The audio book anyway. Not sure about the general hard times people are having. I listened to Hard Times by Charles Dickens and I have to say it was not much fun. It is hard to judge older books at times; things that seem like cliches now may have been fresh then, plot twists may not have been telegraphed to a reader then the same way it seems now. Essentially the book is about a few people in Coketown. Mr. Gradgrind is a man obsessed with facts and raises his children, Louisa and Samuel, to eschew fantasy and feelings and imagination. Bounderby is a business owner in the town and, very creepy, lusts after Louisa, who at the start of the story is about 14. eewww. There are a couple of laborers, Samuel Blackpool and Rachel, who both have difficult lives.
The Gradgrind children grow up and Louisa does marry Bounderby. eeewww again. Tom works for Bounderby at his bank and uses his sister to make his life easier. Bad things happen, Louisa almost has an affair, then more bad things happen.
I just felt like this book was A Lesson To Be Learned, not a real book. There were lovely phrases but the characters (except perhaps Louisa) are all stereotypes. i just couldn't enjoy it. a 3 for me.