Tuesday, 29 July 2014

HARD TIMES by Charles Dickens

HARD TIMES is a minor work, and it shows.

One wonders how the same man who wrote GREAT EXPECTATIONS and A CHRISTMAS CAROL also came up with this boring preachy book. It tells the story of a gentelman who has brought his children up on the basis that the only thing worth engaging with is facts, entirely ruling out feeling or imagination. In a totally expected plot twist, this being Dickens, an orphan enters their home. Full to bursting with feeling, she is tiresomely obviously right about everything. She is however ignored, with the older daughter marrying a rich man, a friend of her father's, untroubled by her lack of feelings for him. The son falls apart morally, stealing some money, and attempting to blame the crime on an annoyingly saintly local working man. Just writing about this book is annoying me afresh. The big conclusion sees everyone coming around to the view that the orphan was right all along, and that feelings are as important as facts. For me, the fact was I felt like puking.

There was only one good bit, this description of a bar: "She stopped, at twilight, at the door of a mean little public house, with dim red lights on it. As haggard and shabby, as if, for want of custom, it had itself taken to drinking, and had gone the way all drunkards go, and was very near the end of it." A charming description, but probably not quite worth slogging through the whole book for.

PS: I trust you have all assigned extra points to me for avoiding any kind of jokes of the "I had a hard time reading this" variety. It was struggle, let me tell you.

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