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THE WOODLANDERS Paperback – 1895


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS (1895)
  • ASIN: B004JOTWQQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By darragh o'donoghue on May 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Hardy is my favourite poet, but I've always found the novels hard-going, too determinedly grim, too schematically fatalistic. For the first third of this novel, I felt the samme way, dutifully admiring the prose, but not really enjoying. Then I left it for a few months, read Proust, and came back to it. I started kicking myself.
It's a masterpiece, an absolute joy for two reasons. Not the characters, who rarely rise above their stock roles - the decent, honourable heroine impossibly torn between passion and propriety; the manly, back-to-nature hero, who could come straight from COLD COMFORT FARM); the impoverished aristocratic cad; his wealthy lover, the promiscuous bored ex-actress golddigger; the bumbling middle-class trader of lowly origins.
What astonishes first is Hardy's plot, related by a weirdly troubling narrator, awesomely intricate in itself, but full of an almost Nabokovian sadism. Situations, desires, hopes are set up and cruelly dashed as the beautiful narrative machinations begin cranking - the man-trap scene had me literally sweating. This irony, however, also has an emotional effect, as it reveals characters trapped by the social, gender and psychological limits the plot symbolises, and forces them into a humanity beyond their stereotype.
Mostly, though, this is a novel written by a poet, and in its animation of the sexually charged woods, the lanes, glades, fields, sunsets, dawns, storms, drizzles, winds, breezes, nature is the book's true hero, full of almost supernatural agency. Hardy's gifts of description, his unearthing the unearthly, the uncanny, the inexplicable beneath the surface, are unsurpassed in Victorian fiction; while his non-didactic anger at social injustice is so much more compelling than the more literal Dickens'.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kate on January 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is one of my favourite Hardy novels. As some others have noted, it's not one of the "big 5" but certainly worth reading. Hardy's descriptions of the woodlands are beautiful, and I found the ending to be one of his most unpredictable. I wouldn't recommend reading it if you are feeling down, as the ending is sooooo wonderfully tragic (hehe), or if you're not a fan of Hardy's prose style, but otherwise it's a wonderful read. Very personal as well. I got the feeling it was written just for me :)
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Bill R. Moore on March 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Woodlanders is not Thomas Hardy's most famous or acclaimed work but was his own favorite among his novels, and many - perhaps most - fans put it in his top tier. This diehard Hardy reader puts it just below that, which is to say it is truly great. Neophytes should read better-known works first, but everyone should stop here quite soon.

Perhaps the most immediately attractive aspect is its vibrant setting. Hardy seems to truly bring The Woodlands to life, describing with a vivid precision that will make it linger in the mind long after reading. It is my favorite Hardy setting other than The Return of the Native's Egdon Heath and many fans' favorite. Most Hardy novels and much of his poetry is set in what he called Wessex - a part-real, part-dream area, based on his native Southwest England, that he made world famous. Perhaps no one equals his profound sense of place; he describes scenes so believably and importantly that they become integral to the story. This is a preeminent example. All the Wessex novels are valuable for showing how a long-vanished world looked and how its people thought, spoke, and lived but none perhaps more so than this. The Woodlands are probably the most rural part of Wessex, which truly says much - a handful of cottages scattered among a thick forest. The real places on which Hardy based the area were almost gone by the time of the book (1887) - had indeed started going even before his 1840 birth - and are certainly gone now, as is nearly every remotely similar place in the Western world. Hardy's descriptive power thus does us a great service by making such a long-lost place seem so real that we not only seem to see it but feel and smell it also. As in The Return, the setting is so important that it is practically a character - arguably even the most important.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ryder on October 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
It's easy to see how Thomas Hardy became a wonderful poet after his long career of writing novels, given the meaty prose and superb scenery he conjured in "The Woodlanders." Tales of matrimonial and unrequited love compete for space amongst the bounty of Hardy's described woods, heaths and vales. "Woodlanders" offers some of the most complex and well-developed characters of Hardy's novelistic pantheon. Yet such stories of amor et fides, honor and self-sacrifice quickly become a backdrop when Hardy reaches for the woods of his mind.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Discovered I had a copy of this in my library from I don't know how long ago, and read it this week. This overlooked Hardy (not one of the hackneyed school list titles) would be a good choice for a book group. Unusual plot covering 3 social classes and their interconnections reminded me of Middlemarch, as well as the theme of rural England being slowly industrialized. I always forget how blatant and "modern" Hardy can be in his discussion of sexuality, as well. Well worth your time if you've forgotten how good Hardy can be.
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