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Publisher's Summary

One of Dicken’s best works appraising English society. Highlights the social and economic pressures of the times. A masterwork.

Public Domain (P)2013 Trout Lake Media

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Gradgrind and M'Choakumchild

I first read this in high school - for some reason, our English teacher chose this rather than one of Dickens's better-known novels. I liked it well enough at the time but was not a huge Dickens fan, but some parts of it stuck with me all these years, and in many ways this is the most quintessential Dickens novel.

With such wonderfully Dickensian names as Thomas Gradgrind and Mr. M'Choakumchild, Hard Times begins by introducing us to Mr. Gradgrind's pedagogical philosophy:

“You are to be in all things regulated and governed,’ said the gentleman, ‘by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact. You must discard the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it. You are not to have, in any object of use or ornament, what would be a contradiction in fact. You don’t walk upon flowers in fact; you cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets. You don’t find that foreign birds and butterflies come and perch upon your crockery; you cannot be permitted to paint foreign birds and butterflies upon your crockery. You never meet with quadrupeds going up and down walls; you must not have quadrupeds represented upon walls. You must use,’ said the gentleman, ‘for all these purposes, combinations and modifications (in primary colours) of mathematical figures which are susceptible of proof and demonstration. This is the new discovery. This is fact. This is taste.”

Hard Times may also be Dickens' most karmic novel. Gradgrind, the extinguisher of fancy, imagination, and joy, raises two dour children on his regimen of facts and mathematical figures, and sees the results in a way that finally teaches him the error of his thinking, after his daughter has been unhappily married to a much older man and his son has become a dissolute wastrel forced into exile.

Hard Times refers, by its title, to issues that dominate Dickens's usual social commentary, here being the conflict between the haves (represented by Bounderby) and the have-nots. The main plot revolves around Stephen Blackpool, a decent uncomplaining man who falls afoul of his master, Bounderby, and then gets set up by Thomas Gradgrind junior as the fall guy for his embezzlement scheme.

Eventually, of course, everything is sorted out, good men are acquitted, nosy old spinsters and pretentious bankers get their come-uppances, pure-hearted Victorian maidens get their (eventual) happy endings, there are Dickens's usual tear-jerker deaths, and lots of wondrous Dickensian prose. Hard Times is one of the author's more obscure novels, but I think it ranks as one of my favorites, maybe just behind David Copperfield and Great Expectations.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Frank
  • Stone Mountain, GA, United States
  • 06-13-16

Another Classic

No one paints a better visual picture than Dickens. His mastery of the English language is unrivaled.

At least for me he never disappoints. I'm always sad to finish one of his books.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best Charles Dickens book by far!

Excellent story. Not as dark as much of Dickens’ other work. Peter Batchelor is a fabulous narrator, better than all others I’ve heard performing myriad classics by Audible. I will select books he narrates whenever possible!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great book, but

Great book, but it can be hard to follow sometimes. A much easier read than listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Kristi R.
  • Milwaukie, OR, United States
  • 05-20-14

With a name like Choakemchild what could go wrong?

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

Facts or Fun?

What other book might you compare Hard Times to and why?

This is very much like Dickens' Oliver Twist but more on the factory workers plight and the parents who thought facts were all important for children in factories and should have little fun time.

Which character – as performed by Peter Batchelor – was your favorite?

Louisa Gradgrind Bounderby was the person I identified with and became my favorite character. She married for duty and was extremely unhappy. She falls in love with someone else and almost runs away with him but instead returns home and explains to her father what she has done. Mr. Gradgrind repents his ways and welcomes Louisa home.

Peter Batchelor was a wonderful narrator.

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

I nearly cried when Louisa returns home and confronts her father. I also loved Sissy Jupe and her devotion to helping Louisa and the rest of the Gradgrind children. This was an interesting family and I loved the kids.

Any additional comments?

This was a fairly dark novel and there isn't a really happy ending. The story was well done and I enjoyed the characters.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Hard Times

Having recently read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and having enjoyed it immensely, I was much disappointed by Hard Times by the same author. It seemed slow and wondering.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Disappointing

I was disappointed with this story. It being a Charles Dickens story I expected more.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good performance, predictable plot.

Charles Dickens can sometimes be a dry read, but a good narration certainly helps. The story was a little predictable, however since this is such a short book it's still a worthwhile listen.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

characters

I really liked the characters and performance. story doesn't seem to wrap everything up but almost does for every main character.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

this narration is a little distracting

I long ago read this text, but still can't follow the story clearly. However, I also own the DVD with Alan Bates--only $1.20 now at Amazon.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Eager
  • 03-30-16

Bachelor's narration of this classic is pure class

Listening to Batchelor narrate this classic novel is like savouring every mouthful of your favourite food.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Andrew
  • 12-16-16

Very poor narration

Very poor narration. Awful attempts at northern accents and a kind of comical tone that distracts from the story. I had to abandon it as he was killing the story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • L. Kelly
  • 10-22-16

Pretty good work.

Peter Bachelor does a fair job of it. The sound is a little low in quality which can be a struggle when some of the less annunciated characters speak. can't complain for the price though.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Martin
  • 12-14-13

Great Dickens well read...bargan

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

Thought provoking tale

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

Mr Sleary

What about Peter Batchelor’s performance did you like?

Excellent

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

No

Any additional comments?

Great story very well read by Peter and what a price.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • susanne H
  • 08-25-18

what a bargain

An excellent rendition of one of Dicken's shorter novels (some of the northern pronunciations were a little dodgy but it didn't spoil the telling) . I loved it

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Gabrielle Boland
  • 04-09-18

A narrator Dickens would approve of

Hard Times indeed, the many characters are all so well written, as Dickens always does.

Peter Batchelor’s narration is excellent, how does he keep tabs on the vast cast list he’s presenting. I’ll search Peter Batchelor for other books.

Thank you.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 10-09-17

Great first Dickens listen

This was my first ever read/listen of a Charles Dickens novel and I thought I'd start with Hard Times as it's one of the shorter ones. it took me a while to get used to the language and into the story but once I did I really enjoyed it and shall be listening to more Dickens novels in the future. The recording isn't the best but not terrible either and the narrator is fantastic and brought the characters to life.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Katy Skelton
  • 08-07-17

wtf????

narrator's voice so low it can surely only audible to dogs, couldn't understand a word

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Clavs
  • 06-22-17

Dickens does Dickens

Hard Times is an excellent example of Dickens social commentary, it also has the merit of being one of his shortest.

Set in the fictional Coketown, it follows industrial manufacturers and circus performers in an examination of morality and money, fact and fancy. The hard, emotionless upbringing that Mr Gradgrind insists on for his children impacts the decisions they make as they grow. Dickens is criticising the emerging capitalism of the time and how a life focused purely on money is empty and cold.

Peter Batchelor gives an average performance. His voice is amazing but he doesn't truly bring the characters to life. Dickens are some of my favourite books to listen to rather than read because of their length and structure, if you wish to get in to Dickens I recommend you start with this one.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-12-17

Loved it

Narrator is brilliant. the variety of voices is excellent. Easy and enjoyable to listen to.