- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (25 Jan. 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140620443
- ISBN-13: 978-0140620443
- Product Dimensions: 28.2 x 46 x 28.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 785,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Hard Times (Penguin Popular Classics) Paperback – 25 Jan 2007
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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.
'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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
'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).Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Purchased due to it being on my 'set book' list for university. Very happy with this purchase, delivery was okay and was in pristine condition! Exactly as described!Published 15 days ago by Em30
Dickens at his best when it comes to social comment on the Victorian working classes and life in an industrial townPublished 16 days ago by Annabell
Not one of Dickens' most popular novels but one of great social interest. The factory system, 'rational' education and horror of a drunken wife (to Dickens, at least, an... Read morePublished 21 days ago by gwood
Interesting story with interesting characters as always with Dickens.Published 2 months ago by Valerie Lamb
Part of OU course. Short for a Dickens novel and very readable. Useful notesPublished 3 months ago by Bobcross
Good quality book arrived on time. Very pleased thank you.Published 4 months ago by Christine Vickers