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Publisher's Summary

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

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Very glad I kept going!

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A Dickens Classic

Wonderful story of the human nature while at the same time capturing the essence of what it means to love! The narrator is excellent!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Story improves about 1/3 way

Charles Dickens is an extraordinary writer! I just love his books. Great Expectations is my favorite, and I have read it many times.

This was my first time listening to Hard Times. It took me quite a while to warm up to the book. It’s not like his other novels that draw you in immediately. I did come to love the characters in the story, but it was not until about 1/3 of the way into the novel.

I am very glad I read it and gave it a chance!

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Anton Lesser is THE BEST Narrator ever!

Lesser makes sometimes difficult to read, Dickens, lively and engaging. I will look for the rest of his narrations.

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Lesser novel in the Dickens canon enhanced by reader

This is not my favorite Dickens novel, but I stayed involved and entertained by the wonderful Anton Lesser's reading. What a joy to have a gifted character actor interpret all the characters in the book so well.

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Marvelous

Best narrator I've ever heard. I was drawn in from the beginning. Good story, sometimes difficult to follow. Definitely recommended

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  • stephen
  • 12-08-13

The least typical Dickens novel

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

What did you like best about this story?

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.

What does Anton Lesser bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read 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.

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

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.

Any additional comments?

For any Dickens fan who does not know this title it is a must read book.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-09-17

Super

A great novel which is brought to life with a lively reading full of character.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-12-17

Well read!

Much easier to get through the book with this. Listen at speed 1.3, bit slow.

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  • HA
  • 10-13-16

Overall a good story.

The narration is excellent and makes up for slow start. Once it gets going though it' is quite entertaining.

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  • J Edwards
  • 09-03-16

Classic.

Narrated by an actoror renowned ability, who has come to know these characters well in several productions. 10/10

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  • Jimmeedee
  • 06-14-16

Anton Lesser is the best

Would you consider the audio edition of Hard Times to be better than the print version?

Yes thanks to Anton

What was one of the most memorable moments of Hard Times?

Gosh so many... Mrs Sparsit's duplicity and unnatural speed.

What about Anton Lesser’s performance did you like?

Everything, the measured tones, the acting, the pauses, the intonation.

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

Almost

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  • Dean
  • 04-29-16

Not my favourite

Any additional comments?

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.

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  • Julian
  • 04-12-16

Dickens made easy

Brilliant narration of an unexpectedly great read. Would highly recommend to anyone usually daunted by dickens.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kate
  • 02-17-16

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!

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  • Paul Mac
  • 01-20-16

brilliant.

If you could sum up Hard Times in three words, what would they be?

hard to read.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Hard Times?

character descriptions.

What does Anton Lesser bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

brilliantly read and brilliantly accented he brings the characters alive.

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

I listened while I walked the dogs round the park in the morning and at night. sometimes I had to go round twice.

Any additional comments?

I find reading quite hard and especially dickens. This way of reading /listening brings all the book to life.

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