Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Bleak House by Charles Dickens Part #7

This section has some of the funniest, laugh out loud moments of the novel so far I think.

In chapter 21 the Smallweed family are introduced (and we meet little Charley – the debt collectors daughter – again too) and despite them having a bit of a dark nastiness to them I think Grandfather Smallweed is going to provide some laughs if he shows up again.

I suppose I shouldn’t be laughing as he is technically abusing his wife verbally (even if she is so far gone mentally that the only thing that seems to register with her are numbers because they could apply to money) and is always throwing cushions at her. Dickens presents this scene in such a way that it really is a comic moment.

‘Grandfather Smallweed immediately throws the cushion at her. ‘Drat you, be quiet!’ says the good old man.
The effect of this act of ejaculation is twofold. It not only doubles up Mrs Smallweed’s head against the side of her porter’s chair, and causes her to present, when extracted by her granddaughter, a highly unbecoming state of cap, but the necessary exertion recoils on Mr Smallweed himself, whom it throws back into his porter’s chair, like a broken puppet.’

This chapter is full of him randomly shooting the pillow at his wife like this and ending up worse than she.

Among the handful of new characters introduced in this chapter (you know, because there aren’t enough of them already) is Mr George. I like Mr George. He is a right gent, even if he is a little rough around the edges.

‘”Don’t scold the old lady so. Look at her here, with her poor cap half off her head, and her poor hair all in a muddle. Hold up, ma’am. That’s better. There we are!...”’

See, he sets poor Grandmother Smallweed’s cap to rights. That right there put him on my favourite characters list.

Chapters 23 to 25 next week, see you them. 

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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Bleak House by Charles Dickens Part #6

One of the things I love so far about this book is that it doesn't seem to matter how far removed characters are from one another something will happen for them to meet. And this is what happens in this section.

Two narratives clash in a way when Mr Jarndyce is visiting an old friend (Mr Boythorn) who is neighbours with Sir Leicester Dedlock. So finally Esther and company meet Lady Dedlock – on a side note they also meet her slightly nutty French maid.

Some things happen during this meeting and before it that start the gears whirling. Why does Esther feel like she is looking in a mirror when she sees Lady D in church? And why when Lady D speaks does Ada think it is Esther? It is at this point that I really wish I was coming to this book with no knowledge of the story.

I really like Mr Boythorn. He is a loud, blustery type but his heart is in the right place and he is a gentleman when it counts.

Other events

Mr Skimpole and Richard continue to get on my nerves. Mr Jarndyce and Esther have a chat about her past and Esther gets a bunch of flowers. 

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Bleak House by Charles Dickens Part #5


Ooo chapter 15 made me so angry!

Mr Skimpole – a friend of Mr Jarndyce – is a scrounger. Well, maybe that is a little unfair. According to himself and everyone else he has a childlike understanding of worldly matters such as money etc. And because of this the debt collectors are always after him. At the beginning of the novel we met one of the men who had been sent to collect payment. Well, this gent is now dead and has left 3 children behind, with the eldest girl (thirteen) struggling to work and support them all.

What made me so angry is that Mr S who doesn’t work, doesn’t worry, pays for nothing and has a wife and children gets on quite well, buying what he wants and eating what he wants by being an unapologetic, unthankful sponger! I can’t even think of a word strong enough to describe my anger at this man!

Anyway, onto nicer things.

The depressed Miss Jellyby is back in the picture and feeling a lot happier as she is in love and getting her life together by breaking free of her mother.

In the meantime Jo the crossing sweeper is approached by a servant who wants to see all of the places to do with the death she saw in the paper.

But what kind of a servant has a hand covered in rings?

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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Bleak House by Charles Dickens Part #4


Chapter 11 was quite educational as there is an inquest to read through. It is bits like this that remind me that although as I am reading it now it is an historical novel, at the time of publishing it was a contemporary piece so many readers may have known what Dickens was talking about from first-hand experience and any humour and fun-making would have been more immediate and tongue in cheek for the original readers.

Lady Dedlock continues to be bored and Sir Leicester agreeable, at least until Mr Tulkinghorn returns to Chesney Wold to complete the tale of the handwriting (you know, the stuff that made her ‘faint’) – she really breaks character by showing interest at this point.

“Sir Leicester is generally in a complacent state, and rarely bored. When he has nothing else to do, he can always contemplate his own greatness. It is a considerable advantage to a man, to have so inexhaustible a subject. After reading his letters, he leans back in his corner of the carriage, and generally reviews his importance to society.”

Back with Esther, Richard has decided that he wants to study medicine and so the gang go to call on Mr Badger and his wife (Mr Badger is a doctor). This couple has got to be the strangest couple I have read about so far. Mr Badger is Mrs Badger’s third husband (she married each of her husbands on the same day and at the same time – if this was another genre I would think it would make the great start for a horror/murder subplot) and she has the portraits of her first two husbands hanging in the house, almost as part of the family. Now, maybe that isn’t weird, but the way Mr B is always going on about his predecessors is. I can’t tell if he wants her to know that he knows she had a life before him and this is his way of telling her he doesn’t mind by constantly mentioning them or what. But the sheer number of times he brings them up is very strange.

And last but not least, Esther has landed herself a stalker.

See you for chapters 14, 15 and 16.

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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Hungry for Love by Barbara Cartland

(Image from

Araminta Sinclair is horrified when she learn her brother Sir Harry Sinclair has lost £600 gaming, to the Marquis of Wayne.
She offers to five up the small sum collected for her debut in London and then has an inspiration as to how they can obtain the rest. 
Her father, the previous Baronet, a gourmet and an epicure insisted on his daughter becoming an exceptionally fine cook. 
How Araminta enlists the help of General Sir Alexander Bracknell, one of Wellington's Commanders, how there is a bet that her cooking can rival that of Careme - the Prince Regent's Master Chef - and how her deception brings her heart-break and finally happiness is told in this dramatic 186th book by Barbara Cartland.

This has to be one of those books that even if it was stripped of all romance I would have still enjoyed it.

I really liked Araminta. She had a head on her shoulder and she used it. When her brother gets into debts (£600!) she immediately starts thinking of how to pay it and fix the situation.


She is going to cook her way to it!

Arrogant and distant the Marquis of Wayne has no qualms about taking money from young idiots who have nothing better to do than gamble away their fortunes. And then he make a bet that involves the Prince Regent’s cook and Araminta and his perception of life tips.

While not my favourite Barbara Cartland hero he isn’t my least favourite. He was a bit of an overbearing numpty but he comes through at the end.

The Romance
Hmmm…I found the romance lacking a wee bit. It was very much love at first sight and lacked a bit of development.

All in All
I really enjoyed the random cooking details about kitchens and ostrich brains (no ostriches were harmed in the reading of this book).

The occasional historical detail popped in too. 

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