Summary

Hard Times is Dickens's most political novel. Set in the industrial north of England, in Coketown, he examines the lives of working people, who are taught by the capitalists Gradgrind and Bounderby to think only of the facts of life and not to indulge in imagination. Gradgrind’s own children have been so educated and as a result are dysfunctional and disconnected from their feelings. Only the travelling circus company of Sleary seems to offer any hope of humanity in Coketown. Hard Times is a deeply moving story written in anger to strike a blow for the victims of the dehumanising processes of industry.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By stephen on 08-12-13

The least typical Dickens novel

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would definitely recommend this to a friend - it is short so that even if you aren't a regular Dickens reader you will get through it and see if you like his style.

What did you like best about this story?

It is a fascinating story and quite unlike most of Dickens novels (all of which I like very much). It is the least melodramatic and has the least emotional stereotypes. It has a crisp punchy message that feels very relevant even now. As always Dickens is very concerned about social problems. In this novel, while there are some great character portraits, it is the social message about the gulf between mill workers and mill owners that comes clearly across. For any one who likes Lowry paintings (and especially anyone who went to the recent Lowry exhibition in London) it transports you straight into the world of his paintings - an experience not to be missed. It is also one of Dickens best attempts to portray an accent other than that of London or his beloved Kent. He has clearly researched the Lancashire accent very well and it adds another great dimension to the book.

What does Anton Lesser bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Anton Lesser is a superb reader. Each character is distinct in a very appropriate way and the pace of the various parts is beautifully pitched. He clearly understands what he is reading. He enriches the whole experience of the novel.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Both laughed and almost cried. Great moments of pathos and bathos, also spiced with comedy. Perhaps one of Dickens most emotionally balanced books, without too much melodrama.

Any additional comments?

For any Dickens fan who does not know this title it is a must read book.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Julian on 12-04-16

Dickens made easy

Brilliant narration of an unexpectedly great read. Would highly recommend to anyone usually daunted by dickens.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Bonny on 01-03-16

Very glad I kept going!

Is there a Dickens narrator who can surpass Anton Lesser? Equal, yes, a very few, but surpass? I think this is my last Dickens novel to listen to (I'm going to have to go back and start again, otherwise it's just too depressing to contemplate), and I nearly didn't finish it. One of the qualities of audiobooks is that the writing (often dialogue, but not always) can be more difficult to listen to than to read. The beginning of the book, with its focus on Gradgrind's educational philosophy, was hard for me to listen to, and I left it for a few months. Thank heavens I came back to it. Lesser is a consummate actor, and his voicing of the characters is intense and immediate. He is excellent at voicing characters of all sexes; some otherwise wonderful male narrators have women characters who don't possess the fullness and breadth of their male characters, but not Lesser. His reading of Louisa's appeal to her father toward the end of the book nearly brought me to tears, it was so full of real and heartfelt emotion, but never overdone.

This is an interesting Dickens because it's so much shorter than most of his books. Only 10+ hours. At times I felt that the story and some of the characters weren't as fully fleshed out as usual, but who cares, it's Dickens, the writing is exquisite, and you simply cannot find better narration.

I also hadn't expected, from my first outing with the book, to be laughing out loud as much as I did. Mr. Bounderby's quality of constantly bringing up his rags-to-riches life story gets more and more hilarious as the book goes on.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By David Hopkins on 14-11-15

A Dickens Classic

Wonderful story of the human nature while at the same time capturing the essence of what it means to love! The narrator is excellent!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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