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Extended Audio Sample Bleak House Audiobook, by Charles Dickens Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.08 out of 54.08 out of 54.08 out of 54.08 out of 54.08 out of 5 4.08 (95 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Charles Dickens Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Craig Black Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2006 ISBN: 9781455174799
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Bleak House opens in a London shrouded by fog—a fog that swirls most densely about the Court of Chancery, where the obscure case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce lies lost in endless litigation, slowly devouring an inheritance in legal costs.

Against this ominous background, Dickens’ rich tapestry of a novel weaves together the fortunes and desires of several characters whose fates are tied to the case: Ada and Richard, two young orphans who stand to inherit and wish to marry when they do; the worthy John Jarndyce, their voluntary guardian while the case is pending; and Esther Summerson, Jarndyce’s protégée, whose romance is complicated by torn loyalties and whose heritage is shrouded in mystery and scandal. This darkly comic portrait of London society is often regarded as Dickens’ best.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Perhaps his best novel…When Dickens wrote Bleak House he had grown up.”

    G. K. Chesterton

  • “Charles Dickens’s tenth novel, Bleak House, features one of his most holy of heroines…She’s the only woman that Dickens allows a pen and he brilliantly projects Esther as his type of ideal woman, with her modesty, perceptiveness, and moral responsibility.”

    Telegraph (London)

  • “There’s nothing new about Dickens being able to create wonderful characters. The difference here is that while Harold Skimpole, Mr. Tulkinghorn, Krook, et al fizz with bright particularity, their job is to service the story…Bleak House represents the author at a perfectly poised late-middle moment in his extraordinary art.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “Dickens could not have performed better than [Simon Vance] does here. With a motley cast of characters to challenge the skill of any narrator, his brilliant dramatizations range from a homeless street urchin to an arrogant barrister, from a canny old windbag to a high-minded heroine who deserves the happy ending Dickens affords her. [Vance] is also persuasive as the indignant voice of the author himself, attacking both the injustice of the law and the cruel indifference of society. This may be one of the most Dickensian novels Dickens ever wrote. Highly recommended.”

    Library Journal

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ellie | 2/10/2014

    " Much as I loved the BBC series I couldn't finish the book. Not a fan of Dickens at all. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Eluneds | 2/9/2014

    " It was a heart breaking, compulsive read of the social injustices in the class structures in mid 1800s England. It's incredibly well written with the subtle hints to the various secrets foreshadowed from the beginning. I particularly remember the heraldry details for Lady Dedlock's portrait, being lit diagonally from the left - written "sinister" implying illegitimacy in heraldry... brilliant. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rachel | 2/9/2014

    " GK Chesterton states this book "is not certainly Dicken's best book; but perhaps it is his best novel."(introduction to Bleak House) I was surprised. I started this while working on my Masters. I put it aside honestly thinking I may not get back to it. But I picked it back up and I am glad I did. Some may say Esther as a narrator is 'too good' or 'too simple' but I like how she made clear observations and stepped aside for the other characters. I thought this book was an interesting insight into the pointlessness of the legal proceedings at that time. The whole story (and characters) are holding their breath for when the suit finishes. Dickens had a lot of threads in this book (it is about 900 pages) but they are tied together sometimes in ways I could not have imagined. I waited for all the ends to be woven together and I was not disappointed. Some of the characters in the middle of the story are a bit washed out no personality but characters on the fringes more than make up for this. I enjoyed reading this classic although not my favorite I still recommend it for someone not afraid of it's length. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Randolph Carter | 2/6/2014

    " Dicken's best novel. Nice balance between his early humor and his late pessimism. Will destroy any lingering faith you have in the legal system. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 LauraT | 2/5/2014

    " Mi sono segnata al sito che "serializza" i libri come quando uscivano. Mi hanno spedito ieri la prima parte... vediamo se reggo!!!! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jane Örer | 2/2/2014

    " This is my favourite Dicken's novel. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ellie | 2/1/2014

    " Much as I loved the BBC series I couldn't finish the book. Not a fan of Dickens at all. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christi | 1/31/2014

    " Listening to this was a definite investment of time and took some concentration, but was well worth it. I laughed, I cried. Beautiful. The reader was amazing too--so many characters, so many distinct voices! Finishing, I feel gratitude to both Dickens and the reader, Robert Whitfield, for creating something so lovely and substantial. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David-Anthony | 1/31/2014

    " One of my favourite books "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rose | 1/28/2014

    " Fantastic! It had everything, I found myself literally laughing out loud at some moments and crying at others, gripped by the detective story and engaged by the host of interesting and often extreme characters. I have been converted to a huge Dickens fan because of this wonderful book! It's very long but the more pages the more time you get to spend enjoying it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amber | 1/25/2014

    " For my money Dickens's greatest novel, rivalled only by Our Mutual Friend. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mike Russo | 1/25/2014

    " Much funnier than the title might suggest. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hillsa | 1/17/2014

    " This book was not light reading, but it was a very good story. Sad, but if you like Victorian-era literature, this is for you. Many stories going on around the main theme. Stories of abject poverty and the implications of that on the people. Also characters with wealth that allows them not to work while moving from house to house. People pursuing wealth and those loafing off the income/efforts of others. Very interesting. I'd recommend it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Angelyn Schmid | 1/13/2014

