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Two on a Tower (Penguin Classics) Paperback – July 1, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) immortalized the site of his birth—Egdon Heath, in Dorset, near Dorchester—in his writing. Delicate as a child, he was taught at home by his mother before he attended grammar school. At sixteen, Hardy was apprenticed to an architect, and for many years, architecture was his profession; in his spare time, he pursued his first and last literary love, poetry. Finally convinced that he could earn his living as an author, he retired from architecture, married, and devoted himself to writing. An extremely productive novelist, Hardy published an important book every year or two. In 1896, disturbed by the public outcry over the unconventional subjects of his two greatest novels—Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure—he announced that he was giving up fiction and afterward produced only poetry. In later years, he received many honors. He was buried in Poet’s Corner, in Westminster Abbey. It was as a poet that he wished to be remembered, but today critics regard his novels as his most memorable contribution to English literature for their psychological insight, decisive delineation of character, and profound presentation of tragedy.

Patricia Ingham is a Senior Research Fellow and Reader at St Anne's College, Oxford. She has written on the Victorian novel and on Hardy in particular. she is the General Editor of all of Hardy's fiction in the Penguin Classics and has edited Gaskell's North and South for the series.

From AudioFile

Although Two on a Tower is a minor Thomas Hardy work, minor Thomas Hardy is much worth a listener's time. In this novel, set in Wessex, the rich Lady Constantine lives a boring existence, also a chaste one, forced on her by an absent husband who may indeed be dead. But then she meets young Swithin, a naively ambitious astronomer, who shares with her his passion for the stars. Soon the two are passionate about each other, and the malevolent fate so often found in Hardy's novels begins to demand its seemingly inevitable retribution. A sad story, this, read perfectly by Michael Kitchen. He handles the major characters and the minor ones with careful distinction and sensi-tivity to their education and station, and is clearly sympathetic as Lady Constantine's few moments of happiness give way to tragedy. A first-rate reading of a truly fine novel, even if less well known than other Hardy works. T.H. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (July 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140435360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140435368
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #333,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Two on a Tower was the 11th Thomas Hardy's 14 novels that I have read. Hardy can be depended upon to paint a vivid picture of the characters' environment, and their relationships to it, but this time with a twist: One of the two characters being an astronomer, most of the environmental descriptions are of the heavens, and are wonderfully appropriate for the characters' actions and 'aspects'.
Hardy had a gift of creating characters who are fascinating in their personalities and actions, and together with the environmental descriptions, reading his novels is just one step away from watching a really good movie of the story.
Of all Hardy's varied characters, I felt the most sympathy for the two on the tower. Viviette has a great need for love and is selfless in giving it. Swithin, a somewhat naive and literate scientist, is at the same time a tender and faithful lover. Of all Hardy's stories, I hoped that this one would somehow have that "happy ending", and I suffered uncounted times for both characters.
I highly recommend this book for emotional involvement, though it may tear you apart to read it!
I would also recommend another of Hardy's lesser known novels The Woodlanders, which I understand was his own favorite story, and remains mine also.
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Format: Paperback
Beautifully written, Thomas Hardy goes all out to make the reader see, hear, and smell every scene in this book. From begining to end, you never know what's going to happen next, and just when you think the story is calming down, Hardy throws a swerve your way. Great surprises, not predictable at all.
Hardy perhaps one of the better describers of setting of his time, shows once again, why books were so highly read back in his age.
Thomas once again delivered another great book of sadness, happiness, pregnancy and marriage. Although the story is mostly sad, it is still a great book, especially for those who have read previous Hardy books. A great read.
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Format: Paperback
The story of a lonely woman caught between love and propriety, self-sacrifice and self-interest, "Two on a Tower" is one of the saddest novels I've read. I kept hoping for a description of a blissful-but-brief interlude for Viviette, but it never materialized. Instead, unhappiness dogged her to the novel's cruel end. Yes, cruel. The final event in the book was an unnecessary stroke. Also, while I usually accept a character's actions, I cannot believe that Viviette NEVER anticipated becoming pregnant. The possibility certainly haunted ME from the moment her secret marriage took place. For all of it's sadness, however, the story is engaging and provides a criticism of the unforgiving social conventions of Hardy's time.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very interesting series of contrasts between religion and science, introversion and extroverson, discipline and lassitude. Hardy's twists and turns make for hours of fascinating reading, and his creation of two people in love who never see its fruition is both sad and marvelous.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
So much work to write this, Mr. Hardy, and so much time to read this, only to be disappointed at the last page. All books deserve a happy ending for at least ONE of the main characters. Didn't learn that reading "Tess of D'Urbervilles" (spellcheck failing me here) but I'm done. "Far From the Madding Crowd" is still my favorite of Thomas Hardy's works.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thomas Hardy's writing is always evocative of atmosphere and filled with meaningful symbolism. This tragic novel is no exception and once again fictional rural Wessex and the ecclesiastical center of Melchester provide the setting for two individuals who fall in love with all the circumstances of social position and differences in wealth arrayed against them. In the case of Viviette Constantine and the Astronomer St. Cleve age difference is added to the volatile mix of factors that doom their love for each other. Hardy provides several twists of fate that irrevocably challenge this pair who through an overly developed respect for social convention leave their feelings for each other hidden from everyone else in their lives with tragic consequences. For those who love Hardy's work and enjoyed Jude The Obscure or The Mayor of Casterbridge , Two On A Tower will satisfy the desire for another wonderfully written story with similar themes and settings. I personally can never get enough of Hardy and highly recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed his better known works.
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By AB on January 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good book. Hardy's descriptions of astronomy are beautiful. The characters of Lady Constantine and Swithin are well developed, and Swithin's conflict between love and science moves the beginning of the book. Lady Constantine's conflict moves the later part of the book.
If I have one complaint, the characters apart from Constantine and Swithin aren't as well developed as a book like Far from the Madding crowd. Jan Coggan, the Maltster, and Laban Tall are one of the best parts of Far from the Madding Crowd, and that is missing from this book. The parson is developed, but he's not funny or lively. The bishop and Lady Constantine's brother play important parts in the book, but they have simple motivations and you never see inside them.
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