Anyone here read this one? I'm chugging my way through this as a kind of bedtime read, one chapter a day - it's a long book! Only about a third of the way through so far.
Initially I thought it felt very like a "novel" that was produced in parts, with fairly artificial divisions between episodes. But as it goes on, I find I'm more and more hooked on the ongoing experiences of Mr Pickwick.
A bit random, but does anyone else think Tolkien's Samwise Gamgee is a bit derivative of Sam Weller, Mr Pickwick's man-servant? Or does using the name Sam make it homage, and therefore okay? ;-)
Just a brief note to mention that I really enjoyed this. I've read a lot of Dickens but this is one novel that I've left out until now.
Starting a new job, I needed to read something quite enjoyable. Who needs Valium ? Just pick up Dickens !
I understand that the serial caused a sensation at the time, akin to Harry Potter mania. Harry never had this effect on me but the story of Little Nell captured my attention and I felt that the story rolled along very nicely.
The title of the story intrigues me, though. Not spoiling anything, the old curiosity Shop features very little in the story and I wonder whether the title was intended to be a metaphor for something.
I have been listening to an audiobook read by Wanda McCaddon. At first I wasn't to sure about the narator because I had previously listened to an excellent version of David Copperfield read by Frederick Davidson. However Ms McCaddon grew on me.
As for the story, well for a change there weren't any characters that I really disliked. And that is unusual for Dickens. He usually manages to have at least one annoying cloying person in his novels. In this case he didn't. Also, the villain of the piece was not black and white but had shades of grey making him less clichéd.
If you asked someone to name three Dickens novels off the top of their head, the chances are that Hard Times would not be one of them. People would tend to go for Great Expectations and David Copperfield (or whichever one had been serialised on the telly most recently). But it is certainly one of the easiest of the novels to read.
I mentioned in my review of Little Dorrit here that I found Dickens distinctly uneven, and I would maintain this position. It is true from novel to novel, and also within a particular novel. But Hard Times, stylistic unevenness aside, is a highly unified piece of writing, and the unity is contained in the way it throws into conflict the wisdom of the head and the wisdom of the heart, the way in which the ferociously, fanatically utilitarian Mr Gradrind has to face the consequences of his "philosophy" when his own children make disastrous messes of their lives.
I originally struggled through Hard Times when I was too young to cope with it, but reading it today I am struck by how relevant its themes remain today, just over 150 years since it was originally published. Presumably some of the people being blamed right now for the state the economy is in would easily recognise Mr Gradgrind and Mr Bounderby as their forbears.
Always supposing they were ever likely to open a "serious" novel in the first place, of course.