Many years ago I read Hard Times as part of a degree course. Outside of A Christmas Carol in abridged form I have steered clear of Dickens since. But Hard Times is a far cry from Great Expectations. In this book I saw Dickens the story teller: telling a wonderful tale with a cast of memorable characters, much variation of pace, and a strong plot. Loved it! The ghost of Hard Times has been exorcised. I shall be reading more!