(P)1998 Chivers Audio Books and The Audio Partners Publishing Corp.
"Dickens was in the full flower of his talent when he wrote Hard Times, and this performance is a tribute to him." (AudioFile)
What do you get when you bring together a literary giant such as Dickens, and one of Britain's finest character actors? Quite simply ten-and-a-half hours of unbridled perfection. Martin Jarvis has taken the audiobook format to another level. He clearly knows Dickens intimately and never misses a beat in this outstanding performance. I cannot recommend this recording highly enough.
Dickens comes alive and seems totally contemporary- not that we really want him to be of our world. This is by far the most engaging narration I have encountered. Found myself looking for other works he has read. The characters are memorable and crystallize in the author's depiction. It is a story that you may find yourself thinking about after it's done.
Hard Times is more of a vehicle for Dickens to complain of the inadequacies of the British educational system and to decry the Industrial Revolution than it is a deep, compelling story. Having said that, the reader is so good that it sounds like a cast recording rather than an individual effort, and it's worth a listen just because he inhabits each character so perfectly.
Hard Times is the novel that changed my mind about Dickens. When I was forced to read his books in high school, I found them dry, Victorian, and much too wordy. Back then, I greatly preferred the more snappy prose of Hemingway or the insane worlds of Douglas Adams. Quite a few years after high school, I needed an audio book to get me through a long car trip, and with five minutes to go before the library closed, I grabbed a massive 20-cassette version of Hard Times off the shelf thinking, "Oh well, at least it's long." To my surprise, it was also hugely entertaining. Some of the descriptions were so brilliant and compelling that I found myself repeatedly rewinding to hear them again. Maybe the plot is a little overly dramatic and dependent on unlikely coincidences, but so what? It's also charming, witty, brutal, funny, sad, and surprisingly relevant.
I listened to samples of all the other versions of this book on Audible before choosing the one narrated by Martin Jarvis. His delivery is very nearly perfect. What I like best is his ability to capture the essence of female or child characters without sounding like a bad imitation or resorting to a screechy falsetto like a member of Monty Python.
I have listened to every Dickens book on tape/audio that I can. His stuff is as good or better listened to as read, which I don't think is sacrilegious since Dickens was a writer for the ear as muc as for the eye. This book simply doesn't work. It was new to me, hard to follow, organized less clearly than others and a major disappointment. Sad to say, not recommended.
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