I'm not going to recap the final eight chapters of Bleak House, because you've read them, right? Instead, I'll say that I found the ending extremely satisfying. Unlike Our Mutual Friend, which wrapped up in an overly rapid fashion, I found the pacing here to work. I love that Esther got her happy ending--but she's all too aware of all the people around her who didn't get theirs, whether it's her guardian who kindly backed away from marrying her so she could pursue her heart (thus making him possibly an even better person than Esther herself, something she wouldn't argue), or the widowed Ada with her young child, or Caddy, who's life is perhaps better than it would have been had she stayed with her mother, but still, it's poignant to think of her with her deaf and mute child. There's Skimpole and his unforgivably cruel assessment of John Jarndyce in his journals. Glad that old goat finally died. The hilarious reappearance of Mr. Guppy and his second proposal. And of course there's Richard, dead to his cause ("beginning the world", what a great phrase) and for nothing; and Miss Flite, finally releasing her birds; and the heart-tugging Sir Dedlock, wasting away and grieving at the mausoleum where Lady Dedlock rests.
I might even have teared up a little when the name of Woodcourt's cottage was revealed to Esther, and the guardian revealed his secret plans.
The only thing missing for me--and this is a minor quibble--is I would have loved a little scene where Mrs. Woodcourt has to admit to Esther that she was wrong about Esther. But, obviously she came around.
I am so glad I finally read this. It's part of a huge, yawning gap in my reading (similar to what Girl Detective mentions here), and it was so delightful. I'm glad I read it over winter too. Even though not all the book takes place in winter, it feels like a wintery read.
There were so many passages I marked in this last section. Here are a few of my favorites:
"I proceed to other passages of my narrative." Esther, in her first section after her mother's death. Oh, fine, Esther, just BREAK MY HEART why don't you.
"[Mr. Kenge] said this at the stair-head, gently moving his right hand as if it were a silver trowel, with which to spread the cement of his words on the structures of the system, and consolidate it for a thousand ages."
"Thus Chesney Wold. With so much of itself abandoned to darkness and vacancy; with so litle change under the summer shining or the wintry lowering; so sombre and motionless always--no flag flying now by day, no rows of lights sparkling by night; with no family to come and go, no visitors to be the souls of pale cold shapes of rooms, no stir of life about it;--passion and pride, even to the stranger's eye, have died away from the place in Lincolnshire, and yielded it to dull repose."
For me, Dickens' willingness to not have all the story threads end happily makes this such a full and rich ending. Of the books I've read by Dickens (Great Expectations, Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend, A Christmas Carol, and The Chimes, this is far and away my favorite.
Next week we'll reconvene once more to talk about introductions and last thoughts. Thanks for joining in, everyone, this was great fun!
A few more Goreys for your visual pleasure:
Miss Flite frees her birds.
Sir Dedlock visits Lady Dedlock's final resting place.
Esther and Allan at the new Bleak House.