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Where should I start with Thomas Hardy?

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Initial post: Aug 27, 2009 7:58:48 AM PDT
W. Weston says:
That's all, anyone?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2009 2:57:13 PM PDT
Return Of The Native

Posted on Aug 29, 2009 12:39:17 AM PDT
tigers3 says:
I just read my first Tess of the D'urbevilles and absolutely loved it.. so would have to recommend that.

Posted on Sep 1, 2009 6:38:31 PM PDT
D. Nguyen says:
I've read most of his books and be warned, they're all very sad and tragic. But perhaps you like tragedy. I'd start with The Mayor of Casterbridge.

I'd also recommend his poetry. I'm paraphrasing but he's said somewhere that he wrote novels to make a living but poetry out of love. His poetry is of course beautifully written and has the same sadness as well.

Posted on Sep 10, 2009 10:08:31 AM PDT
HardyBoy64 says:
I love "The Return of the Native". My least-favorite of Hardy is "The Trumpet Major".
I recommend his short stories as well. "Life's little ironies" is fantastic and "Wessex Tales" is equally great. Some of these short stories are not dark and tragic.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 10, 2009 5:11:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 10, 2009 5:11:56 PM PDT
N. McBee says:
Most are seriously sad - you definitely need to read most of them in between lighter fare!

Posted on Sep 14, 2009 4:19:11 AM PDT
Absolutely, absolutely Jude the Obscure. It's probably his most important work. Either that, or Tess.

Posted on Sep 17, 2009 3:17:16 PM PDT
W. Weston says:
I'm terribly vexed

Posted on Sep 18, 2009 7:48:48 AM PDT
HardyBoy64 says:
I will eventually read all of them. Just start! I'm about 50 pages from finishing "The Woodlanders" and it's just beautiful. I would start with "Tess".

Posted on Sep 20, 2009 7:58:20 PM PDT
J. Florence says:
Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess are my favorites. All his major works are tragic, but all are worth the read.

Posted on Sep 22, 2009 2:53:36 PM PDT
A customer says:
In the event that you only end up reading one of them, make sure it's Tess.

Posted on Sep 23, 2009 6:57:13 AM PDT
C. M. Griggs says:
I think his best novel is actually one most people have never heard of "A Pair of Blue Eyes"... beautiful, haunting.

Posted on Oct 4, 2009 6:29:45 PM PDT
Well, which one did you choose?

Posted on Oct 10, 2009 5:26:21 AM PDT

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 10:43:36 AM PDT
Ah, Tess of course. When I taught it, we would walk, reading it, to a local dairy farm to get the full flavor of the middle chapters (including the smell). They are the most delicious chapters in all of Hardy and full of light and promise. Then you know what happens . . .

Posted on Oct 23, 2009 9:03:59 PM PDT
Bernice says:
My first Hardy novel was Far from the Madding Crowd, which I liked and admired. Then I read Jude the Obscure. I think I should have read something else of his in between...what a contrast!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2009 8:30:07 AM PST
Hey HardyBoy64, thanks for your suggestion---I borrowed "Selected Short Stories" from my local library, and much to my surprise was one entry entitled "Tony Kytes, the Arch-Deceiver," which practically amounts to high comedy in the vein of Mrs. Gaskell's lighthearted "Mr. Harrison's Confessions."

Posted on Nov 22, 2009 8:55:28 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 22, 2009 8:56:45 PM PST
Jude the Obscure if you want to start with a bang. The Well Beloved if you want to start with a lighter fare. Pair of Blue Eyes, I would save for later. It's an earlier work and not as refined (in my humble opinion).

I love reading Thomas Hardy when I am sad. All your sad little tragedies seem so minor compared to Hardian tragedies. It does you good.

It also does my soul good to think of other Thomas Hardy fans out there, none of whom apparently exist in my neck of the woods.

Posted on Dec 4, 2009 10:50:37 AM PST
I would start with The Return of the Native. It places the star-crossed romance between Clym and Eustacia amid Egdon Heath and Wessex rural culture: e.g. the reddleman, the mummers, the Guy Fawlkes bonfires... Then I would read in order The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and then Jude the Obcure. These are the core works. You will see a real progression in the narrative tone and concerns, Wessex centered lives increasingly overburdened by broader and controversial social issues. If you want to go further, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Woodlanders, and the best poems and short stories. The rest is really for Hardy specialists.

Posted on Apr 18, 2010 7:25:21 PM PDT
For a 1st Hardy, I like Far From The Madding Crowd because it has true tragedy, yet still finds its way to a fairly happy ending. But Tess, Mayor, Return, and Jude and all must reads. Probably The Woodlanders too. & Hardy is an incredible poet.

Posted on May 7, 2010 4:00:27 PM PDT
Shawn Acosta says:
Tess, absolutely Tess

Posted on May 12, 2010 2:37:39 PM PDT
I dunno--I might start by running in the other direction...although all I've read is Far From the Madding Crowd. I have never looked into his life, but I have to wonder if he was in love with some woman that ended up marrying a man Hardy felt was beneath her.

The story in Madding seems like a self-indulgent fantasy of someone that always dreamed that the woman he loved would finally leave the scoundrel she took up with and come back to him. The role of the female character is limited to being shallow enough to fall for the dashing younger man while the stalwart, faithful true love waits until she comes to her senses.

Maybe they're not all like that though.
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Posted on Nov 25, 2010 6:00:17 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 29, 2011 7:45:19 AM PST
I recently finished reading an interesting book, In the Steps of Thomas Hardy: Walking Tours of Hardy's England, which explores the landscapes where Hardy set his stories and what they look like today. It has cause me to want to investigate Hardy's writings further, and I now plan on reading "The Woodlanders" next. I recommend it for armchair travel to anyone else with an interest in Hardy's novels and short stories.

Update: I recently read "Under the Greenwood Tree," and while this is considered one of Hardy's lesser novels (only his second published and even then anonymously), it has a lightheartedness and humor missing from his later works. So I would definitely suggest it as a good place to start.

Posted on Feb 13, 2011 6:53:46 PM PST
Marie says:
Tess. You'll never be the same.

Posted on Feb 26, 2011 7:38:09 PM PST
Hardy clearly developed as an artist from a fairly lighthearted sketch artist to the prophet of doom. I'd definitely start out on the light end, with something like "Under the Greenwood Tree," which shows his love for his countrymen, and treats them with gentle humor. Then something from the middle period, such as the lovely "Far From the Madding Crowd," before heading into the major novels like "Tess," "Return of the Native," or "Jude the Obscure" (definitely not the one to start out with). For those who like D. H. Lawrence, I'd recommend Hardy's "The Woodlanders," which is just as sexy without being anatomical. And the poetry is simply magnificent.
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Discussion in:  Classic Literature forum
Participants:  22
Total posts:  25
Initial post:  Aug 27, 2009
Latest post:  Feb 26, 2011

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