Charles Dickens, Hard Times
I won’t say much here, since I can hardly expect to add anything worthwhile to 150 years of prior criticism.
This was Dickens’ 15th novel, according to Wikipedia. It’s a social commentary on the lives of industrial mill-town laborers. The notes in this edition mention that this book is widely read in schools. I imagine its chosen for school reading because while it has many of the characteristic Dickens elements (noble young ladies; young men fallen in dissipation; ignorant, selfish men of property; social commentary against the lot of the poor; …) its relatively short, at under 300 pages in this copy. Compared to Our Mutual Friend, for example, thats substantially less ponderous build-up from the time I figured out who the mysterious stranger would turn out to be to the final revelation. On the other hand, it hasn’t got quite the wit of Bleak House, which remains my favorite Dickens novel.