Books, Link Ups, What's On Your Bookshelf?

What’s On Your Bookshelf? The June Edition.

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

My apologies for being MIA in recent weeks. I went from a planned blogging break to a family emergency which has required much time and attention. I am hoping to gradually re-enter the blogging world with this post.

In honour of Charles Dickens’ June 9 birthday, Yvette from Prior House Blog, and Trent from Trent’s World, encouraged readers to join them in reading and discussing Bleak House. Comprising 1,864 smartphone pages or 32 hours of audio, Bleak House was the perfect companion on my recent two-week hiking trip. For starters, it ensured that I never ran out of reading material. (The ebook copy is free here. An audio copy is free to members of Audible.com.)

To my delight, one of the Bed and Breakfasts on our trip had a complete set of Dickens’ novels. I borrowed their copy of Bleak House for the evening (over 900 pages in printed form).

Bleak House was Dickens’ 9th published novel. It is often proclaimed to be his finest (although not his most popular) work. As with so many subjective materials, its reviews vary widely. Our youngest son, an avid reader, labelled it as “boring, dry, and too many characters to deal with.” He eventually abandoned it. This was not a case of ‘like mother, like son.’ I loved it!

Numerous stories, plots and themes are brilliantly interwoven. Key themes include law vs justice, ineffectual government, greed and corruption, class inequity, child neglect, appearance and identity… to name just a few. Bleak House is a social criticism, satire, drama, romance and murder mystery all in one. Its serious themes are skillfully enmeshed in an often comical, always absorbing tale. Throughout the book, the language is rich, the wit sharp, the sarcasm dripping, the mystery addicting, and the caricatures fully loaded.

The 2005 movie trailer gives a quick snapshot of some of the storylines. It makes a great supplement to the book but definitely not a replacement.

I also encourage you to pop by Yvette’s and Trent’s and join in with what others are saying. There are very insightful posts and discussions to be found there.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice, 1813

From the opening line to the final page, Austen captivated me Hook. Line. And Sinker! I had so much fun reading this book that I broke the cardinal rule of our Classics BookClub and read ahead. Shhh! Don’t tell! (Yes, I apparently would have failed the 4-year-old Marshmallow Test.)

Substitute Pride and Prejudice for Marshmallows and it would be hard to tell some of these children and me apart!

But I digress. Bottom line, if you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice (or haven’t read it lately), I strongly encourage you to hang out with the Bennets and their five daughters. Yes, you can watch the movie too…but please do not skip the book!

This scene plays out a bit differently in the book but Firth perfectly nails Darcy’s awkwardness in this conversation.

The Litte Books on Inner Peace – Update

Four months ago, I packaged up three copies of The Little Book of Inner Peace (by Ashley Davies Bush) and mailed them to three friends living in three different countries. I requested that they each pass the book along when finished reading. My intention was to begin a ‘Travelling Ripple of Peace.’  Here is where the books have currently travelled.

Book A – Travelled from Parksville, BC, to Surfers Paradise, Australia, to Tumbarumba, Australia, to Buderim, Australia. It is currently preparing for its upcoming travels to New Zealand.

Book BTravelled from Parksville, BC, to Nanaimo, BC, to Scarborough, Ontario, to Florida, to Barry, Ontario and is now being enjoyed by Jan in Port Hope, Ontario.

Book C– Travelled from Parksville, BC, to San Diego, California, to La Quinta, California, to Palm Springs, California, to Brentwood, California, and is now with Parisa in Baltimore, Maryland.

So, what’s been on your bookshelf lately? Please join Sue, Debbie, Jo and me by sharing your post below or by chatting with us in the comments. We look forward to hearing from you.

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88 thoughts on “What’s On Your Bookshelf? The June Edition.”

