Hard Times

Narrated by: Anton Lesser
Length: 10 hrs and 41 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (160 ratings)

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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.

Public Domain (P)2011 Naxos AudioBooks

What listeners say about Hard Times

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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.

7 people found this 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!

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Magnificent Book! Imminently Practical!

This is my first time reading/listening to a Charles Dickens book and I was not disappointed. There is so much symbology, imagery, and metaphors to glean from this. I love all the characters and feel for the main characters, and the trials they endure in these hard times. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a good read that will give you something to think about.

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Lesser’s voice is unusual but very captivating.

Lesser’s voice is unusual but very captivating. The novel is almost more like one of Dickens’ Christmas stories.

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Third Time

Dickens best book and that's a fact. Facts are Facts and that is a Fact.

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Good stuff. Lesser’s reading is superb.

I Thought I had read everything by Dickens but somehow missed this one. Hurray. I think it’s better than the description led me to believe. More Great characters by Dickens, scoundrels, downtrodden and gentle hearted souls and of course it wouldn’t be Charles Dickens without humor. Anton Lesser’s Narration is remarkable.

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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.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-11-18

very good

An excellent novel documenting the mentality of the capitalist class in industrial 19th century England. Written with the usual layers of satire and humor Dickens injected into his novels. Whilst it isn't perhaps his finest novel (Bleak House takes that title in my opinion) it is certainly very good. Furthermore the themes within the novel still hold relevance in today's society making the novel feel current and appropriate to our age. This is also one of Dickens shorter works and arguably doesn't contain the huge plethora of characters found in some of his longer works making it ideal for people new to Dickens. Anton Leasers narration was excellent. The tone was just right and the characters unique and appropriate. Furthermore his reading of the Lancashire dialect was very well delivered.

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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.

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  • Libby Hall
  • 07-18-20

Anton Lesser makes this worth listening to

Hard Times is my least favourite of Dickens's novels. It feels like an outline of something he would have done better under different circumstances - and, for me, the trade union leader is grotesquely unbelievable. But Anton Lesser is such a truly superb narrator that I listened to it all with pleasure.

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  • jss
  • 11-17-19

Coming with (great) expectations ....

I loved Hard Times already and perhaps you bring your expectations with you when you listen to another voice reading what is familiar in your own voice in your head. This is also a book I have taught quite a few times for gcse. It is therefore a testament to Anton Lesser’s brilliant reading that it came to me alive and fresh as well as familiar. Mr Sleary and Mrs Sparsit were particularly good, as was Sissy. The whole? Excellent. Thank you.

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  • Billy
  • 10-16-19

Hard work quite hard going

Had to read this as part of my degree it’s certainly not my usual type of novel. Having said that I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. However Anton Lesser is AMAZING he brought the characters to life and made it much more bearable and easier to listen to. I can’t believe how many different voices he did my favourite was Mrs Sparsit and Josiah Bounderby. Would definitely recommend this particular audiable.

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  • D
  • 07-29-18

Excellent

I really enjoyed this book. I had read some Dickens at school and thought I would try this book as I am interested in the industrial history of the north. It exceeded expectations, the characters were so well drawn, the plot kept me listening avidly and the social context right up my street. The narrator was also excellent, my next purchase will be another Dickens book narrated by him. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Mrs Gaskell.

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  • Sue
  • 05-16-18

Dickens at his best.

Narration excellent. Enjoyed every minute from beginning to end. Had no difficulty in listening to the end.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-09-18

Hard Times Made Easier

Brilliant narrator made listening easy. A good option for those struggling to read the book, the audiobook version brings it to life.

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  • Happy-Hammer
  • 03-29-18

Dickens Brought to Life

What did you like most about Hard Times?

I have never enjoyed Dickens' novels. I hated them at school and found them as dry as dust. Having enroled in an Open University Arts degree course it has fallen to me to read 'Hard Times', in the context of a literary source, in our study of mid-Victorian Manchester and the Industrial Revolution. I purchased the kindle edition of the book, downloaded a set of notes and started to read. After 20 or so pages the memories of school came flooding back and I started to lose my concentration. One of my fellow students suggested this Audible book so I quickly bought it. (She recomended the Anton Lesser version). What a transformation. I managed to get through the book in 4 days and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.

What did you like best about this story?

The characters, pompous Bounderby, dishonourable Slackbridge, honest and humble Stephen Blackpool, the caddish Harthouse. A fantastic set of pantomime villians and saints

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

Superb naration by Anton Lesser. He made the recording for me with all of his different voices and narration. 11 out of 10

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

Sorry when I got to the end

Any additional comments?

Some great references to the social mores of the time. This novel was originally serialised for 'Household Words' so Dickens adapted his style for his audience. Dickens has a satirical dig against the philisophical teachings of JS Mill and the Utilitarian movement as a whole