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Bleak House

The Dickens Collection: An Audible Exclusive Series
Written by: Charles Dickens
Narrated by: Miriam Margolyes
Length: 43 hrs and 12 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (24 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award, 2019: Literary Fiction and Classics

Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award 2018

This Audible Exclusive performance of Bleak House features a unique introduction written and narrated by Miriam Margolyes. 

Recognised as one of Dickens' most accomplished titles, Bleak House has impressed critics and audiences alike since it was first published in 1852. The novel boasts one of the most intelligent and engaging plots in all of English literature and is sure to engage the listener's imagination as it transports us back in time to the seedy, grimy and hazardous streets of Victorian London. 

This release is part of the Dickens Collection, an exclusive series of unmissable performances available throughout 2018. 

About the audiobook: 

At the heart of Bleak House is the longstanding case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce - a damning portrayal of the 19th century legal system. Dickens shines a light on the impact that overdrawn court proceedings could have on the lives of those involved, specifically through two of his protagonists, Richard Carstone and his beloved Ada Clare. 

Dickens' unassuming heroine, Esther Summerson, along with the equally benevolent owner of Bleak House, John Jarndyce, attempts to guide the young lovers, Richard and Ada, to live their lives unaffected by the court proceedings. But with the introduction of some typically Dickensian characters such as Grandfather Smallweed and Mr Tulkinghorn, trouble soon ensues for all who cross their paths. 

About the author:

Having experienced the incarceration of his father, Charles Dickens had to abandon his studies at a young age and set to work in a factory so as to support himself. Despite his short-lived education, Dickens went on to write 15 novels, various articles, novellas and short stories. He lectured and led campaigns for children's rights and education and arguably became the ultimate self-made man. Bleak House offers unique insight into the mind-set of a middle-aged Charles Dickens and the exceptional way in which his artistic skill had grown and developed by then. 

About the narrator: 

Miriam Margolyes is an award-winning stage and screen actress, best known for her roles in The Age of Innocence, Little Dorrit, Sunshine, Cold Comfort Farm and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Her stage credits include The Vagina Monologues, Romeo & Juliet, The Threepenny Opera, The Canterbury Tales and her own one-woman show, Dickens' Woman. Miriam has always been a keen admirer of Charles Dickens and demonstrates a profound understanding of his themes and writing style through her skilful narration of Bleak House

Public Domain (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

What the critics say

"Such a miraculously good new audio version of this great novel is cause for hats in the air.... Margolyes clearly loves this material and brilliantly displays Dickens's genius for plotting, nailing human foibles, and shining light on social cruelties. It's a gobsmacking performance, on a par with Jim Dale's protean work on the Harry Potter novels. Ms. Margolyes contains multitudes." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Likeable if not lovable

A long and complex story told by a saint. Her many tears become a bit wearying at times, but that was the age. A rather darker, less comic novel, compared to other Dickens stories, and perhaps that absence is what makes the piece seem to drag on, especially at the end, where Dickens spends a lot of time rewarding saints and punishing sinners. Critics seem to prefer "Bleak House" overall, but to my mind what is impressive in the book comes at the expense of what is loveable. To each his own. Ms. Margoyles is an excellent reader and "do the voices" as any good Dickens reader should, though perhaps understandably, better with female than male voices.

8 people found this helpful

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amazing.

absolutely incredible. she does such an amazing job giving each character a voice. loved it!

6 people found this helpful

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Wth is going on

I can’t for the life of me follow what the hell is going on in this story.

1 person found this helpful

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Bleak House a better read

This is a great novel which I read a number of years ago. Very well performed. But I think due to the complexity of the story lines, it's a better read than listen.

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Most Worthwhile!

Will long be remembered as a most moving tale full of emotion. Long live Dickens!

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  • G
  • 2019-10-04

Spectacular!

You will find yourself laughing and crying by turns! Masterfully written and beautifully performed. Minute by minute and hour by hour you are drawn into the lives of all of Dickens’ superb characters.

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Bleak House

My first comment has to be that the narrator has an incredible command of her voice. It was very easy to distinguish between the characters. The way that Dickens developed his many characters was amazing but I would expect nothing less from him.

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Pure enjoyment

Miriam - you did a superb job of narration. I enjoyed every word you spoke, accents, different voices - the best narration I have listened to.

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BLEAK HOUSE , TYPICAL DICKENS

MIRIAM MARGOLYES HAS SUCH A PERFECT VOICE FOR NARRATION, WHY SHE HAS TO SPOIL IT ALL BY INFLECTING HER OWN GHASTLY VOICES TO ALL THE CHARACTERS.. I CANNOT LISTEN . I HAVE TO FAST FORWARD UNTIL SHE IS SPEAKING IN HER OWN VOICEAGAIN.
SO MIRIAM, FOR FUTURE NARRATIONS, PLEASE,PLEASE, PLEASE JUST READ THE DAMN THING.

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  • MattB
  • 2019-01-17

The Best Audiobook Ever?

I've been listening to audiobooks most of my 62 years, and I have to say this is quite possibly the best one I've ever heard. I'm a Dickens fan, and Bleak House is one of my favorites. But that's not why this recording is so sensational. It's all Miriam Margolyes. Her reading, performance, whatever you'd call it is absolutely perfect, combining her talents in acting, voices, accents with her passion for Dickens and her emotional response to the characters. It all just works together to make the ideal reading, yet somehow also manages to seem like an incredibly talented friend sitting in the room, not just reading, but sharing the book with you.