  1. I haven’t read Bleak House… how is that? My fave Dickens is Our Mutual Friend. So glad you loved P&P it truly sparkles & we’ll forgive you for reading ahead on this occasion…x

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    1. Hi, Jo – I really tried hard not to read ahead. Honest I did. But as soon as Bleak House was finished, P & P literally jumped back into my visual screen and refused to be ignored (my story and I’m sticking to it)! I think that you would LOVE Bleakhouse. As Janice mentioned below, so many of its key themes are top issues that so many countries are dealing with today!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by. I am not usually one to reread books (okay, except for A Walk in the Woods) but I definitely see myself rereading Pride and Prejudice again and again. It was sheer pleasure. I was delighted to read Dickens on Trent and Yvette’s challenge. It is a perfect book to be discussed with others!

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  2. Good to “see” you! I haven’t read Bleak House but now I want to. The key themes (law vs justice, ineffectual government, greed and corruption, class inequity, child neglect, appearance and identity) sound like the book could have been written today. I think I read P&P a long time ago but I think a re-read is in order. So many books, so little time 🙂

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    1. Hi, Janis – I completely agree with your final line. That is my ongoing struggle. Bleak House and P & P are both very well worth the read (or reread). You are spot on about Bleak House. So many of it’s themes are current for today!

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  3. Hi Donna, I’m sorry life is tough at the moment but we are all here for you. I love Charles Dickens although I haven’t read Bleak House so will be visiting this book on your recommendation. I have seen the movie though. I started to read ahead in P&P too although am now in danger of not having it finished by our next meeting! I have read the book years ago and of course seen the movie. I love the Bennets but could only take Mrs Bennett and Lydia in small doses. 🙂 Thank you so much for still co-hosting WOYBS despite all that is going on in your life at the moment. Sending love and hugs. xx

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    1. Hi, Sue – Thank you for this very kind and thoughtful comment. And thank you for adding this post to InLinkz (that completely slipped my mind). You are so right about Mama Bennet and Lydia — small doses at best (but very well-drawn)!

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  4. Recently, in fact still, I am re-reading (for the third time) David Quammen’s magnificent book, “The Song of the Dodo.” It is truly one of the finest natural history books ever written.

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  5. Interesting how you and your son had completely different reactions to the book, Donna. I am really sorry to hear you’re going through a difficult time. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.❤️

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    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers, Jill. They are greatly appreciated.
      Creighton and I often have similar tastes in books. Even though he was living in LInconshire while reading Bleak House…the book just wasn’t for him!

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  6. How serendipitous to run across a Dickens collection at a B&B, though the week long hiking trip sounds even more interesting than any book 😉 I like the movie trailer, but I don’t know if I would be drawn in by it if I didn’t know which scenes the clips were taken from.
    It’s been a while since I read P&P, though it is one of those books I think I could half recite. My description of it is “a comedy of manners”… I saw an old movie on it and thought it missed the point, but I think it was the Collin Firth that got it right in making fun of the customs that got in the way of the relationships.
    I really like the idea of traveling books.

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    1. Hi, Trent – I was thrilled to find a complete set of Dickens’ works at The Scotsman Inn in Pictou, Nova Scotia. We actually got in early enough that evening for me to get some reading in which was perfect timing.
      I completely agree about the Bleak House movie trailer. It wouldn’t have taken me in either if I had not first read the book.
      The Colin Firth version of P & P truly surpassed all of my expectations!
      Thank you again for running The Bleak House Challenge. I greatly enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I hope all is well with your family. I am a huge Jane Austen fan, and “Pride and Prejudice” is one of my favorites. As for Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy…yes, please! That sweet little Book of Peace sure is traveling.

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  8. Hi Donna I love Bleak House. I’ve heard the criticisms about it being too wordy and dry but I loved reading every word. And the characters! Now that you’ve reminded me of it I will definitely re-read it. I remember many years ago watching the BBC production as a mini series. It was very dark and brilliant.

