The highest priority for Thomas Gradgrind, head of the Gradgrind model day school, is his version of education - feeding the mind while starving the soul and spirit. Inflexible and unyielding, he places conformity above curiosity and sense over sentiment...only to find himself betrayed by the very standards that govern his own unhappy life.
Hard Times is Dickens' scathing portrait of Victorian industrial society and its misapplied utilitarian philosophy. And Thomas Gradgrind is one of his most richly dimensional, memorable characters. Filled with the details and wonders of small-town life, Hard Times is also a daring novel of ideas---and ultimately a celebration of love, hope, and the limitless possibilities of the imagination.
Narrative makes the world go round.
More than Dickens' usual over-the-top tale of the unjust hard times of the working poor, "Hard Times" skewers the industrial education model, on which we still function to some degree. When I did my teacher training, I wish I had been assigned this novel rather than a dozen scholarly articles that made the same points, but in the "Gradgrind" way. As usual, Dickens slips into occasional pathos with one dimensional caricatues, but with his wonderfully entertaining prose, he can get away with even that. Prebble's narration is wonderful as usual.
I have listened to stories all my life, and thought my mother was perhaps the most gifted reader born, (to hear her Piglet and Pooh was to understand the elasticity of love). But Simon Prebble is better. I will listen to everything he has recorded; it's my new purpose. No one else could have done Sleary justice; he becomes more than my own mind had made him when I read Hard Times so long ago: from Prebble's tongue he is a monument of dignity with a slippery 's'. And Prebble's reading of Susanna Clarke's work is perhaps even more astonishing - footnotes and all. I'm blissed out!
One of Dickens' shorter novels, "Hard Times" is uncomplicated, easy to follow, and one of the author's more melancholy works. It is filled with memorable characters and is extremely moving. Simon Prebble, an always excellent narrator, adds tremendously to the pleasure of this audiobook and brings this piece of moral literature beautifully to life.
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