Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This still comes in as a 5-star, even after the 4th reading. Hardy was not prone to writing cheery novels, and this is no exception, but it is a work that carries you along at a good pace. There is little of the description of Wessex that readers of Hardy would recognise from his other novels such as 'The Return of the Native', instead you walk through the fields of Jude's mind with its furrows, stones and seeds of a better life.
Jude's position in society is the stones that prevent the germination of the seeds of a better life. For a short while, though not as he would have envisaged in the beginning, Jude is happy with his love and his life. However, Hardy would not be Hardy if this continued. 'Jude the Obscure' is a vehicle for Hardy's views on marriage and divorce, and it is not just Jude and Sue who were at least 'fifty years ahead of their time'.
This is beautifully written and for all its doom and gloom, it is thought-provoking and enjoyable. The contemporary reviews of this work were initially so scathing that Hardy did not write another prose novel, focusing on poetry thereafter. Mrs Oliphant et al should have been placed in the stocks for their behaviour as this is arguably Hardy's greatest work and we may have been robbed of the chance of something even greater.
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