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    1. Thanks, Jennfer – I am not much of a tv or movie watcher — but there are exceptions — and this is one of them. Things are a bit hectic for me right now, but as soon as they settle down, I plan to watch that full BBC production! 😀

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  9. Donna, sorry to read that ‘life’ and ‘family’ have impacted recently requiring your attention and now I see that your Mum has broken her hip. Her determination will stand her in good stead for recovery. I am so not a fan of all the books and authors you dear bloggers read and share but I have the DVD series of Pride and Prejudice from the 1990s and watched it in lockdown last year. Thanks for the link up. Denyse

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    1. Thanks, Denyse – I greatly appreciate your kind words. Along with my mom’s hip surgery there are other complicating factors. Very difficult times. My learning curve is currently straight up! Thank you for the reminder of the P & P DVD series. I plan to watch it (and Bleak House) soon!

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  10. You are such an erudite reader – although I don’t completely trust your recommendations after the Hamnet affair! So glad you enjoyed the books – I guess they’re not called “classics” without being worthy of the title. Hope your mum is recovering well and she has my absolute sympathy (as do you….I imagine there is a lot of patience involved!)

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  11. Hi Donna, hope all is going well with your mum’s recovery and you are looking after yourself too. I have watched Bleak House many years ago but don’t think I’ve read it. I’m enjoying Pride and Prejudice, such a change from our Bronte sisters, not necessarily better, just different. Your book of Inner Peace is getting around, how good is it to follow its progress around the world??? I always enjoy your WOYBS posts and learn so much from you, thanks for being a fabulous co-host of this monthly challenge xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Debbie – I loved the Brontës but am also loving this shift into Jane Austen. I really cannot believe that I had not read any of these authors before. I think that I took too mamy similar courses in school so then read anything but in my post-school life. Whatever the reason, I so wish that I had read these before and could compare my current thoughts with my thoughts back then.
      I greatly appreciate your kind words..

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I love reading your travelling book updates! What a fun way to spread the joy of reading. I have read a few Dickens novels but had not heard of this one… not sure I’m up for such a time commitment with a 900 page book though.

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    1. Hi, Joanne – Bleak House was written as 20 different installments of 2 -3 chapters at a time, between March 1852 and September 1853. Readers really got to think this work through slowly and wait in anticipation for the next installment. Since I had a deadline for my reading, I did much binge reading, but this book truly begs to be read slowly. Don’t let the 900 pages deter you – it truly is a wonderful read!

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  13. Donna, I love P&P, have read it a few times and I have seen all the movie versions. Bleak House, on the other hand…When Trent introduced it I was tempted but I think I might have had the same reaction as your son. I have enjoyed Trent’s essays and I loved Janis’ recap of ‘themes’ which would make it applicable to today. Thanks for adding your review to the mix as well – it has now moved to the ‘maybe’ column. I hope your ‘family emergency’ has calmed and things are better. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Thanks, Suzanne – I read Bleak House specifically because of Yvette and Trent’s challenge. It was well-worth the read — I completely feel in love with it. My mom’s situation is still a difficult one but we are taking it day by day. I greatly appreciate your kind words.

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  14. Good to hear and see you. Hope all is well in your world. I haven’t read Bleak House, I’d like to but I need of no distractions to tackle it. Mymo. Has her father’s collection of Dicken’s, so it is very tempting to escape and get lost.

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    1. Hi, Antoinette – That is quite a treasure. I would love to have a family collection of Dicken’s works. I am totally envious. I was hoping to ease back into the blogging with this post. My mom’s situation currently requires much hands-on time. This is new territory for me so we are taking it one step at a time.

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  15. Now that *everyone* is reading Bleak House I feel like I should at least consider reading it! Maybe in the winter, not during the light days of summer. I’m currently bouncing between The Last Train to Key West and Underground Fugue. Both seem to be holding my interest.

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    1. Hi, Ally – I haven’t read either of the books that you mention but both titles intrigue me. I agree that Bleak House would be an awesome winter read. I did read it in May — but it was cold, windy and rainy most of the time so that helped add atmosphere!

