Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed your time off and indulged in some delightful non-Dickens reading. I certainly did. Thank you, Gillian Flynn, for writing addictive, dark books. Totally appropriate for the Christmas season.
Speaking of books, on Twitter some of us were talking about a Bleak House-based novel called The Solitary House. Turns out the author, Lynn Shepherd, is also on Twitter, and joined in the discussion. The book was published in Britain under the title Tom-All-Alone's. (You can get the British edition by ordering via Powells at that link.) (May I just note here that I think the British title--and cover--are much better? Silly US publishers, dumbing things down for us. Again.) I think it looks like fun and a perfect follow-up to Bleak House.
Speaking of fun, I found it fun to have taken a break and then returned. I felt like I was one of Dickens' original readers, having to wait weeks in between installments. It made me wonder if early readers would read and re-read each section over and over again, while waiting impatiently for the next batch to arrive. Kind of like waiting for Downton Abbey, yes?
Well, the waiting somewhat paid off in this section. We finally have conclusive proof that Lady Dedlock is indeed Old Woman Esther's mother, something that's not likely a surprise to most of us, but the fact that Lady Dedlock didn't know Esther was still alive did come as a shock, at least to me. How awful Lady Dedlock's sister must have been, to have lied to her about the child's death. No wonder Lady Dedlock has been such a mope. It makes her interest in the dead man even more intriguing.
But before we got that highlight, we had to endure another visit from old Grandfather Smallweed and his beleaguered granddaughter Judy. Lordy. Somebody please put that old man out of everyone's misery already. I mean, who wants this arriving at one's doorstep:
"As the excellent old gentleman's nails are long and leaden, and his hands lean and veinous, and his eyes green and watery; and, over and above this, as he continues, while he claws, to slide down in his chair and to collapse into a shapeless bundle; he becomes such a ghastly spectacle, even in the accustomed eyes of Judy, that that young virgin pounces at him with something more than the ardour of affection, and so shakes him up, and pats and pokes him in divers parts of his body, but particularly in that part which the science of self-defence would call his wind, that in his grievous distress he utters enforced sounds like a paviour's rammer." (My edition notes that a paviour's rammer was a device used by pavement-makers for ramming stones into the ground.)
And what's all this intrigue about the handwriting, and Mr. George's desire to stay out of it, and Mr. Tulkinghorn's displeasure with Mr. George? And, forebodingly, what of the clerk who heard Mr. Tulkinghorn says "A threatening, murderous, dangerous fellow!" and thought the words meant Mr. George?
Say what you will about Sir Leicester, he does have some noticeable strength of character to put up with those dreadful cousins.
What do you think--are we getting through the transitional chapters and now about to see events occurring from all the set-up?
This week's favorite Gorey shows Phil and Mr. George, discussing the countryside: