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Hard Times | [Charles Dickens]

Hard Times

Despite the title, Dickens's portrayal of early industrial society is less relentlessly grim than that in novels by contemporaries such as Elizabeth Gaskell or Charles Kingsley. Hard Times weaves the tale of Thomas Gradgrind, a hard-headed politician who raises his children Louisa and Tom without love; of Sissy, the circus girl with love to spare who is deserted and adopted into their family; and of the honest mill worker Stephen Blackpool and the bombastic mill owner Josiah Bounderby.
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Publisher's Summary

Despite the title, Dickens's portrayal of early industrial society is less relentlessly grim than that in novels by contemporaries such as Elizabeth Gaskell or Charles Kingsley. Hard Times weaves the tale of Thomas Gradgrind, a hard-headed politician who raises his children Louisa and Tom without love; of Sissy, the circus girl with love to spare who is deserted and adopted into their family; and of the honest mill worker Stephen Blackpool and the bombastic mill owner Josiah Bounderby. The key contrasts created are finally less those between wealth and poverty, or capitalists and workers, than those between the head and the heart, between "Fact", the cold, rationalistic approach to life that Dickens associates with utilitarianism, and "Fancy", a warmth of the imagination and of the feelings, which values individuals above ideas.

Concentrated and compressed in its narrative form, Hard Times is at once a fable, a novel of ideas, and a social novel that seeks to engage directly and analytically with political issues. The central conflicts raised in the text, between government's duty not to intervene to guarantee the liberty of the subject, and between quantitative and qualitative assessments of progress, remain unresolved today in the late or post industrial stages of liberal democracies.

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  •  
    Jefferson 09-11-11
    Jefferson 09-11-11 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1762
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    293
    266
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    "A Classic: Head vs. Heart in an Industrial Hell"

    This Audiobook of Charles Dickens??? novel Hard Times read by Martin Jarvis is excellent. I found myself by turns laughing, groaning, or tearing up, depending on how Dickens channeled by Jarvis wanted to make me feel.

    The story is fast-paced and full of wonderful Dickensian descriptions (of buildings and people) and deliciously grotesque or charmingly good characters and plenty of admirably biting social commentary and satire directed at the awful union of Utilitarianism (fact-based rationalization of human beings in the service of the greater good) with the Industrial Revolution (chimneys spewing filthy writhing snakes of smoke, machinery moving up and down like imprisoned maddened elephants, workers dehumanized as ???Hands,??? all of it polluting the world while enriching the owners??? class). It is the angriest, most moving, and least corny book I???ve read by Dickens??? So many memorable scenes, as when ???Girl Number Twenty??? is asked to define a horse in the M???Choakumchild classroom, or when with bitter irony the factory mill windows lit at night are described as looking like fairy palaces, or when Josiah Bounderby???s mother finally sets the record straight.

    Martin Jarvis is in fine form throughout, giving each character his or her own perfectly suitable voice and manner of speaking and reading Dickens??? words with great sensitivity and understanding and emotion and clarity. Hearing his Bounderby???s coarse bluster, Stephen Blackpool???s sad self-effacement, Tom Gradgrind???s sour self-pity, Sissy Jupe???s pure sympathy, James Harthouse???s amoral aristocratic bon mots, Mr. Sleary???s kind showman lispings, or any of the other characters is great pleasure.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Neil San Francisco, CA, United States 10-26-14
    Neil San Francisco, CA, United States 10-26-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Another Dickens Classic Enjoy"

    I have read numerous Dickens and this is another great story with all the fantastic characters that Dickens is known for. Martin Jarvis narration is first rate. Jarvis does a great interpretation of Mr. Bounderby and the funniest Mr. Sleary. Sleary comes at the end of the book, but it is worth the download just to hear Sleary. I read this book long ago, but listening to DIckens is really the key, as you understand the character much more by listening. I know the book confronts the English society of the times, but this book like many Dickens books is about the characters. If you don't know Dickens this is a good starter book as it is far shorter than any of his other books. Most of Dickens books are 800 to 1000 pages while this one is in the 300 hundred range. I think this book will hook one into being a Dickens and Jarvis fan.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Lipsticklula
    7/21/06
    Overall
    "Fantastic book - wonderfully read"

    Martin Jarvis brings this marvellous book to life with his extraordinarily skilful reading. Can't recommend highly enough.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Mr David Newton
    5/8/08
    Overall
    "Another masterpiece"

    This is another masterpiece from the master storyteller. Although this is not his finest work (it peters out towards the end). Nevertheless the story moves along at a good pace drawing the listener into the lives of this carefully intertwined group of classic Dickens characters.
    As ever Martin Jarvis produces a tour de force of characterisation which enhances the story wonderfully.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Zen Kite
    6/3/09
    Overall
    "Martin Jarvis brings Dickens to life"

    I've tried so hard to like Dickens, but I find I just can't read him.

    Now I don't have to. Martin Jarvis does the job wonderfully well. His characterisations are simply superb. He brings the story to life marvellously.

    This is a superb way to get into Dickens. I'll definitely be checking the others out.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Gemma
    London, United Kingdom
    1/20/12
    Overall
    "Fab"

    I absolutely loved this audiobook. Having never read any Dickens, and having failed to read A Christmas Carol once again, I decided to give Audible a try. I am overwhelmed by Martin Jarvis's wonderful ability to bring a story to life, by Dickens' fantastic storytelling, and by audiobooks in general. I have just downloaded Great Expectations, and hope to soon be brave enough to read Dickens myself.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • vanessa
    Southampton, United Kingdom
    1/18/12
    Overall
    "hard times"

    A thoughtful book ,showing peoples feelings,and how they may or may not change,beautifully read.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Yvonne
    4/20/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Hard times"

    This is absolutely riveting, beautifully read, like watching a film in your head ,I have listened to this over and over again, absolute genius in every way

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • S
    Heathfield, United Kingdom
    12/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliantly read - gritty social commentary"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Hard Times to be better than the print version?

    Yes - this reading by Martin Jarvis was excellent. He was totally convincing, although the book was hard going at times.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The social comment was the most interesting - Dickens painted an especially bleak picture of society, the hypocrisies and the conditions.


    Which character – as performed by Martin Jarvis – was your favourite?

    He was excellent as Bounderby, but also as Mrs Sparset. It's hard to choose as he was convincing throughout the reading.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No - but that is because there was a lot to think about in the reading, so I didn't want to rush the book.


    Any additional comments?

    Excellent - I can thoroughly recommend this version.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Roderic
    Victoria Park, Australia
    8/4/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Moving and Topical"
    What made the experience of listening to Hard Times the most enjoyable?

    The passion that Dickens displays towards the human condition. He paints a picture that contains realistic characters while still providing an almost grotesque humour.


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

    This book should be recommended to our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and all Australians as a portrait of how cruel Economic Rationalism can be.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Joseph
    UK
    6/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wonderful story and narration is superb"

    Simply wonderful narration. The voices Martin Jarvis brings to the book brings the whole thing to life. Enjoyed it so much, one of the best audiobooks Ive listened to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Andy
    Preston, United Kingdom
    12/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dickens and Jarvis Triumph Again"

    I may be biased as Coketown is based on my hometown of Preston but I found the story, the characters and the way Martin Jarvis brings those characters to life a triumph. It may not be Dickens' deepest or intense plot but I'm sure any Dickens' fan will enoy this book. I'm looking forward to the next Jarvis narration of Dickens!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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