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Diana S. Long
5.0 out of 5 starsClassic Dickens
Reviewed in the United States on March 24, 2018
This novel was a challenge to me albeit a shorter story than most, not so much the content but with his very creative colorful characters he also incorporated one with a lisp, that couldn't pronounce his “s” and another that spoke in a very “cockney” accent. In able to understand the content I needed to slow down and read the passages aloud. Very clever and somewhat playful Mr. Dickens. As with his other novels he wrote about the down trodden, misunderstood and serious difficulties of the lower members of society. The story takes place in Coletown, a dreary place to be sure with all the smoke from factories polluting the environment. There is not one or singular protagonist in the story, many have a story to tell. A child abandoned by her father who is a circus performer and has lost his touch and wants a better life for her. An educator who believes all children should learn only facts and nothing but facts so even his own children don't know how to deal with society or relationships in general. A bank and mill owner who lives a lie. A poor mill worker, stuck with an alcoholic wife. Dickens even has added one of those ladies who is in everyone's business and a libertine. Very entertaining even though melancholy at times I highly recommend.
Hard Times by Charles Dickens was very good and engaging at all times. This was Dickens answer to Adam Smith. He posits that compassion and understanding are as important for a good life as acting in one's own self interest. He mocks the idea that fate responds only to self interest. I recommend this book highly. You can never go wrong with Dickens!
I was a little hesitant to read this novel because I had heard it was boring and flat, but I chose to do so because I had read four of Dickens books already, and enjoyed them very much (especially "David Copperfield"), and because it looked like a fairly quick read. (Quick for Charles Dickens, that is!) It was not disappointing! So good! I enjoyed every page of this great classic! The plot is intriguing, and how all the characters turned out at the end of the book. It is made up of three sections, "Sowing", "Reaping" and "Garnering". It shows the disadvantages of living life by fact, and fact alone. It doesn't have that light-hearted of an ending, but it is resolute. Like most Dickens books, the characters are all distinct and very non-forgettable. So, if you're looking for a classic, check out this book!
5.0 out of 5 starsHow it cannot be real but a fiction? Amazing! (AmazonClassics edition)
Reviewed in the United States on October 2, 2019
Iron machines, dull, polluting and monotonous; under their tyranny the will, desires, and ambitions of humanity has been replaced by manufactured objects, statistics and industrial shapes and colors. But nature pushes through this cold society, and that conflict fuels this story.
Being not a fan of realism (much realism in my life already xP) I read Dickens just because I love the 19th century literature from the UK. He hooked me up just since the first paragraph. His description of the characters is life-like. It was so realist that I got a shock when I knew afterwards that the city is not a real place. It is not only that everything is "showed," is also that you can "listen" sounds, "step" into grounds of different textures, feel the hair of Louisa over the bare chest of his brother. For moments Dickens is quite poetic, as in that moment in which Louisa listens a bell in middle of the quite night, it is described in such a way that it would be a disservice to tell you how. In other part a character, jealousy and desperate, is prying and Dickens masterly blends her feelings with the rain (!) It is awe-inspiring the richness of details of that century. The characters have such intensity not only despite being dehumanized by the machines, but because precisely that: they are about to have a neurosis for crushing their nature. There is not much humor but there are characters that end being humorous, there are twists, revelations, it was quite entertaining to read and sure I'd love to read more Dickens' stories.
There is social critic in this book, but Dickens never forgets that he is doing literature; something that Mark Twain tend to forget. Almost nobody is black and white but they tend to be complex. The more power the persons have the more tempted they are to neglect they are treating with human beings, being either the businessmen, the educators, the aristocracy and, even, the union of workers. If there is a religion it seems to be the iron machine. The only exception in character development seems to be a worker, Blackpool, whose participation in the novel tended to be a bit in the pathetic side, in an exaggerated way. I still don't like realism but sure I'd like to read more about Dickens.
About the AmazonClassics edition I think it is a very recommendable edition. I didn't detect mistakes, the typography and formatting are visually clean and modern, and the X-Ray as always is useful.
