This is only the second Dickens novel I've ever read and it was probably not the best novel to read around Christmas time. The story is bleak and gloomy. It's set in foggy, dirty Victorian London, there is a lot of mention of dirt, squalor, disease, death and poverty. Some parts were really quite depressing and upsetting.
The story is narrated in part by the orphaned Esther, who I had a lot of trouble warming up to in the story. I'm used to stronger female narrators but she was too modest, probably the Victorian female ideal, but it didn't win me over. I also got frustrated with her trying to be a mother to everyone and not thinking about her own happiness.
The story revolves around the Jarndyce vs Jarndyce court case, a long-running litigation case.The case had lots of satire surrounding it and I definitely see it as an attack on the British legal system at the time.
The characters Dickens came up with in this novel are quite hilarious. My favourites were Mrs Jellyby, who is obsessed with Africa, Old Mr Turveydrop, who can't stop thinking about "deportment," and Skimpole, who is basically a leacher. They are really ridiculous but at least their presence brightened up gloomy London.
A great word I learned from this book, which I think I will adopt, is the word "growlery" which is defined as a place where one goes in order to get over a bad mood!