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Hard Times (Clothbound Classics) Hardcover – 6 Oct 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (6 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141198346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141198347
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 3.3 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 218,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Dickens was born in 1812 near Portsmouth where his father was a clerk in the navy pay office. The family moved to London in 1823, but their fortunes were severely impaired. Dickens was sent to work in a blacking-warehouse when his father was imprisoned for debt. Both experiences deeply affected the future novelist. In 1833 he began contributing stories to newspapers and magazines, and in 1836 started the serial publication of Pickwick Papers. Thereafter, Dickens published his major novels over the course of the next twenty years, from Nicholas Nickleby to Little Dorrit. He also edited the journals Household Words and All the Year Round. Dickens died in June 1870.


Product Description

Review

David Timson reads Dickens's last complete novel with a sense of fun. As always, Dickens creates a fabulous array of characters: the nouveau riche Veneerings, the dwarf who makes doll clothes, the bizarre schoolmaster, and the abysmally poor who trawl the Thames for bodies or daily sift the dust and dirt of Victorian England for a skimpy living. Timson's dramatic talents add dimension to each personality-just the sort of acting that makes an audio experience so satisfying. Naxos has done a fine job of abridging the book (Timson also reads the unabridged version on 28 CDs). Not much is lost in terms of plot and characterization, and Dickens's great satiric and social themes come through clearly: the plight and misery of the poor and the greed and heartless stupidity of the rich. If the abridgment seems a bit disjointed, it simply follows the novel's narrative style. This is a wonderful listen for Dickens fans and novices alike. - Pulbisher's Weekly --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Book Description

'Now what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life....' So says Thomas Gradgrind in Dickens' immortal story set in the North of England in the 19th century. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 April 2012
Format: Paperback
Hard Times is not generally regarded as one of Dickens' best works but it is nonetheless worth a read. He is particularly scathing about factory owners and their complaints about all the things that would "ruin" them - such as compulsory education for children, factory inspections or better conditions for workers. (Nothing has changed: look at how modern employers bleat about the minimum wage, health and safety regulations and taxes!)

Another part that will strike a chord with a reader of today is when he refers to a magnate overstepping himself and causing financial chaos to those around. "These accidents did sometimes happen in the best regulated families of Coketown but the bankrupts had no connexion whatever with the improvident classes."

Dickens uses Hard Times to mock the ideas of Utilitarianism which were popular at the time. He was convinced that an analytical, unsentimental approach to all learning had a stultifying effect on the pupil as demonstrated in particular by Gradgrind's daughter Louise. He also make great sport of factory owner Mr Bounderby's continual references to his humble beginnings and how few advantages he had had in life. (All very reminiscent of the Monty Python sketch: "You lived in a cardboard box - you were lucky, we lived in a hole in the road...") His unveiling as a fraud is one of the highlights of the book.

He employs a very odd interpretation of a northern accent (Manchester? Yorkshire, Lancashire?) which I found very irritating. Also Sleary the circus master has a lisp which is equally irritating. Some parts of the plot are very melodramatic - such as Stephen's incredible rescue from down the pit. He also uses the device of characters dying off at a convenient moment to suit the plotline.

So not overall one of the best of his books but Hard Times still contains lots to enjoy.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 19 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
'Hard Times' is one of the few novels Dickens wrote which is not set largely or exclusively in London, and he did so for a very good reason. In 'Hard Times' he forcefully depicts the damage industrialization was wreaking among the lower classes, and how the unequivocal belief in 'facts' and rationality plays havoc with the lives of the upper classes too. To do so he sets the novel's action in the fictional 'Coketown' (which could stand for any major industrial town in England in the 1840s). Thomas Gradgrind is the town's schoolmaster, and a firm believer in 'facts', to such a degree that he has completely ignored the existence of powerful emotions in his own children, particularly his daughter Louisa and son Thomas. Ignoring the fact that emotions might play an essential role in the matter, he allows his friend Bounderby, a coarse factory-owner, to propose to Louisa and marry her. Needless to say, it does not turn out to be a happy marriage. Interwoven with Louisa's story is the story of Stephen Blackpool, a humble factory worker wrongfully accused of theft.

'Hard times' is - as the title suggests - not a very happy book: rich and well-off 'mathematical men' such as Gradgrind and Bounderby are shown to be completely out of touch with their (and other's) humanity, whereas the poor factory-workers have in fact retained a far higher sense of what is morally proper and what is not, but are caught up in their daily drudgery like cogs in a giant industrial machine: endlessly repeating the same manual tasks from dawn till dusk, like prisoners in a treadmill. The book does offer some faint glimmers of hope though (but I won't tell which, that would be a spoiler).
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Mar. 2001
Format: Paperback
'Hard Times' is one of Dickens' most evocative novels, painting a vivid picture of the grinding, soulless industrialisation that so troubled the author. Introducing a host of brilliantly conceived characters, it is a memorable read. Gradgrind and Bounderby earn a well deserved place in the canon of Dickens' finest literary creations. Although serious in purpose, with a biting social commentary, it is written in Dickens' customary vein of humour and the author's ear for dialect and vernacular is gloriously manifest. A good start for those who normally shy away from Dickens because of his lengthy novels as it is relatively short and a definite must for anyone interested in social novels or an amusing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gregory S. Buzwell VINE VOICE on 28 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
Hard Times is in many ways the least typically Dickensian of all Dickens' novels: it is the most streamlined of his books, coming in at about a third of the length of novels such as Bleak House and Little Dorrit, and it is the only one of his major works which doesn't contain a single scene set in London. On the other hand it addresses some very Dickensian issues - in particular the life and working conditions of the poor - and it contains some terrifically dazzling Dickensian characters - Mr Gradgrind, forever in pursuit of 'facts'; and Mr Bounderby, a self-made (or so he claims) businessman and a general all round 'Bully of Humanity' to name but two.

The story takes place in Coketown, Dickens' fictional variation of places such as Manchester, Preston and Bolton. Coketown is perpetually wreathed in 'serpents of smoke' that belch from the numerous factory chimneys. The workers are downtrodden, militant and horrendously exploited by the mill owners; the mill owners themselves - represented by Mr Bounderby - are pompous, aloof and dismissive of their workers' claims for better conditions and improved wages. The two sides are lined-up against each other and finding anything approaching common ground looks to be impossible. As nineteenth-century 'Condition of England' novels go Hard Times is one of the best and within its pages you will discover a great deal regarding both the good and the bad consequences of the dawning, unstoppable industrial age.

Set against the grime, smog and social inequality of Coketown is the travelling circus that briefly sets up camp on the outskirts of the town. Whereas inside the town walls fact and commerce rule the day outside in the circus imagination and fancy have the upper hand.
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