Sunday, February 15, 2015

Hard Times (1854)

Hard Times. Charles Dickens. 1854/1992. Everyman's Library. 336 pages.  [Source: Library]

'Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, Sir!'

Did I like Hard Times? Did I love Hard Times? I'm not sure which--like or love--at the moment. I can only say that I was surprised that I found this book to be so quick and entertaining. I'm used to spending weeks with Dickens, not a day. Yes, I sped through this one. Not because I had to, but, because I wanted to. I found it easy to follow, but, I'm finding it difficult to summarize.

Readers meet Mr. Gradgrind and two of his children whom he's bringing up on facts: Louisa and Tom. On the surface perhaps, the book is about how this philosophical upbringing works out for them as adults. Or how it doesn't, as the case may be. Louisa marries one of her father's closest associates, Josiah Bounderby, who is several decades (at least) older. Tom goes to work at Bounderby's bank. If you've read Dickens before, you know to expect plenty of characters and side stories. This is also the case in Hard Times. Readers also meet: Sissy Jupe, Mr. Sleary, Stephen Blackpool, Rachael, Mrs. Sparsit, Bitzer, James Harthouse, and Mrs. Pegler. There were characters that I really liked, and there were characters that I really didn't like at all!

I liked this one very much. I liked the writing style. I liked the pacing. I liked the characterization. I liked the dialogue. I'm so glad I've made a friend of Dickens! This definitely was not the case when I was in high school and struggling with Great Expectations!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Lois Tinúviel said...

I read Hard Times last year and I too was surprised at how short it was. I liked it a lot though and thought that it was interesting how his philosophy of brining up his children backfired on him but I was so glad at the end that he realized the error of his ways. I thought it had a lot of prevalence to today.

Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll) said...

I've read a lot of Dickens, but I don't think this is one of them. It's a relief to know that I have a short one to look forward to.

Karen K. said...

Sadly, this is my least favorite Dickens -- I just couldn't get into any of the characters. The whole story just seemed so dire to me. But if it makes a Dickens fan out of someone, I am all for it. I strongly recommend Bleak House -- it's long but it's absolutely worth it -- and the BBC miniseries is just wonderful.

Carol said...

This is a favourite of mine. I love the "Facts!" and also when Bitzer was asked to give the definition of a horse. I think I just love Dickens generally although I haven't read The Pickwick Papers yet and dont really have any desire to do so.