Sunday, April 13, 2014

H is for Hardy

First, this is going to be short. I'll be writing a full post on my thoughts about Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native over at The Project Gutenberg Project blog. I've been accepted as one of its contributors, and my first post goes live this Tuesday. The blog's all about discovering forgotten classics in the public domain.

While Hardy may not be considered "forgotten," I feel that he's not as popular these days as some classic authors. Jane Austen, for instance, has had numerous adaptations of her novels. Shakespeare has been reworked to death. Henry James and E. M. Forster enjoyed a revival due to the wonderful Merchant-Ivory films. But Hardy? Quite few and far between, if I may so.

Second, The Return of the Native caught me by surprise. Oh, Hardy, why did it take me this long to read you? The novel opens very slowly. But the drama that enfolds lures you in. Here are tragic characters all set out to enact the story that unfolds beautifully. Here's a novel that lets you look into the lives of provincial characters—their superstitions, their upbringing, their beliefs and mores.

Perhaps it's the depressing themes that make people shy away from Hardy. Yes, The Return of the Native can indeed be a downer. You wallow in it. You get lost in all the frustrations, the what-could-have-beens, the missed connections, and the futile romances of the people of Egdon Heath. But you know what? I'd gladly return to the fictional Wessex of Hardy, if only to read his brilliant stories. The themes may be depressing, but the writing is glorious.

Started reading this while waiting to board a plane
Read this book if:
  1. Depressing novels are your thing.
  2. You've always wondered about Hardy's fictional Wessex.
  3. You know what it's like to return to your hometown after years of being away.
My post at the Project Gutenberg Project blog is now up. Read it here.