I have been re-reading Bleak House (well - listening to it) over the last few weeks. It's a novel I've admired for a long time, but I haven't made it through a re-read since my early twenties.
I am largely enjoying it, but I don't think Dickens had a very good grasp on female friendship. All Esther and Ada seem to do is call each other "dear one" and "my darling" and it's just cloying and fake. I don't really enjoy Louisa May Alcott more than Dickens but I do think she's got a better grasp on the way women interact with each other. Dickens kind of gets women wrong anyway, throughout his books. (I need to re-read Little Dorrit and I've never read The Old Curiosity Shop, but there's a plethora of evidence just in the books I've re-read in the last couple of years - Kate in Nicholas Nickleby, Dora in Great Expectations- all his women are either penitent sinners, brainless saints or the target of satire.)
But everything else is good and I'm enjoying the re-read a lot. He plots so well, and I forgive him for some of the schmaltz he deploys because it's often in service of social justice. And he's really funny. I mean, he's not writing with the wonderful subtlety of Henry James but he's not trying to, either. Henry James is sort of like NPR anyway - really great stuff, and all smart and well-intentioned (although Henry James definitely doesn't try as hard to be liked as NPR does) and a little prideful - and after a while, a total downer. (Trollope is actually my favorite of the Victorian men - he's funny AND subtle and he gets women. The politics could possibly be dry unless you are the kind of person who is fascinated by office politics, as I am, in which case you won't find it dry at all.)