Thursday, June 2, 2016

Celebrating Thomas Hardy...

Two on a Tower
Swithin St. Cleeve is a young man interested in the stars. Lady Viviette Constantine is not quite a wife or a widow; her husband, Sir Blount Constantine, has been missing in Africa for years. Before he left, Viviette made him a promise to live as a nun until his return. But then she meets Swithin at the top of the tower where he has set up his telescope. And what starts as an innocent friendship soon deepens.
"The mental room taken up by an idea depends largely on the available space for it as on its essential magnitude:  in Lady Constantine's life of infestivity, in her domestic voids, and in her social discouragements, there was nothing to oust the lightest fancy. Swithin had, in fact, arisen as an attractive interpolation between herself and despair."
For propriety's sake, Viviette determines to keep her feelings hidden.  But then she gets word of her husband's death, and her love for Swithin comes to light. Because of the difference in their ages, and Viviette's desire not to hinder Swithin's study of astronomy, they embark on a secret marriage. And then, as in all of Hardy's novels, other complications arise:  the unexpected arrival of Viviette's brother, the death of Swithin's great uncle and the stringent conditions of his will, and the bachelor Bishop who suddenly decides he wants to marry Viviette himself. It soon seems like Viviette and Swithin will never get their happy ending. But then happy endings and Thomas Hardy rarely go together.

One of the things I like best about Thomas Hardy is his honest portrayal of women and how their lives were so often limited by their circumstances. Viviette finds her choices limited by her sex, her marriage, her age, her poverty ... and finally by her own sense of what she owes to Swithin and his own promising future. So she denies her own happiness. Which made me sad ... and a little frustrated. But that's Thomas Hardy. I really wanted Viviette and Swithin to defy fate and find their own fairy tale ending. Because I liked them. But fate is rarely that accommodating.

Did I like this novel?  Yes!    Is it sad?  A little.   Would I read it again? Definitely.
Do you know what else I liked about it? All the great words Thomas Hardy so masterfully weaves together--words like:  efts, infestivity, weir-hatch, and irrefragable.  Whenever I finish reading a Thomas Hardy novel I always feel a little smarter. I'm looking forward to diving into Far From the Madding Crowd this summer.

Happy Birthday, Thomas Hardy!
(And happy reading.)


15 comments:

  1. I haven't read much Hardy, but I taught The Mayor of Casterbridge for several years and loved the effect on the kids. I like some of his poems, too. Loved the list of Hardy words you included!

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    1. His poems are good! He certainly had a way with words. :)

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  2. I read Far From the Madding Crowd last year and loved it! Tess was wonderful, too, and I'm sure I read a couple more of his novels back in college. I'd like to read more Hardy this year, too.

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    1. Tess is the first Hardy I ever read, then Jude the Obscure; and I'm really looking forward to reading Far From the Madding Crowd this summer. (Then I can finally watch the movie.)

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  3. Thomas Hardy is one of my favourite Victorian authors, but I haven't read this book yet. I'm looking forward to it after hearing how much you liked it!

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    1. It's a good one. I liked the two main characters and the unexpected focus on astronomy was kind of fun.

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  4. Love this one! So glad you liked it. I think it's very under-read :)

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    1. I did like it! I'm so glad I read it. And I agree that this is one that more people should read, but then I think that about most Hardy novels. :)

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  5. I've never read a Hardy book. Isn't that sad? Obviously Far From the Maddening Crowd stands out as my first foray into his works but it doesn't appeal to me. I should check out his other books.

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    1. I saw a really well-done movie version of Tess of the D'Urbervilles when I was in college, which I really liked, so that was the Hardy novel I read first. But I liked The Well-Beloved and Jude the Obscure, too. A Pair of Blue Eyes was okay, but not my favorite, so don't start with that one. :)

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  6. Like Jenny, I haven't read Hardy, either. I should probably remedy that one of these days. Perhaps I'll take a look at this one, which you manage to make sound more appealing than Far From the Madding Crowd despite the acknowledged sadness of the tale.

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    1. It'd be a good one to start with. Not all of Hardy's books are equal, but I think he's written a lot of good ones. He's written poetry, too, if you want to start there. :)

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  7. I never read Thomas Hardy, because I always thought I would not like him. But after reading your review, you make me reconsider this idea. So who knows...

    Kind regards,

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    1. You might try him and see ... he's certainly written a lot of books to choose from. I haven't read them all, but I've liked most of the ones that I have read. Just don't be surprised if most of his endings are a little bit melancholy or sad.

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  8. This one sounds good. I am nearing the end of Far From the Madding Crowd, which is the first Hardy novel I have read. I love his strong female protagonist. And I read with a pen and dictionary nearby. I love Hardy's use of language, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

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