Hard Times – by Dickens

Sunday 24th September

I really don’t know why but I really like Victorian Novels.  It is something about the pace, the description and the language.  Often for quite a few pages nothing really happens, there are few murders and even fewer mutilated female bodies – thank goodness.  Modern books are designed either for beach holidays or for reading between stops on the tube.  Victorian novels were for an evening’s read at a time.

Anyway…having read All of Austen and the Brontes many years ago, and all 54 of Anthony Trollopes books a few years ago, I started on Dickens.  I had read Oliver and David Copperfield and Great Expectations as a young man.  So I am currently working my way through this Literary Colossus…

Hard Times – I cannot remember any TV or film adaptation of the book.  Which is surprising as it is really a very ‘Modern Novel’.  There is no Hero, but two females who put all the despicable men to shame.  It is also the first Anti-Capitalist Novel.  The imaginary city of Coketown is full of noise and mills and bosses making millions while the workers toil long hours for next to nothing.  Dickens really takes us into the heart of the Capitalist Beast, full of Tories we would all recognise today.  And although in the end life goes on more or less the dame for ‘The Hands’, very few readers, then or now, could remain undisturbed by the suffering depicted here.  But surprisingly it is not a miserable book, there are many comic interludes and we find ourselves laughing at the ‘viallainous and pompous’ Bounderby and the boring Gradgrind.

The novel however was one of Dickens least successful.  His audience preferring the more sentimental books he usually wrote.  Well worth a read though.