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  16. A former supervisor of mine was a rabid lover of Dickens, and for years tried to get me to read Great Expectations. I never did probably out of spite. A couple of years ago, I decided it was time to stop being so bull-headed, but instead of Great Expectations I read Nicholas Nickleby instead. So I still have to read Great Expectations, but now that I’m not being coerced perhaps I’ll add Bleak House too. Many thanks for the suggestion, Donna. – Marty

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    1. Hi, Marty – I’m not gonna lie, I got completely distracted by “rabid lover” and my mind went straight to the horrible 2013 film about five college graduates on vacation in the woods when one of them became infected with a synthetic rabies virus. Yup, it took my mind quite a while to get back to Dickens (a true testament of my distractabiloity these days)! I haven’t read Great Expectations (I can’t believe it either) or Nicholas Nickleby. I may check to see if my Classics Book Club would like to give Charles a try after Jane. 😀

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      1. Ah, such is my ignorance. I’m not aware of that film, though that might be a blessing based on your description of it. I have to admit that Nickleby was a bit of a slog, as I feel most of those Victorian-era novels are for me. But left to my own lazy devices, I might only read John Updike, and that clearly won’t get me anywhere!

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  17. Trying to comment with a dozing puppy on my lap 😁…Have not yet read Bleak House though I love Dickens…will have to give it (and Audible) a try sometime soon. P&P is a perennial favourite. I read it and S&S once a year! Nice to see you blogging again, my friend!

    Deb

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    1. Thanks, Deb – I’m not sure how much blogging I will actually accomplish in the next two weeks, but I will definitely try to stick with it as I can. I love the sounds of having a dozing puppy in my lap. I greatly look forward to meeting Bowser soon. Miss yoyu!!

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  18. I can’t believe the Gillian Anderson Bleak House was 2005! It was shown in half hour instalments on tv here, like a soap. I’m so glad you have the correct opinion (ie mine 😉😀) about P&P and about Colin Firth’s Darcy. I still swoon. Hope the emergency is over.

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    1. Hi, Anabel – Your comment made me smile. Great minds think alike. And absolutely – who doesn’t love that Lake Scene? Definitely swoon material.
      Sadly there is no quick fix to our family emergency but we are all taking it one step at a time.

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  19. Like you, I loved Bleak House. And Pride & Prejudice. First, thank you for urging people to read the book. It sparkles (as you know), especially if read aloud. A friend and I read to each other on a very long drive to Florida decades ago. Time for a reprise? Second, swoon, thank you for linking to the A&E excerpt. It’s been years since I watched it, and after seeing your snippet, I’m ready to watch it again. You’re quite right about Colin Firth, too.

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    1. Hi, Carol Ann – I am completely jealous that you have a friend that would read P & P with you aloud as you travelled. That is a most perfect friend to have.
      I agree that the A & E version was a true masterpiece!

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    1. Thanks, Lydia – The Traveling Little Book of Inner Peace has been a very fun WOTY project. A couple of times I feared that I had lost complete track of one of the books — but before I came up with a Plan Two – the book always suddenly appeared. I look forward to seeing how long I can keep this chain going. Fingers crossed!

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  20. Wow, you have some good book taste, Donna. Your review of Bleak House is super attractive and fascinating. I can’t wait for a time in my life where I can actually read tomes of life! 🙂 It’s so fun to follow the adventures of “The Little Book of Inner Peace”.

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  21. Bleak House is amazing, both the book and the BBC series. As for Pride and Prejudice, it is my favourite adult book! Have read it many times and have seen a number of movie adaptations. Colin Firth is my favourite Mr. Darcy. I used to belong to the Jane Austen Society of North America, Vancouver Chapter and have been to a couple of JASNA conferences. So much fun.

