Disclaimer: This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a proper, in depth, book review. It is merely a collection of thoughts, nothing more.
“Hard Times” by Charles Dickens, and let me just say, I had a very, very hard time getting through this one. As this is a set book for my second module (A150-Voices and Texts) I really had to just power through. This happened to be my first venture into the world of Dickens (I’m not including the numerous Christmas viewings on the BBC), and I always thought I’d start out with something that sounded a little more optimistic… “Great Expectations” perhaps.
I was quite surprised by his character development, on TV Dickens always seems to have the most ridiculously, fabulously vivid characters, but in “Hard Times” this was absolutely not the case. By the time I finished, I don’t think I liked a single character, it was more a question of who I despised the least… it was very difficult to bond with any of the characters, as there were so many, and none of them seemed to be explored in much depth. Another thing I noticed about these guys were the overwhelming clichés, there was nothing even remotely unexpected about anyone- the poor people were leeches, the rich people were unbearable snobs and the carnies were delinquents…. everybody loves the occasional cliché but this was just too much! I would say that this could be explained by the unapologetic class divisions of Victorian Britain. I have to admit that I did like the description of the ’eminently practical’ Mr Gradgrind, a phrase that seemed to be repeated about 50 times over the span of two pages. The incessant mentioning of Mrs Sparsit’s ‘Corinthian eyebrows’ did not have the same effect, I truly came to hate that woman and her hairy face!
The first thing I noticed when beginning “Hard Times” was the sheer amount of words! Charlie D seems to have adopted the attitude of why-us-one-adjective-when-you-can-use-four, something that may have been slightly more effective had he not done it in every sentence… “Hard Times” was originally published as a serial in “Household Words” (1854), which in my opinion was a great idea, I think it would have been much more manageable to read in bitesize chunks. I’m not sure how I felt about the ending… I won’t spoil it for anybody but I was rather disappointed, all the loose ends seemed to get tied up in the last 2 pages, making it all seem a bit rushed.
There is definitely something positive that has come out of me reading this thing… (drumroll please)… I am no longer a Dickens virgin, and now that I’ve read one, the rest seem much less intimidating… and of course I am also now prepared for the next section of A150!
P.S. Something that I’ve noticed while reading the chapters about “Hard Times” in my text book- I would always recommend buying the OU versions of the books, they do tend to be a little more expensive, but it makes it much easier to keep up with the page references, etc.