Published in 1854, the story describes class conflict in Victorian England and serves as a powerful critique of the social injustices that plagued the Industrial Revolution.
Charles Dickens (1812 - 9 June 1870) is arguably the greatest novelist England ever produced. His innate comic genius and shrewd depictions of Victorian life - along with his memorable characters - have made him beloved by readers the world over.
Please note: This is a vintage recording. The audio quality may not be up to modern day standards.
This is not Dicken's best, but it is so well read that is is a delightful experience nevertheless. On an oblique note, I think Mr Boundaby is the inspiration for the Monty Python sketch "the four yorkshiremen". I would recommend this book it as long as you are patient, and don't mind a bit of excessive pathos at the end.
As to the story, for me it is a great one. Dickens was passionately committed to helping improve the plight of working people in his day. This story comes straight from that passion and from a genius for presenting a situation very powerfully without seeming to try hard.
As to the volume, I agree that the reader tends to vary it more than normal, and this is a problem for me because I have a hearing defect. Despite this fact, the reading is the best I've ever heard. To take one feature which astounds me, I could not find one instance where the reader put the stress on the wrong word in a phrase. I think that this quality in itself makes the reading an extraordinary accomplishment. And just the north of England accents are worth the price of admission.
Although I can appreciate the social/political importance of this novel, Dickens is not at the top of my list of authors I love. One complaint I have about this audio version is that the narrator, who does a good job with the dramatization of the characters, varies the volume of his voice so much that I couldn't find a comfortable volume to listen at. I either had to turn it up too high in order to hear the parts where he would allow his voice to trail off or keep it at a comfortable volume and miss the end of the dialogue. Other than that, it is performed well.
This is the third Dickens in a row that I've experienced, and was admittedly hesitant about the quality of this version because of the price. But, Alistair Maydon did a very reasonable job of the characters and gave excellent feeling to the story. He did in fact, a much better job of the female character's voices than some narrators in much more expensive audiobooks- (eg. John Bolen- kill me now!).
However the recording quality is definately inferior and occasionally you can hear a page turn or a few minor reading errors.
The story is a little slow to start and slightly depressing, but like most of the Dickens that I've listened to, the worse the predicament- the better the eventuality.
Overall, this version of Hard Times is value for money and I plan to listen to it again.
Every time I began listening to this narrator, I fell asleep. I tried several times to get through the beginning of the story and finally gave up. I then started at a random spot further along, hoping to find a change in narration based on a change in characters, but there was no improvement. The narrator's reading is a grating monotone, as annoying as fingernails on a chalkboard. I believe the narrator developed this voice as appropriate to the story, a hard voice reflective of hard times, but it did not work. I like Dickens but am sorry I spent my money on this performance.
"Hard Times Great Listen"
I downloaded this as a way of listening to some of the classics, and I have to say that I enjoyed it more than any of the other Dickens books. Perhaps part of it was that it is much shorter than others. It may be heresy to some but I have felt the longer books to be too long and rambling. The plot was enjoyable, and the reading good. If only the other books were as sharp and to the point.
"Excellent Value for Money"
A very good reading, perhaps with a little too much relish of Dickens' sardonic humour here and there. Bizarrely large gaps between paragraphs and chapters. All in all, excellent value for money.
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