I am a huge Charles Dickens fan. I have been since a young age. I picked this one up because it was on my 'books I should have read by now' challenge list. The book is meant to be miserable (hence the title) but filled with wit. Maybe I missed something but for the first time I struggled with a Dickens book. The generic industrial town of Coketown was so flat. It seemed that it containted the school, the bank and the mill. All those living there worked for Mr Bounderby and no one else. It made for very dull reading.
The characters themselves were also dull and flat mirroring the town itself. There are two people in the book that the reader is supposed to sympathise with, Louisa and Stephen. I found this difficult since both characters were extremely boring. There wasn't much to them and so they came across as very one dimensional. Maybe if the book had been extended (I think this might be one of the shortest Dickens) the author could have built up the characters more and therefore I would have liked them better.
The one thing it did do was create characters that I found easy to dislike. Mr Bounderby was the pompous old man with something to hide. I think I disliked him as soon as he made an appearance in the book and I was supposed to. Mrs Sparsit, his housekeeper, was just as unlikeable. She's the typical spinster woman who wants to catch Louisa in a wrong as she feels she has been replaced. Lastly there is Tom. Whilst I didn't like him his character was just as flat as the others. He was supposed to be a drunk and a gambler. Yet there was only one drunken scene and the gambling was only hinted at with mention of his debts. I feel that I missed out on more drunken/gambling scenes.
In case you can't tell I was extremely disappointed with this book. Most of the other books I have read by Dickens have been large tomes. This makes me wonder if maybe Dickens needs the length to make his characters come alive (although this wasn't the case with A Christmas Carol). I think if this had been the first book I had read by him it would have put me off reading more. Thankfully that is not the case but the other Dickens I have on my TBR pile is now at the bottom.