I didn’t post my Bleak House Readalong update last Wednesday as it was Book Blogger Appreciation Week, so in this post I’ll be discussing Week 4: Chapters 20-25 and Week 5: Chapters 26-32.
*Please note: If you haven’t read as far as chapter 32 of Bleak House, you may encounter spoilers in this post.*
In the first 19 chapters of the book, we were introduced to a bewildering number of characters and storylines. As I mentioned in my previous update, the story had so far felt disjointed and slightly confusing. In these next few installments though, things finally start coming together and the story is beginning to get really interesting. There were still a few new characters (the Smallweed family, Mr George, the Bagnets and Mr Bucket the detective), but I think we’ve met all the major ones now.
I won’t even try to write a full summary for these chapters, but here are a few of the more important plot developments: Charley, the orphan girl we met earlier in the book, arrives at Bleak House as Esther’s maid. Richard changes career (again! I wish it was really as easy as that) and joins the army. Everyone seems to be very interested in Captain Hawdon’s handwriting, Caddy Jellyby marries Prince Turveydrop, Esther becomes ill – and in Chapter 29, the identity of Esther’s mother is revealed! I was very surprised by this because, although I had already guessed who it was, I hadn’t expected to find out so early in the story and had thought it would come towards the end of the book.
So overall, I found these chapters much more compelling than the previous ones because it feels that things are actually starting to happen now. And this section ended on an exciting note, when one of the characters spontaneously combusts! There are still some parts where I’m struggling to stay interested (Chapter 25: Mrs Snagsby Sees It All – was there any point to that chapter?) but I think I’m going to enjoy the rest of the book.
You can see other readalong participants’ thoughts on Bleak House here.