5.0 out of 5 starsNo better times than Dicken's Hard Times
Reviewed in the United States on August 26, 2015
Hard Times is a story of our times as well as those as Mr. Dickens'. The characters and situations may be dressed in period garb, but their thoughts and actions are timeless. In a period when so many were downtrodden and society severely crippled with the "haves" and the "have nots" ... when compassion was underestimated and governments of self interest the norm.... Dickens writes a tale devoted to finding truth within truth, heart within those predisposed to see heartlessness a virtue, and understanding slow to grow within hearts and minds so poorly exercised. His portrait might be one of our current century and circumstances with slight changes in locale, transport, and occupation. Those duped are still duped today, government stooges still rule a scene of inequities and hold fast the status quo, those of power based on tremendous wealth still pontificate while pulling the strings of political hacks ( some even ARE THE POLITICAL HACKS), --- and the righting of wrongs, leveling of the field, fixing of the broken institutions is still the domain of the few ---- with little success. Yet 50% of our population, often more, against their own self interests...elect those persons whose strings are pulled and this same population sides with those who offer corrupt and absurd solutions (or none) or blame the poor for being poor. Dickens wrote a true tale when few wanted to know the truth. I wonder if those same statistics are etched in stone rather than in the hearts of men and women. I do not know why we continue to follow such dangerous footsteps.
With regards to Dickens’ novels this is a relatively short one and the story takes place in and around the fictitious town of Coketown, set somewhere up North. Originally serialised in Household Words this was then published in a book format in the same year of 1854.
Although selling quite well at the time this isn’t the best of Dickens’ works and has always met with divided opinions. Although I do like reading this from time to time the biggest problem I have always found is that there is in some ways a lack of depth in the understanding of Dickens with regards to the actual political landscape and a lack of deeper psychology, making this weak in places and a bit poor on the depth and characterisation of the main characters.
This is a social novel and there is satire here that is directed towards utilitarianism, and we thus see children being educated and their imaginations and freedom being worn away. Although Dickens tried to show here the importance of imagination and our use of it this book actually doesn’t show his own such powers as well as other books, and loses some of his humour and passion accordingly.
There is also a problem that comes across here with regards to class and the lower classes generally being portrayed as harder working and more moral than those above them. This of course is very black and white, and when it comes to morals and determination, as well as hard work and reaching your potential such people come from all walks of life.
This could be a good book for book groups as there is a lot to discuss here, but other authors since this was written have been much better at getting their ideas across and have been structurally superior.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 2, 2017
Of course, this is a Dickens classic so must have 5 stars. But it does have some tedious bits particularly when it becomes very repetitive. In order to emphasise the philosophical and political arguments most of the characters are stereotypical caricatures set in stone. This book lacks the humour of most of Dickens' other works. It is a sombre comment on the social consequences of the industrial revolution.
I've initiated two Christmas reading traditions over the past few years. One is to immerse myself in Deborah Garner's latest Moonglow Cafe Christmas novella. The other is to blog my review of a Charles Dickens novel on Christmas Day, necessitating reading one each December. I never read proper Dickens when I was growing up, instead we had a few children's abbreviated versions of his most famous stories. I've noticed though that many of his characters and storylines are referenced in other novels leaving me somewhat at a disadvantage by not always understanding or even recognising them. Hence the annual Dickens project. I admit I am easily intimidated by the sheer length of his books which is why I only attempt one a year and am gradually working up from A Christmas Carol to David Copperfield. This December I chose Hard Times which actually turned out to be very apt considering I started reading it on Election Day!
My overriding memory of Hard Times, unfortunately, will probably be boredom. I really did want much more storyline and a lot less small talk dialogue, especially from the characters whose words were entirely written phonetically. This was seriously overdone! I understood Dickens wanted to put across an idea of their speech, but I found it frequently almost unintelligible! That said, overall, the characterisations were my favourite part of Hard Times, particularly those of the older people. Thomas Gradgrind's insistence on Facts! Joseph Bounderby with his terrible childhood, demure Mrs Sparsit and overlooked Mrs Gradgrind. Dickens' illustrating the social injustices endured by Coketown's workers must have a brave move at the time, especially as I imagine more of his contemporary readers would have been Owners and their families rather than Hands. It's both a look at England of 160 years ago and a glimpse into the far-too-near future! I'm glad to have now read Hard Times, but I probably won't ever read it again.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 22, 2019
Having not picked up Dickens for 30 years, I fully enjoyed this exceptional book. The understanding of sociology and psychology weaved into his fabulous prose and fluorescent characters was brilliant. Everyone should read this book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 24, 2017
A very interesting book. Some wonderful characters and Dickens' sardonic writing style is particularly humorous. Hard Time touches several issues that Dickens had strong feelings about: class prejudice, trade unions, parenting, difficult marriage, divorce. It's interesting to note that this was written 4 years before Charles Dickens met Ellen Ternan, the young lady for whom he left his wife of 22 years. Dickens writes sensitively about how difficult it is to gain a divorce —impossible to do so if a person is poor. This book certainly reflects Dickens' opinions at the time of writing.