root of all his restlessness, whether or not he realizes it. The peak of it all by taking Nell’s money away, not admitting on what he does is more than enough to sum it up with one word: what?

Sadly, Dickens doesn’t say much about this old man annoying trait and his gambling addiction. This topic is out of the plot after Nell successfully persuades her grandfather to leave the wax-working caravan so as he won’t meet with the gambling group, again. It would be more interesting if Dickens adds explanations on the old man’s bad habit. Because for me, it doesn’t really all about the way of making him rich instantly but it tells more about the old man’s personal problems.

If there were any one ask for my opinion what lacks in the novel, I would say about that thing; that Dickens hasn’t really finished or solved the psychological matters that cause the old man so addicted to gambling. Such important matter ends loosely with the finale that sees him dies in the graveyard of Nell’s. After all the torments that he brings about since the beginning of the book, it remains heartbreaking seeing him feeling so gloomy after her death. The fact that he realizes Nell is all that he has in the world and how he no longer argues her decisions as the book comes to its end is I think the most proper reprisal he could have done to pay off his wrongdoings.

Dickens’ way to make readers forgive what the old man has done? May be.






“The Old” topples “Tess” as the saddest novel, by far

novel and dry flowers

thank you for the picture

Charles Dickens completely tears down my heart in “The Old Curiosity Shop”. The death of Nell Trent not long after she eventually tastes the sweetness of life, free from tiring journeys is very heartbreaking. Some say the last scenes prior to her death is too melancholy, fairy-driven tale and the like but apart from that, her fate is so sorrowful.

The last words she speak to her neighbors, her last wishes of being adorned with favorite flowers on her deathbed, the last smile, the very last hug she gives to her grandfather is very unbearable. Although I am prepared with the sad ending of the novel, still… the finale really makes me woeful. To make it much more depressing is her grandfather who spends a few days mourning her death. He, who is the source of all the misery, completely feels her unconditional love right before the book ends. Nell dies not long after that.

Feeling so grieved with her death, the grandfather spends a few days in her graveyard till finally he dies there. His sadness kills him very quickly.

You can all tell how miserable the ending of the book is. When I decided to buy the book I never thought this would be much more melancholy than I had expected. Long, long before I come to the last pages of the book, imagining this company, walking with no exact destinations, feeling hungry, cold, begging for people kindness along the route, an old man and a teenage girl … this scene has made me feel so sad.

It’s Nell’s pure love to her grandfather, her sacrifice, their super deep bonds which make the novel is so touching. It’s their attempts to survive and the deaths that make the book is sadder than “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy.  For me, the death of the grandfather out of sadness is what the book way more sorrowful than the death of Tess. And overall, that what makes “The Old Curiosity Shop” is the saddest of all novels that I have read so far.




The many challenges in reading “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens

reading difficult fictions

thank you for the picture

Do you know how long does it take for me to finish reading “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens? Minus a one-month off due to overloading office works, I take about three months to complete reading the 559-pages novel. A very long reading process, isn’t it?

Apart from the lengthy time, reading the book surprises myself on one fact: I read about 150 pages in just two days. For me, this last fact is an eye-opener in a way that I am still an avid reader after all the struggles of reading the novel. I am still the same bookworm who can spend most of the weekends sitting while reading books. What has caused me struggling reading the novel is that I find it so hard to get rid of those online articles. They suck up my energy. I get easily distracted by the relatively new reading activity.

Last weekend, I go all out, forcing myself to finish the book no matter what happens. So, last Saturday and Sunday I have lack of sleep because after watching football games, I don’t go to bed shortly. I keep reading and don’t put it down until the last page. So I do all that. You don’t know how relieved I am after that. Each time I finish reading thick books, especially very good ones, like ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, I feel so proud of myself.

When one of my friends ask for my opinion about the book, I reply “the book is difficult.” I tell her that reading Dickens’s book is hard because the surface story tells so much on what the book’s real messages. It says way a lot of than an old grandfather who is en route with his beloved granddaughter to get rid of a debt collector. So that’s why I feel like carrying small rocks upon my head while reading the book. There are many layers need to be taken out to see the real face of the novel.

One thing that I don’t tell my friend: the distractions from those online articles that make the reading process become harder than it shouldn’t be. So when I eventually finish it off, I feel like an amateur runner crossing the finish line of the marathon race.

What is best left from reading the book is that I have so much to say here. I have written four posts about its plot only. I haven’t touched about the themes, thoughts, reactions, and sort of that. So, I can say that reading a book as hard as ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ is rewarded with numerous ideas about it and all that is related to it in this blog in days to come. At the end of the day, it’s all so worth it!