Hard Times is Dickens's most political novel. Set in the industrial north of England, in Coketown, he examines the lives of working people, who are taught by the capitalists Gradgrind and Bounderby to think only of the facts of life and not to indulge in imagination. Gradgrind’s own children have been so educated and as a result are dysfunctional and disconnected from their feelings. Only the travelling circus company of Sleary seems to offer any hope of humanity in Coketown. Hard Times is a deeply moving story written in anger to strike a blow for the victims of the dehumanising processes of industry.
(P)2011 Naxos AudioBooks
Addicted to books, both print and audio-.
Is there a Dickens narrator who can surpass Anton Lesser? Equal, yes, a very few, but surpass? I think this is my last Dickens novel to listen to (I'm going to have to go back and start again, otherwise it's just too depressing to contemplate), and I nearly didn't finish it. One of the qualities of audiobooks is that the writing (often dialogue, but not always) can be more difficult to listen to than to read. The beginning of the book, with its focus on Gradgrind's educational philosophy, was hard for me to listen to, and I left it for a few months. Thank heavens I came back to it. Lesser is a consummate actor, and his voicing of the characters is intense and immediate. He is excellent at voicing characters of all sexes; some otherwise wonderful male narrators have women characters who don't possess the fullness and breadth of their male characters, but not Lesser. His reading of Louisa's appeal to her father toward the end of the book nearly brought me to tears, it was so full of real and heartfelt emotion, but never overdone.
This is an interesting Dickens because it's so much shorter than most of his books. Only 10+ hours. At times I felt that the story and some of the characters weren't as fully fleshed out as usual, but who cares, it's Dickens, the writing is exquisite, and you simply cannot find better narration.
I also hadn't expected, from my first outing with the book, to be laughing out loud as much as I did. Mr. Bounderby's quality of constantly bringing up his rags-to-riches life story gets more and more hilarious as the book goes on.
"The least typical Dickens novel"
I would definitely recommend this to a friend - it is short so that even if you aren't a regular Dickens reader you will get through it and see if you like his style.
It is a fascinating story and quite unlike most of Dickens novels (all of which I like very much). It is the least melodramatic and has the least emotional stereotypes. It has a crisp punchy message that feels very relevant even now. As always Dickens is very concerned about social problems. In this novel, while there are some great character portraits, it is the social message about the gulf between mill workers and mill owners that comes clearly across. For any one who likes Lowry paintings (and especially anyone who went to the recent Lowry exhibition in London) it transports you straight into the world of his paintings - an experience not to be missed. It is also one of Dickens best attempts to portray an accent other than that of London or his beloved Kent. He has clearly researched the Lancashire accent very well and it adds another great dimension to the book.
Anton Lesser is a superb reader. Each character is distinct in a very appropriate way and the pace of the various parts is beautifully pitched. He clearly understands what he is reading. He enriches the whole experience of the novel.
Both laughed and almost cried. Great moments of pathos and bathos, also spiced with comedy. Perhaps one of Dickens most emotionally balanced books, without too much melodrama.
For any Dickens fan who does not know this title it is a must read book.
"Anton Lesser is the best"
Yes thanks to Anton
Gosh so many... Mrs Sparsit's duplicity and unnatural speed.
Everything, the measured tones, the acting, the pauses, the intonation.
"Not my favourite"
I have been going through all the Dickens stories in chronological order. This is the first one I haven't enjoyed. Anton Lesser is an excellent narrator but I didn't find the story as engaging as the previous books.
It is the shortest (by far) of his novels that I have read/listened to so far and I did read that Dickens struggled with the sales of this story when it was originally offered in serialized form.
"Dickens made easy"
Brilliant narration of an unexpectedly great read. Would highly recommend to anyone usually daunted by dickens.
"Wonderful narration of a dramatic and oddly contemporary tale"
I have read many Dicken's novels and watched numerous dramatisations, but was unfamiliar with Hard Times. Set in the north of England during the industrial revolution, Dickens makes a departure from his familiar London to weave a cautionary tale about the importance of love and imagination in human life. Strong characters and a sensational narrator make this one of my favourite ever 'reads' and certainly my favourite Dickens novel. I am now hungry to hear more that Anton Lesser has narrated!
hard to read.
brilliantly read and brilliantly accented he brings the characters alive.
I listened while I walked the dogs round the park in the morning and at night. sometimes I had to go round twice.
I find reading quite hard and especially dickens. This way of reading /listening brings all the book to life.
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