Hard Times

  • by Charles Dickens
  • Narrated by Peter Batchelor
  • 9 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.

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- Kristi Richardson "An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap."

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.
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- David "Indiscriminate Reader"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-15-2013
  • Publisher: Trout Lake Media