Let me just start by saying that I had been put off reading Thomas Hardye by Dickens. Having really struggled with Dickens and resorted to audio I had wrongly assumed that all 19C liturature was the same. How wrong I could be. From the first paragraph where the opening character farmer Gabriel Oak is desribed smiling, ‘the corners of his mouth spread till they were an unimportant distance from his ears‘ I fell in love with Hardy‘s narrative. His ability to use words that lift the description off the page and into the reader‘s imagination are not just outstanding but incredibly enjoyable.
I went into this book blindly, knowing little about the plot that lay ahead or even the genre. It has been described by some as romantic fiction. But I think this is too simplistic a title and and maybe slightly off-putting to some. Hardye steps into Greek Tragedy when the unwitting and churlish actions of our young protagonist, Bathsheba Everdene, result in a love tryst between three suitors with tragic consequenses.
The book is essentially a journey for Bathsheba into womanhood not unlike the journey that Scarlett O‘Hara makes in Gone with the Wind who also has to overcome great tragedy in order to realise her own strength. Unlike this heroin, however, Bathsheba is more the instrument of chaos and indecion and part of her journey is that she accepts what she has caused and tries to make it right.
Hardye avoids making this into moral stricture but deviates from the Greek Tragedy model by giving us a happy ending not atypical of 19C serialised fiction.
Quite often an author‘s voice creeps into their writing and the reader becomes aware that they are not in fact walking the hills and dales of fictional Wessex but are at the pen nib of a writ