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Hard Times

The Dickens Collection: An Audible Exclusive Series
Length: 10 hrs and 58 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (71 ratings)

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Summary

This exclusive recording of Hard Times contains a unique introduction by Jeremy Paxman in which he takes us through Hard Times as his favourite Dickens title.

To give it its full title, Hard Times - for These Times was Charles Dickens' 10th novel and the only one not to have any scenes set in London. It was first published in 1854 and depicts the struggles that were born as a result of the industrial revolution. 

About the book 

'Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.' So says Thomas Gradgrind, a wealthy, utilitarian school board superintendent. Father to Tom and Louisa, he shapes the minds of all the young children, including his own, with the exception of only one: the circus-born Sissy Jupe. 

As the novel progresses, we see the lives of these three young children unfold, shaped by the beliefs and values they've been taught by their respective fathers and educators. Growing into a beautiful yet miserable young lady, Louisa is wed off to an associate of her father's. Tom, dulled by his strict upbringing, becomes a dissipated, hedonistic gambler, and Sissy, their imaginative, creative and selfless guiding light, seeks to repair the damage done to her friends by years of utilitarian training. 

About the author 

With his father incarcerated, Charles Dickens had to abandon his studies at a young age and set to work in a factory so as to support himself. Despite his short-lived education, Dickens went on to write 15 novels and various articles, novellas and short stories. He lectured and led campaigns for children's rights and education and arguably became, unlike Josiah Bounderby, the ultimate self-made man. 

About the narrator 

Known for his versatility and for "making monsters and demons understood", Bertie Carvel has twice won the Olivier Award: for his performances as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda and Rupert Murdoch in Ink. On television he was Jonathan Strange in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Nick Clegg in Coalition and the cheating husband in Doctor Foster. In this definitive audiobook of Hard Times, Carvel's presence and range shine through to gripping effect.

Public Domain (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

What listeners say about Hard Times

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Bertie Carvel brilliant narration

The way that Bertie Carvel bring the story to life is just amazing! Will listen again. Highly recommended.

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Hard times

Bertie Carvel is an excellent narrator and it's like a mini play! More please Bertie

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  • ck
  • 14-05-20

Fabulous.

All of this Dickens Collection series have been great. Read so well. What a skill to convey all the characters and voices with just one reader. You really believe you are listening to a full cast. Takes you right back to Dickens' time. Only got Pickwick Papers and Edwin Drood left...

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Captivating!

Thoroughly enjoyed this interpretation and narration of Mr. D's smallest (by word count) novel. Warmth, intelligence and humour' balanced perfectly by Carvel. Recommended.

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Fantastic

I liked it all, the reader is so good and hits the right voices for all the characters without impersonating them. Excellent and moving.

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Dickens brought to life.

This is an unusual book among Dickens's work but it's very good and the narration is outstanding.

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A good story beautifully read

i had no previous knowledge of either the book or reader. Pleasantly surprised by both.

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Fabulous narration

Absolutely brilliant- Bertie Carvel’s narration is superb, bringing all the characters to life with excellent voices and accents. Loved it.

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Wonderful Narration

Bertie Carvel's performance is amazing! He brings every character to life and the variety of his voices is beguiling

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exceptionally well told.

loved it, brilliant story, told with feeling and placed tbe listener right in the heart of it

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  • DFK
  • 08-07-19

Excellent book and excellent performance

This is an excellent one of Dickens' works. I have reviewed some here that unless you are a committed Dickens fan, you could pass on, but this is one that is worthy of Dickens' reputation. Paxman's introduction was useful in making me aware of the critique of Utilitarianism in this work, but even if you didn't know that, you would be able to relate to the types of characters depicted. There is excellent social commentary in the voice of Sissy, still so relevant today. Here is one quote from a discussion about what she was having trouble learning in school: “And he said, This schoolroom is an immense town, and in it there are a million of inhabitants, and only five-and-twenty are starved to death in the streets, in the course of a year. What is your remark on that proportion? And my remark was—for I couldn’t think of a better one—that I thought it must be just as hard upon those who were starved, whether the others were a million, or a million million.” Of course, that was the wrong answer for the teacher. There is more like that, and I think there are such quotes that are “pearls”. I was disappointed with the ending. Given that Gradgrind Jr. basically framed someone for a theft he committed (this is not a spoiler - it becomes pretty obvious; this is not a mystery story), I think that though we can have sympathy for a father who wants to protect his son from the law (which certainly was harsh then), being an accomplice in any way to the escape of someone who should stand trial is not justifiable. It is not even the theft that was so bad, but the framing of another person, who suffered as a result, that was worse. As far as the performance, it was superb. I will definitely look out for other books narrated by Bertie Carvel.

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  • Rivkah
  • 07-08-18

Social change, serialized

Charles Dickens is very large-hearted in any of his social commentary and though I don’t always fall in love with any of the characters or find the story less-than-concise, I love how much he loves people and wants them to be well. Often, the picture of everyday life is one of resilience and if it is of weakness, I can’t remember a place where Dickens doesn’t write with a foundation of compassion. Bertie Carvel is an excellent reader, always, and I like knowing all the work he does to promote equality and justice in his own sphere is a thread alongside Dickens. More audiobooks by Carvel, please (and I genuinely mean that bc I own all the other ones he’s done).