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  22. Hello
    I really enjoyed your post here
    First of all, thanks for joining us with the reading this spring!
    My favorite part of your review and share was this:
    “the language is rich, the wit sharp, the sarcasm dripping, the mystery addicting, and the caricatures fully loaded.”
    You said that so well and how very cool that the bed and breakfast place had Dickens books – including a copy of Bleak House.
    I didn’t “love” the book but I liked it a lot and feel the better for having it a rich part of my life this year!
    I can also see how some (like your son) might not get hooked in. He just might at a different life phase (or not)

    Then – you surprised me with the P&P book! That is one of my favorite stories. I actually like the older Mini series better than the 1995 one – but I think they both have strengths – yet as you noted 🌸 – none can replace the book! There is one (2005 i think) where Sutherland plays the dad – but they made it a two hour movie and so much was lost !
    Lastly – early in the pandemic –
    Amazon featured a musical performance of P&P and it was so-so.
    Singing was Fine – writing pretty good – but the actor playing Darcy was short! And to me that was just plain wrong! Mr Darcy’s height is an important part of his character but I guess there are always choices that have to be made with available talent and other skills that pave the way for a part!

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    1. Hi, Yvette – Thank you for your kind words and for the pingback as well. Both are greatly appreciated. I hadn’t heard of the musical performance of Pride and Prejudice. I agree that a short Mr. Darcy is all wrong…amd a musical??! I also recently heard there is a new version of Austen’s Persuassion coming out as a ROM COM with Dakota Johnson that is said to be in the style of Bridget Jones (where Johnson cries in the bathtub and driniks wine straight from the bottle). Yikes!! I think I will stick with Austen’s original!
      Thank you and Trent again for organizing this challenge. I’ve greatly enjoyed it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my goodness – the driving wine from the bathtub like that reminds me of Shonda Rhimes sophomoric writing

        Where two ladies sulk and drink from what looks like a huge vodka bottle – they don’t drink it like it tastes bitter or has heat in the chest (unrealistic) and then – they get inspired and go on to start writing (can’t recall that episode but the show was “Scandal”
        And then my step daughter loves grey’s anatomy and I just couldn’t watch it with her –
        The dumbing down of things
        – like early episodes have the doctoral student praying for college by having nude photos in a magazine –
        There are so many more examples of the trite and surface content in her shows (no disrespect to her as a successful screenwriter) but that little example of the nude photos being interwoven into cheering her on as it paid for medical school was annoying and connects to the skewed outlook many have about body image- porn – ends justifying the means – etc
        And not sure if you saw “generation wealth” documentary but that doc comes to mind when I think of some of the modern writing!

        Gettin back to the wine in the tub – and the vodka ladies in scandal –
        Well dear screen writers – please remember that alcohol gets people tipsy and when we have 80 pound women acting like they are drinking like a 250lb man- that is just silly!
        Many folks – men and woman – vomit other sick and shaky

        And in a recent show my son was watching – the MC came out with a bottle of tequila and said she was going to drink it all!
        Yeah right
        – all 100 pounds of her
        I plan on posting about alcohol on my blog sometime this year – and how it is wrongly portrayed and the lies about it as a relaxer (our friend dies at 49 of a very fast cancer – and during her treatment the doctor okayed red wine – WTF! All alcohol is a toxin and it pulls from health – and then the addictive aspect –
        Okay – enough rambling –
        But your reply reminded me of what I written in my bleak house A to Z post – How movies and TV series can be “off”

        Like most books, the mini series can never fully give you all of the subplots and richness found within the book. In addition, we end up with screen writer bias, producer preferences, actor nuances, and time period changes

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      2. Hi, Yvette – Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. There are many movies that are said to be ‘better’ than the book (Fight Club, Jaws. The Graduate and Briget Jones’ Diary are often cited) However, no movies that I have (yet) seen has trumped the corresponding book for me. There’s still time!
        I am not yet sure if I will watch the new movie release of Persuassion. But, I will definitely watch the full Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice (I have not yet seen the whole thing). I will also watch the full Bleak House on Brir Box.:)

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    1. Thank you so much for dropping by and commenting. One of the Little Books of Peace is currently in Baltimore so only 1,500 miles away. In the scheme of things, that not far at all!
      BTW – I completely understand the JA addiction! 😀

