So, Hard Times. Or to give the book its full title, Hard Times for These Times. And has there ever been a more perfect title for These Days?
If you are unfamiliar with Charles Dickens, besides, perhaps, A Christmas Carol, there are a few things you ought to know about the man. The man is, nearly always, On A Mission. (OK, the Pickwick Papers is just plain fun.) He’s from the Victorian era, newspapers have just been, more or less, invented, and his books are serialized in said newspaper. Seriously, people waited from one week to the next with bated breath, to hear the fate of Little Dorrit. Must-see watching of its time. So he is generally in a mood and absolutely over the top, but never more than in this book, his screed against the Industrial Revolution’s effect on Britain in its time.
In this particular case, the mission was to testify to the brutal conditions in the mills, the first wave of factories. Here is a taste. “As the mills start their day, the Fairy palaces burst into illumination, before pale morning shows the monstrous serpents of smoke trailing themselves over Coketown. A clattering of clogs upon the pavement; a rapid ringing of bells; and all the melancholy-mad elephants [the looms] polished and oiled up for the day’s monotony, were at their heavy exercise again.”
So I am rating this down a star because I think he got so swept away by the subject that he lost track of some of his characters. I mean, how do you come up with a gypsy bare-back rider in a traveling circus in rural England, and just let her be the generic Good Girl? Come on, man, I know you can do better than that.
But a shout-out to Mr. Merrylegs, the bestest of Good Bois. Dickens can pull this out every damn time. I’m not crying, you’re crying.