Hard Times

  • by Charles Dickens
  • Narrated by Martin Jarvis
  • 10 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Despite the title, Dickens's portrayal of early industrial society is less relentlessly grim than that in novels by contemporaries such as Elizabeth Gaskell or Charles Kingsley. Hard Times weaves the tale of Thomas Gradgrind, a hard-headed politician who raises his children Louisa and Tom without love; of Sissy, the circus girl with love to spare who is deserted and adopted into their family; and of the honest mill worker Stephen Blackpool and the bombastic mill owner Josiah Bounderby. The key contrasts created are finally less those between wealth and poverty, or capitalists and workers, than those between the head and the heart, between "Fact", the cold, rationalistic approach to life that Dickens associates with utilitarianism, and "Fancy", a warmth of the imagination and of the feelings, which values individuals above ideas.Concentrated and compressed in its narrative form, Hard Times is at once a fable, a novel of ideas, and a social novel that seeks to engage directly and analytically with political issues. The central conflicts raised in the text, between government's duty not to intervene to guarantee the liberty of the subject, and between quantitative and qualitative assessments of progress, remain unresolved today in the late or post industrial stages of liberal democracies.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Classic: Head vs. Heart in an Industrial Hell

This Audiobook of Charles Dickens??? novel Hard Times read by Martin Jarvis is excellent. I found myself by turns laughing, groaning, or tearing up, depending on how Dickens channeled by Jarvis wanted to make me feel.

The story is fast-paced and full of wonderful Dickensian descriptions (of buildings and people) and deliciously grotesque or charmingly good characters and plenty of admirably biting social commentary and satire directed at the awful union of Utilitarianism (fact-based rationalization of human beings in the service of the greater good) with the Industrial Revolution (chimneys spewing filthy writhing snakes of smoke, machinery moving up and down like imprisoned maddened elephants, workers dehumanized as ???Hands,??? all of it polluting the world while enriching the owners??? class). It is the angriest, most moving, and least corny book I???ve read by Dickens??? So many memorable scenes, as when ???Girl Number Twenty??? is asked to define a horse in the M???Choakumchild classroom, or when with bitter irony the factory mill windows lit at night are described as looking like fairy palaces, or when Josiah Bounderby???s mother finally sets the record straight.

Martin Jarvis is in fine form throughout, giving each character his or her own perfectly suitable voice and manner of speaking and reading Dickens??? words with great sensitivity and understanding and emotion and clarity. Hearing his Bounderby???s coarse bluster, Stephen Blackpool???s sad self-effacement, Tom Gradgrind???s sour self-pity, Sissy Jupe???s pure sympathy, James Harthouse???s amoral aristocratic bon mots, Mr. Sleary???s kind showman lispings, or any of the other characters is great pleasure.
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- Jefferson

Another Dickens Classic Enjoy

I have read numerous Dickens and this is another great story with all the fantastic characters that Dickens is known for. Martin Jarvis narration is first rate. Jarvis does a great interpretation of Mr. Bounderby and the funniest Mr. Sleary. Sleary comes at the end of the book, but it is worth the download just to hear Sleary. I read this book long ago, but listening to DIckens is really the key, as you understand the character much more by listening. I know the book confronts the English society of the times, but this book like many Dickens books is about the characters. If you don't know Dickens this is a good starter book as it is far shorter than any of his other books. Most of Dickens books are 800 to 1000 pages while this one is in the 300 hundred range. I think this book will hook one into being a Dickens and Jarvis fan.
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- Neil

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-25-2006
  • Publisher: Audible Studios