Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

Tess of The D’Ubervilles (1891)

Regarded by many as Hardy’s masterpiece, when the book first appeared in serialisation, and then in book form, it was met with mixed reviews as it challenged Victorian ideas of sexual morality. Tess is an innocent young girl until the day she goes to visit her rich 'relatives', the D'Urbervilles. Her encounter with her manipulative cousin, Alec, leads her onto a path that is beset with suffering and betrayal. When she falls in love with another man, Angel Clare, Tess sees a potential escape from her past, but only if she can tell him her shameful secret... essential reading for anyone that loves the classics and a great starting point for Hardy’s books.

“Beauty lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized.”

Far from The Madding Crowd (1874)

Published in 1874 this was Hardy’s fourth novel but his first literary success; it was initially published anonymously. The book explores the difficult realities of rural farming life in Victorian England and is, fundamentally, a love story. Arguably even one of the greatest of all time. Bathsheba Everdene arrives in the small village of Weatherbury and captures the heart of three very different men: Gabriel Oak, a quiet shepherd, the proud, obdurate Farmer Boldwood and dashing, unscrupulous Sergeant Troy. The battle for her affections has dramatic, tragic and surprising consequences.

“Love is a possible strength in an actual weakness.”

Return of the Native (1878)

Now one of Hardy’s most popular novels, in 1878 he had difficulty finding a publisher due to the book’s controversial themes. The book takes place on Egdon Heath, a fictitious area of the Wessex of many of Hardy’s novels. Proud, passionate Eustacia Vye marries Clym Yeobright in the hope that he will help her escape her rural existence. But when their relationship falters, Eustacia turns to her old lover Damon Wildeve, leading to a disastrous climax on the brooding wilds of the Heath.

“Persons with any weight of character carry, like planets, their atmospheres along with them in their orbits.”

The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)

The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character is another of Hardy’s Wessex novels. This book as was also first published in weekly serialisation. The Mayor of Casterbridge is haunted by his past. In his youth, he betrayed his wife and baby daughter in an incident that led him to swear not to drink for twenty-one years. He has since risen from his humble origins to become a respected pillar of the community in fictional Casterbridge, but his secrets cannot stay hidden forever.

“Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.”

Jude The Obscure (1895)

This novel caused such outrage when it was published, that sadly Hardy never wrote another. Jude Fawley is a young man longing to better himself and go to the fictional Wessex Christminster University, but poverty forces him into a job as a stonemason and an unhappy marriage which doesn’t last. After his wife leaves him he returns to Christminster where he meets and falls in love with his cousin, the free-spirited Sue Bridehead. They refuse to marry, much to the disapproval of society. In this heartbreaking story, Hardy explores the devastating effects of social prejudice and oppression.

“But his dreams were as gigantic as his surroundings were small.”

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