Friday, April 11, 2008

Review of the Day: Hard Times

Hard Times by Charles Dickens is one of the many Victorian Era classics that I had never gotten around to reading. But thanks to an audio version new on the shelf of my library branch, it made it to the top of my TBR pile. In equal parts good old fashioned storytelling and outdated social criticism, Hard Times is the tale of the Gradgrind family and their struggle to reconcile the rational, fact-based side of life with the emotional and imaginative side. Thomas Gradgrind, Sr. is proud of his “system” of raising children – his own and those in the school he runs – to know and depend only on facts, with no “wondering” or amusement. The ultimate failure of his system leads to the final showdown and resolution of the story. Dickens packed the book (first published in installments in 1854) full of his usual extraordinary characters. These really came to life in the audio version. Along with some Victorian moralizing, he mixed in plenty of humor and even a little intrigue and adventure. None of the characters are particularly likeable, perhaps especially to a modern reader with less sympathy for the outmoded social constraints under which the characters labor, but they all get their just deserts – for good or ill – in the end. Despite its age, Hard Times remains thoroughly entertaining.


Lezlie said...

I'm currently listening to A Tale of Two Cities. The readers can really make a book come to life, can't they?

Have a great day!

Rose City Reader said...

Absolutely! Especially for some older books. It makes the long, convoluted sentences much more comprehensible to hear them after someone has done the work of breaking down the phrasing. Sort of like watching a Shakespeare play instead of trying to read it.

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