Definitely mixed feelings coming to the end of this Bleak House readalong. I want to thank Alice at Reading Rambo very much for hosting. It was a great readalong – both my fellow readers and the reading were top-notch. Amusing posts all over the place and I’ll be very much surprised if one of these women doesn’t write The True Story of Esther and Ada before long. To the book! Spoilers as usual in a readalong post, but even worse, ending spoilers. Don’t read unless you know the book or don’t care.
Back to chapter 56. Lady Dedlock has fled on foot with no money in the cold winter. We have no idea whether she’s going some place or just throwing herself in the river. Sir Leicester has had a stroke and no one finds him for ages. Fortunately, he’s able to communicate enough to hire Bucket to pursue Lady D. Bucket picks up Esther with the sound notion that Lady D might respond to her as she would not to him. Though why she’s allowed in that society to ride all over town by herself with him, I’m not sure. The chase is an agony of suspense — they keep getting closer, closer, then they lose her, then they’re finally back on her trail – though it’s a little murky to me how the hell he knew to get the letter from Guster — and it’s all for naught. Dickens you bastard. But no, really, it’s Victorian Society you Bastard. Because they wouldn’t allow any woman to get away with letting her virtue fail for even a minute. I strongly suspect the whole reason he wrote this was to show Victorian Society that it’s not just the Fallen Woman who pays, it’s her children and anyone who loves her. We have to learn to forgive people’s mistakes. I like to think this book helped end that attitude at least somewhat. The ending of chapter 59 is just devastating.
Esther is haunting Ada’s new place and so is Mr. Skimpole. Richard is continuing to make a total charlie foxtrot of his life and Ada’s. Esther decides to Have a Talk with Skimpole. Esther, do you never learn? I ask. But I was wrong. This time she hit on the one thing guaranteed to get rid of Skimpole. Telling him they’ve been squeezed bone dry. And we never saw him again. Hurrah! 741 pages late, but better late than never. Then Esther has a little stroll with Woodcourt who by Victorian standards is the slowest proposer ever. He finally tells her he loves her, but she tells him she cannot be his and they part all noble-like vowing to live unhappily ever after for some stupid Victorian reason. Esther goes to bed in despair. Wakes up and urges Jarndyce to set the date so she can well and truly set her misery in stone. She still calls him ‘dear guardian.’ Has anyone ever been as clueless about so much as Esther?
Mr. Bucket arrives with Smallweed who has found a will. A will with regard to Jarndyce and Jarndyce of a later date than all the previous wills. Huzzah! For some reason Smallweed didn’t just toss this on the fire. Mr. Bucket promises him he will be rewarded.
“Not according to your merits, you know,” said Mr. Bucket in friendly explanation to Mr. Smallweed. “Don’t you be afraid of that. According to its value.”
Heh. Bucket has some very good lines. They submit the new will to the wheels of justice.
This is all about tying up loose ends. George goes to see his brother who is very happy to see him. George cannot fathom this, but is likewise happy to see his brother. He also has a new job essentially as Master of Horse for Sir Leicester.
Jarndyce goes off on a journey and writes Esther to come join him, which she does. Thank goodness he has a clue about people. I was so relieved when I realized he was gallantly stepping aside. Hallelujah. Not that it would be such a terrible match. He’s a good guy. But she loves another and it would probably gnaw away at her though she would refuse to ever acknowledge it.
And Guppy. Poor Guppy. What a tool. Who brings his mother and friend along to propose? But his mother’s reaction was pretty funny. I hope he finds some worthwhile angel who will know what’s best for him.
And finally the most fitting end of Jarndyce and Jarndyce and Richard. Because really, he was useless. If Ada didn’t have cousin John to fall back on she would have been totally hosed. Totally. A young widow without a farthing and a kid to bring up? That isn’t easy now nevermind in 1853. If Rick had recovered he probably would’ve entered upon a series of get rich quick schemes and spent the rest of his days in debtors prison.
So they all live happily ever after. The few who are left. Except Sir Leicester who will always be sad. Quite a body count. It is a great novel. All the feels. All of ’em. The only thing missing is Skimpole being broken in a thousand pieces by some large piece of machinery.
I started watching the series right after and glad I waited because it seems to me they reveal some things much earlier in the story. Naturally they had to cut about 1000 characters because even 8 hours isn’t enough to do this whole story. And most of what gets cut is the humor. The Bagnets are gone. Weevil/Jobling is gone. Mrs. Smallweed and young Smallweed likewise. Smallweed is great. Tulkinghorn is great. Guppy seems to have a much larger part, probably because he has to be Jobling and Smallweed as well as himself. He’s very good. I didn’t care for him in Torchwood, but as Guppy he’s just right. Richard Griffiths has a priceless couple scenes as Badger. Turveydrop Sr. only has two lines I think, but he makes the most of them. Gillian Anderson is very good as Lady D. I don’t like Sir Leicester at all. Ada and Richard both fine, but they apparently decided that having a pretty Esther was no good. Or maybe they think she’s pretty. I don’t know. I realize I’m a harsh realm here, but she looks better after the small pox.
Skimpole. Can’t decide. He seems to be somehow different from the book in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. Still claims to be quite a child, but seems to be just saying it. He seems far more conniving in an intentional way than I took Skimpole to be in the book even though Skimpole did all the same things in the book. He just seemed perfectly selfish and totally unconcerned about what effect his actions had on other people, whereas in the show he seems to have a good deal more understanding. But that might be the fault of the actor, who played Inspector Lynley and can’t help seeming intelligent, perhaps. Miss Flite is Pauline Collins and I’ve always loved her. George is fine, but I pictured him brunet and for some reason, that’s really bothering me.
John Jarndyce is spot on, but Esther isn’t quite. Somehow the warmth that’s supposed to flow out from her just doesn’t. She’s nice. She’s modest. She’s actually kinder to Guppy than book Esther, but an overflowing font of loving do-goodness she just isn’t. And maybe that’s because they didn’t want her to seem too old fashioned or something, but I think so much depends on Esther’s warmth that it’s a real loss that it’s not there.
Lady Jane is perfect. Can’t find a pic with Krook who’s also pretty great except he can sort of read, which I’m not sure why they did that, but she looks something like this:
Not sure why there are no stills of her. She’s obviously the star.