And about the length: when you listen to an audiobook this good, you don't ever want it to end. The hours flew by and, as I got closer to the end, found I was allowing myself only so much per day, to stretch it out so it wouldn't be over. Alas, it did finally end, but I plan to listen to it all over again -- once I have listened to everything else Ms. Margolyes has read for Audible, including several books I would never have thought to read but for her recording them.

Miriam -- if you ever read this, I've got your readings of Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist too. But please consider doing more (maybe all?) of the Dickens novels, unabridged, of course, like these three. No one, but no one, does them as well as you.

26 people found this helpful

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  • zolivia
  • 2018-07-04

3.8 stars

I'm having trouble finishing this audiobook. Ms. Margolyes approaches the text with great reverence, as she is evidently a Dickens aficionado. I think that reverence detracts from her narration, as each sentence is delivered in the deliberate cadence of the Archbishop of Canterbury eulogizing a dead monarch. I don't mean that she doesn't use a different voice for each character. She does do that, fairly well. I mean that every. Single. Phrase. Is treated as. Equally deserving. Of careful. Enunciation. And emphasis.

This would not be a bad narrative style for a fast-paced, crisply-written book. For "Bleak House," with its dry subject matter (Chancery Court! Law writing! Debt collection!) and convoluted plot? Ms. Margolyes's style is not ideal. Each scene drags and feels disconnected from the next, making it difficult to pick up narrative threads, such as the attempts of various characters to discovery the law writer's identity. What's worse, much of Dickens's sly humor is lost.

You will note as well that this audiobook is several hours longer than the average Dickens narration. I suspect this is also down to Ms. Margolyes's narration.

I have enjoyed Ms. Margolyes's skilled portrayal of several characters, in particular Grandfather Smallweed, whom she imbues with the perfect mix of querulousness and venom. So I am gritting my teeth and forcing myself to finish the audiobook. Hopefully I will have a greater appreciation for Ms. Margolyes's performance once I've listened to all 45 hours of it. :)

36 people found this helpful

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  • Nancy A Young
  • 2018-06-26

An Old Friend, Revisited

"Bleak House" has long been a favorite friend, but Miriam Margolyes' masterful narrative voices bring to life this epic story and beautiful prose in an elegant and friendly telling. Well worth owning and relistening again and again!

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  • Angi K
  • 2018-06-03

Not know the story is a disadvantage

Enjoyed other novels of this era--Dickens-Dostoesky-Tolstoy--but found Bleak House challenging-to-follow. Learn about story before listening.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Jon
  • 2018-08-16

What A Journey

Bleak House has been a wonderful journey. Prior to listening to this I thought Dickens was somewhat dark and I was reluctant to purchase it. For the first few chapters the story confirmed my previously held opinion. It also seemed excessively descriptive and I wasn't sure I could persist with 40+ hours of it. I'm glad I persisted because it turns out the story has incredible light and I came to love the creative skill in the descriptive passages. This isn't a book for people who don't like stories with multiple threads. For those who do, it is a rich tapestry. The narration in this rendition of Bleak House is superb. Miriam Margolyes' interpretation of the characters adds to the enjoyment of the story. She changes voice as characters interact at an impressive speed. Thank you for such enjoyable narration.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Patty Vinson
  • 2019-10-01

Miriam Margolyes is AMAZING!!!

I couldn’t stop listening to Miriam’s reading of this classic Dickens novel!
She did a fabulous job with all the diverse characters in this one story!
Thank you Audible!!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Paul F. Dubois
  • 2018-09-05

An immortal performance of an immortal work.

You know how many characters there are in this novel? I counted nine new ones introduced in two chapters about a third of the way through. Ms. Margolyes, one of our greatest character actresses, does every single one in an appropriate voice. She even has a different narration voice for the chapters narrated by one of the characters as opposed to the author's voice. She is clear and enunciates wonderfully. And of course, this is one of the greatest novels in literature.

Dickens' books were popular entertainments in serial form, frequently read aloud in family settings, so they perfectly fit this format. Knowing he is writing for someone who will need to recall the prior characters and events, Dickens takes care to provide idiosyncrasies and reminders for the reader -- so it perfectly suits listening periodically.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-07-18

Thank You, Ms. Margolyes

Ms. Margolyes' performance was phenomenal. I was slightly concerned by her introduction, when describing the narrator, she states, "I don't really warm to Esther," but Ms. Margolyes' masterful reading did not reveal any misgivings on her part. Her range of vocal tone and style is amazing, from warm and comforting (Lady Dedlock) to "fingernails-on-chalkboard" (Grandfather Smallweed). I was truly sorry when the when the performance had finished. Bravo!

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  • Mimi Wiley
  • 2020-01-22

Exemplary!

I have never listened to a more accomplished narrator than Ms. Margolyes! Her truly amazing voices were astounding, heart wrenching and spell-bounding! More than a few times I thought to myself that THIS reading, THIS dramatization would be as Mr. Dickens would have wished for! In fact, I do believe it may well have rendered him speechless ... our beloved author who has nor ever will be equaled. I am almost 72 and last year I decided to read once again Mr. Dickens and have now re-read them all with renewed delight and admiration. And should Audible decide to dramatize even more of his novels AND perhaps engage Ms. Margolyes again, I will savor listening to them afresh as I have done with Bleak House! Thank you all, Amelia Kelley Wiley

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  • Jennifer S. Leblanc
  • 2019-12-28

Absolutely amazing narrator!

Each December, I tackle a new Dickens novel. This one is so dense with characters that I never would have managed comprehension without the artful help of Miriam Margolyes, who is an absolute genius. What a talented performance. I highly recommend this version.