    " It's as if Dickens has sliced open the characters' minds and put under a microscope even the most minor details of their GMCs. It's a book for writers as well as readers. I read it to motivate my own writing. Almost got too intimidated, for Dickens is a master. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hannah R | 1/13/2014

    " Best Dickens book in my estimation. The chancery scenes are sometimes difficult to get through for first time readers, but the story line is excellent. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Noel | 1/10/2014

    " Of all of the Dickens I have so far read, this was least enjoyable. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jerry | 12/30/2013

    " I would have given it a 5 if not for the Esther narratives, which were awkward. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lara | 12/24/2013

    " I'll pick this up again one day. I just can't concentrate on it right now. I lack the focus to parse all of those sentences. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Justina | 12/23/2013

    " Never imagined I'd love Dickens. It's imaginative, and unexpectedly funny. A favourite thing that I didn't expect was Esther Summerson's narrative making up such a big part of the book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Claire Corbett | 12/19/2013

    " One of my favourite books. I tend to reserve five star ratings for books which change my worldview in some way and which I intend to re-read. This is one of those books. Have already read at least twice. Along with Mistry's A Fine Balance it is a novel I feel confident recommending to anyone. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jodie Meyn | 12/19/2013

    " I echo those who feel fulfilled by the effort. It totally pays off! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Meghan | 12/17/2013

    " here is the deal- charles dickens' stories make great movies. reading them, not so much for me. soooooo much description. by the time the description is done, i have forgotten what he was talking about. but it makes a great movie. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Genevieve Sharon | 12/16/2013

    " I do not love Charles Dickens, but recognize and admit GENIOUS. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elaine | 12/13/2013

    " In this novel, Dickens does something he never did before. The narrative alternates between the first person of a young woman and the more usual third person onlooker. The story is very complex,lots of characters. It centers on the London courts of law, particularly Chancery, which deals with cases of disputed estates. Read the book and then watch the recent BBC drama with Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock. Amazing! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandyboy | 11/30/2013

    " it's good to read a dickens just before christmas, and this has been the best of his i've read so far. large, chewy, satiric and bitter about society. the Jo subplot resonates still. a satisfying but long read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeremy Pettit | 11/20/2013

    " One of my law school professors declared that this was one of the three best works of fiction about the law. He also said that you cannot consider yourself to have had a liberal education if you have not read this book. Following finals, I just finished Bleak House and now (apparently) can consider myself to have had a liberal education. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dov | 11/16/2013

    " Three cheers for spontaneous combustion! And a truly wonderful work of art. Disturbing, funny, innocent, probing, rich. How does one go about giving Dickens stars? He's Dickens after all... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kristin | 11/13/2013

    " I loved that this is a political detective romance! It is LONG and I'll admit, the beginning was boring. But once you get into it it's hard to put down! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Roxana | 10/30/2013

    " Harold Bloom said Bleak House was Dickens' greatest work, his Magnum Opus as it were; there can be no doubt about this. My favorite Dickens novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carole | 9/10/2013

    " I love Charles Dickens - but I can get through them much better by listening to audiobooks. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Wendy Meddour | 9/9/2013

    " A great novel (if you have some time on your hands!!) And look out for all the keys. I love what Dickens does with all the 'lock' imagery! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chambodia | 8/27/2013

    " Dickens seems to love to create irritating characters. Even the most pleasant ones that inhabit this book get on my nerves. Also, I know he was making a point about chancery court, but it quickly moved from humorous to tedious. I got so tired of reading about Coodle and Noodle and Poodle. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Leslie Mckay | 8/2/2013

    " I couldn't get through this. It was so slow. Dickens goes into excruciating detail on everything. I gave up... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael David Cobb | 7/9/2013

    " Much more than I expected. Quite long. Unforgettable characters. Less of the life of London than I expected, more than enough verisimilitude to satisfy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jallenecs | 6/19/2013

    " This is my favorite of Dickens' work. The characters are living, breathing people, the story is compelling, the setting is believable. Wonderful, wonderful wonderful. I end up reading this book once a year. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Becca | 6/16/2013

    " Charles Dickens has that rare ability to turn soap opera into a classic. This being Dickens, the characters are interesting/amusing and the plot is very involved, but it's well worth the time you invest in reading it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Keith Slade | 6/12/2013

    " Good long somber Dickens novel. I was reading it after I saw the PBS series but somehow got sidetracked and never finished. The part about spontaneous combustion was surreal! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Crystal | 5/20/2013

    " Amazing. This book is why Dickens' is a classic author. Like the afterword stated, there are over fifty characters in the book, and all of them are different and memorable. Definitely my favorite Dickens book so far. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Colette | 4/22/2013

    " Very slow in places but overall a good read... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Hile | 4/7/2013

    " It's Dickens. I don't know how I could not enjoy and value the experience. For some reason I had more trouble than normal in keeping characters separate in my mind, especially early in the character development. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shelby | 2/7/2013

