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Hard Times (Bantam Classics)

4 out of 5 stars 199 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 858-0205046192
ISBN-10: 0553210165
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-12-Dickens' satire on the Victorian family and the philosophies of a society which sought to turn men into machines.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

David Timson reads Dickens's last complete novel with a sense of fun. As always, Dickens creates a fabulous array of characters: the nouveau riche Veneerings, the dwarf who makes doll clothes, the bizarre schoolmaster, and the abysmally poor who trawl the Thames for bodies or daily sift the dust and dirt of Victorian England for a skimpy living. Timson's dramatic talents add dimension to each personality-just the sort of acting that makes an audio experience so satisfying. Naxos has done a fine job of abridging the book (Timson also reads the unabridged version on 28 CDs). Not much is lost in terms of plot and characterization, and Dickens's great satiric and social themes come through clearly: the plight and misery of the poor and the greed and heartless stupidity of the rich. If the abridgment seems a bit disjointed, it simply follows the novel's narrative style. This is a wonderful listen for Dickens fans and novices alike. - Pulbisher's Weekly --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Bantam Classics
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Classics (March 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553210165
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553210163
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,046,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Oddsfish VINE VOICE on March 30, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I initially lamented the fact that Hard Times was assigned to me in my British lit. class. I had read some of Dickens's melodramas like A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist and enjoyed them, but everything I heard about Hard Times said this was nothing like those. This was supposedly just strictly social commentary. My interpretation of that: BORING.
But then I read it.
Hard Times isn't like Dickens's other novels, but I don't think that it has any less heart than those masterpieces. In fact, Dickens endured himself much further to me with this novel as he has his characters perform Thomas Carlyle's enduring philosophy.
The novel follows the Gradgrind family who is raised adhering to FACTS and living in a society which worships the manufacturing machine. As the novel progresses, connections are made and broken, and the characters come to the realization that there is much more to reality than the material facts.
Hard Times is told so compassionately. The reader cares for these people and their tragic lives. The story is also told with biting humor that still cuts at today's society (this novel feels really modern), and the underlying philosophy is one which is so needed in our post-modern world. I would certainly recommend this novel to fans of Dickens and to fans of the truly literary novel.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Arguably, Dickens could be classified as the greatest of all English speaking novelists...of all times. There are very few writers that can offer his consistency, novel after novel, story after story. Yes, many have written works that perhaps equal any of his given works, but few if any have been able to turn out such a volume of pure quality. Very, very few authors have had such a large portion of their work pass the test of time. Dickens gains new readers year in and year out and there is a reason for this!

Over the past 50 or so years I have heard this particular work referred to as "not Dickens' best," and "A minor work by Dickens," and other comments along those lines. I am really not in a position, nor do I have the ability to proclaim or rank this author's work one way or the other. Dickens for me is like any other author...I either like it or I do not like it; it either is a joy to read or it is not. Now I have read this short novel at least five times over the years and listen to several versions on CD and Tape. The best, minor Dickens' work, timeless classic, not pertinent in today's world, a mere political rant? Well I don't know. I do know that it is one of my favorites and do look forwarded to reading it again down the road. I am one of those horrid and probably misguided individuals who sort of make their own mind up about anything I read, and more or less ignore the pontifications of those that are suppose to know about such things. All that being said though, I cannot look you in the eye and state that I have ever read one story; one word by this author that I did not enjoy right down to the tip of my toes. He delights me.

The setting of course is in Victorian England and the Industrial Revolution is in full tilt.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Hard Times" belongs to the second half of Dickens's writing career, in which his work becomes rather more somber and, by common critical assent, more mature and satisfying. Personally, I prefer his earlier work and his very first novel, "Pickwick Papers", is to my mind his greatest. Surprisingly, "Hard Times", despite its title and reputation, contains some brilliant flashes of Dickens humour, especially in the earlier part. The descriptions of Bounderby and Gradgrind, and the early dialogue with the circus folk, are genuinely hilarious.

This is Dickens's shortest novel, about a third of the length of each of his previous four. Themes, subplots and characters are introduced without being fully explored. The author was perhaps feeling the constraints of writing in installments for a periodical, although he was well used to doing that. This relative brevity, together with the youth of some of the central characters, make this book a good introduction to Dickens for young readers.

There are the large dollops of Victorian melodrama and the reliance on unlikely coincidences that mar much of Dickens's work. Also the usual tendency for characters to become caricatures and to have names that are a little too apt (a teacher called Mr. McChoakumchild?).

The respected critic F.R. Leavis considered "Hard Times" to be Dickens's masterpiece and "only serious work of art". This seems to me wildly wrong, but such an extreme opinion may prompt you to read the book, just so that you can form your own opinion.

I read it because I had just finished "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair, which deals with the plight of Chicago factory workers, and I wanted to compare the two. Sinclair's book has greater immediacy. It takes you much closer to the suffering of the workers.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Hard Times" is a minor Charles Dickens classic. Like all Charles Dickens' novels it features some great, memorable characters. The setting of the industrial city of Coketown is vividly described as a miserable, polluted town. There are some strong themes of class struggles between the working men in the factories and the harsh upper classes who seek to exploit them. Nearly all of the upper class characters are depicted in a negative light while the real heroes of the story are from the working class. As always, Dickens finds an entertaining way to shine a bright light on the social problems of Victorian-era England. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it. However, if you are choosing your first introduction to Charles Dickens, then you should pick one of his better-known novels.
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