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  23. I am feeling like the country bumpkin with no library access and a grade 3 vocabulary! Turns out after high school I NEVER read a single classic. For many years I never read at all…
    As I said when you took your blogging break we would be here and we are. Sorry to hear about your mom and the # hip. It’s a LONG recovery road. If you have any questions I have loads of firsthand experience with hip #’s and recovery. Sometimes it’s good to have a friendly nursing ear. Take care and take the time you need for you and your family. We will still be here. Bernie

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    1. Hi, Bernie – I believe that not reading classics since HS puts you in the majority. As a previous HS English Teacher, MS Teacher and School Principal I cringe at how classics were often ruined for many readers. I’m also of the opinion that reading what you love and what interests you is the way to go.
      Thank you so much for your offer to help answer questions for me regarding my mom’s hip surgery. I greatly appreciate it and will not hesitate to contact you if I have any questions. Warmly, Donna

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  24. I read Bleak House in college and enjoyed it. I’m sure if I read it again, I’d get more out of it. How cool that you read it on a hike! Sounds like a lovely experience.

    Re: your son, give him time. I read a couple of Dickens novels in high school and was mostly bored. I reread them after college and loved them.

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    1. Hi, Janet – Thank you for your kind words. I had planned to read Lucy Maud Montgomery on my PEI hike, but Bleak House actually worked well (the fog, wind and rain were definitely there for atmosphere).
      My son is 34 this August and says he will never pick up Bleak House again. I believe that he is quite serious about that. 😀

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  25. Donna, you are such a voracious reader. I read The Bleak House, but did not follow it up by another book or two of any length – yet. I enjoyed it immensely but I love your review of it. It is so long and involved – as your son noted – with the number of characters, that it would take me several posts to get through it. I’m still working on Trent’s posts about the characters. I’m so sorry about your mother, and I’ll pray for you both. She must be quite a woman.

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    1. Hi, Marsha – Thank you so much, Marsha. My mom is quite the woman. I greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers. I loved Bleak House and missed reading it when I was finished. Trent’s and Yvette’s post on Bleak House are excellent. I highly recommend them! I hope that all is well with you. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  26. So late to the party, Donna. Hope all is stable with your family emergency. I enjoyed your thoughts on the two classic, and I really should read them someday. I love that you’re sharing the little book of inner peace with folks and that it has continued to travel so extensively. We’ve been busy as we planned and are now enjoying a 4-week road trip.

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    1. Hi, Terri – I so appreciate you stopping by, especially since I have been mostly MIA from the blogging world lately. My mom broke her hip and its been a straight up learning curve. She is doing the best that she can but it is still a long road ahead. Enjoy your upcoming road trip. Please post lots of photos!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. I am sorry to hear about your family emergency. I am hoping it got taken care of. No need to worry about being MIA from blogging. I always think blogging is my emotional tether ball — I’ll stray because I am occupied with something but then I return because I believe the hobby keeps me centered.

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  28. Hello Donna and welcome back. I hope your mom is recovering well. It has been decades since I first read Pride and Prejudice. I may have to give it another go now that I have more time for reading. Thanks for the updates on the traveling books. I quite enjoy reading about their journeys.

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    1. Thanks, Christie – It’s a long road ahead for my mom but she has a positive attitude and is trying hard.
      I hope that new retirement life is treating you well. I look forward to following your journey.

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  29. Hi Donna – sorry to read this about your travails … but hope it happened after you got back, and you weren’t called away. Always difficult to change direction in family life and adjust to a different perspective – it’ll be fine …

    I’d love to see the Bleak House with Gillian Anderson – she’s staggering in her roles. I also need to read much much more and must make a plan – I will have a book for next month!

    Take care and all the best as you adjust – cheers Hilary

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    1. Thanks, Hilary – We had just returned home from PEI/NS and had 3 weeks before leaving for Banff so we were able to get to my mom’s fairly quickly and stay until my parents were settled. We have just left this morning to let them try things on their own (they insist that they do not need outside help). We’ll be back in two weeks and will reasses then. Thank you for your kind words.

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