    " This book took me a while to get into, but once I did get into it, I grew to enjoy it! There are so many characters, each with their own unique description. I found it to be pretty funny. It is so sweet and touching. I really liked it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary-Anne W. | 2/1/2013

    " I think when my sister or i read this book we started referring to our mother and father as the "aged P's" but i could be wrong. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dov | 10/17/2012

    " Three cheers for spontaneous combustion! And a truly wonderful work of art. Disturbing, funny, innocent, probing, rich. How does one go about giving Dickens stars? He's Dickens after all... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ke Huang | 10/11/2012

    " Unlike David Copperfield and Great Expectations, Bleak House is mostly from a female point of view. I found it quite believable. The book was also interesting for containing quirky characters and heartless souls. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Karrie | 9/28/2012

    " Yes!!!!!!! I finally finished it! It was worth the time to read, but very long, and very heady. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Charlene | 9/13/2012

    " I think Charles Dickens is too descriptive. This book went on way too long. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lorraine | 9/6/2012

    " 1993 was my second reading. I think the first was in college, either 1974 or 1975. Love the BBC series, too! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gina Wilkins | 8/7/2012

    " This was a excellent but very long novel, but once I sorted out all of the characters, well worth the time. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ruby Emam | 6/29/2012

    " As I am very fond of Charles Dickens, I think this book is also a great one. The way he describes the courts, the attorneys, influences, and the judgements is wonderful. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeannie | 6/1/2012

    " A tongue in cheek look at the old English court system. A long read but so well written and interesting. As with most classics the descriptions are rich and full. It is fun to read it one chapter a day the way it first appeared in newspapers. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elva | 3/28/2012

    " in my opinion, it's his best novel. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ren | 3/21/2012

    " Too slow for my taste not as intriguing as some of his others. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Max | 3/20/2012

    " The atmosphere Dickens portrays in this big, ponderous novel is fantastic. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Barbara | 11/7/2011

    " This is my favorite Dickens novel - very rich character development! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 David | 11/7/2011

    " I'm just not sophisticated enough for most of Dickens' work. I'd rather watch reruns of Terminator 2. Not enough action in this one for me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Noah | 11/4/2011

    " Too damn long and I hardly remember anything that happened in it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matthew | 9/24/2011

    " This is the book that made me realize why Dickens is so damned awesome. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Texas | 9/8/2011

    " One of Dickens' most ambitious books, full of weird and wonderful characters all combining and interweaving effecting each others lives surrounding the central character of Esther Summerson, of unkown parentage.

    A very absorbing and interesting, often touching story well worth reading! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nancy | 8/26/2011

    " Definitely my favorite novel by Dickens. The sub-plot(s) were far less interesting than the main plot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marsa | 8/22/2011

    " Good book but his tongue-in-cheek could use some downsizing.Regardless the story was interesting and enjoyable. His characters are over-the-top, and the names -- oh my gosh, crazy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jameschneider007 | 6/25/2011

    " Taking me forever to read, but wow, this guy can write. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Deusprimus | 6/20/2011

    " One of Dicken's best. The characters have a lot of depth, and there is not a loose end by the conclusion. Now, if I could just figure out a way to choke the life out of Mr. Skimpole..... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kaija | 6/19/2011

    " What amazed me the most was the knowledge that this was written for serialized publication, and that other than what was printed in the newspaper/journal, Dickens had no back-up version of the text. Keeping all the events and characters in order and without a hitch in the plot... Simply astounding. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark | 6/14/2011

    " LONGEST READ EVER! A classic, though again, the length detoured my interest at times, though it is well crafted and the characters are intricate and diverse. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steven | 6/14/2011

    " IF you liked Dickens this is a great book. Talks about society and relationships with a lot of detail given by Dickens. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Henk | 6/7/2011

    " Allmost as good as the TV-series :) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elva | 6/5/2011

    " in my opinion, it's his best novel. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ann | 6/1/2011

    " Had to have my dose of Dickens! Now I'm set for a while... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ren | 6/1/2011

    " Too slow for my taste not as intriguing as some of his others. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brendan | 5/19/2011

    " Chesterton and Lewis had both rated Bleak House and Dickens' best, and I can well believe it -- despite the spontaneous combustion. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 andy | 5/13/2011

    " I had to read it in five days and can't remember anything about it. But I liked it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tiffany | 4/27/2011

    " This book (and most other Dickens) convinced me that no matter how bad life is going, I will eventually be reunited with some lost relative and inherit a lot of money. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Morgan | 4/21/2011

    " Just a little too slow for the nowaday reader. "

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About the Author
Author Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was born in Landport, Portsmouth, England, the second of eight children in a family continually plagued by debt. A legacy brought release from the nightmare of debtors’ prison and child labor and afforded him a few years of formal schooling. He worked as an attorney’s clerk and newspaper reporter until his early writings brought him the amazing success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. He was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era, and he remains popular, responsible for some of English literature’s most iconic characters.

About the Narrator

Simon Vance (a.k.a. Robert Whitfield) is an award-winning actor and an AudioFile Golden Voice with fifty-eight Earphones Awards. He has won thirteen prestigious Audie Awards and was Booklist’s very first Voice of Choice in 2008. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London.