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The Woodlanders - Thomas Hardy (ANNOTATED) Full Version of Great Classics Work

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" This is a classic work of the world, a precious jewel in the world literature, which has inspired many generations of readers. We are pleased to bring readers full version. with a clear, attractive expression of this work. Hope you have enjoyable hours! --Book Introduction-- The Woodlanders is one of Hardy's later novels, although he originally intended it as a " This is a classic work of the world, a precious jewel in the world literature, which has inspired many generations of readers. We are pleased to bring readers full version. with a clear, attractive expression of this work. Hope you have enjoyable hours! --Book Introduction-- The Woodlanders is one of Hardy's later novels, although he originally intended it as a successor to Far From The Madding Crowd. It concerns the life and loves of Giles Winterborne,Grace Melbury,Edred Fitzpiers, Felice Charmond and Marty South.The topics of class,fidelity and loyalty are delt with in Hardys exquisite style and set in the beautiful woodlands of Hintock. "


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" This is a classic work of the world, a precious jewel in the world literature, which has inspired many generations of readers. We are pleased to bring readers full version. with a clear, attractive expression of this work. Hope you have enjoyable hours! --Book Introduction-- The Woodlanders is one of Hardy's later novels, although he originally intended it as a " This is a classic work of the world, a precious jewel in the world literature, which has inspired many generations of readers. We are pleased to bring readers full version. with a clear, attractive expression of this work. Hope you have enjoyable hours! --Book Introduction-- The Woodlanders is one of Hardy's later novels, although he originally intended it as a successor to Far From The Madding Crowd. It concerns the life and loves of Giles Winterborne,Grace Melbury,Edred Fitzpiers, Felice Charmond and Marty South.The topics of class,fidelity and loyalty are delt with in Hardys exquisite style and set in the beautiful woodlands of Hintock. "

30 review for The Woodlanders - Thomas Hardy (ANNOTATED) Full Version of Great Classics Work

  1. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    When reading a book The Woodlanders from a superb writer like Mr.Thomas Hardy not the first one mind you... a half dozen novels precisely , anticipating the outcome before beginning is easily ascertained, Victorian authors had an unpleasant habit of no happy endings and this particular scribbler not a accurate term, he was magnificent, however the belief that life terminates badly permeates his books and accepted as a truism in his own...........Deep in an isolated pocket in the woods of When reading a book The Woodlanders from a superb writer like Mr.Thomas Hardy not the first one mind you... a half dozen novels precisely , anticipating the outcome before beginning is easily ascertained, Victorian authors had an unpleasant habit of no happy endings and this particular scribbler not a accurate term, he was magnificent, however the belief that life terminates badly permeates his books and accepted as a truism in his own...........Deep in an isolated pocket in the woods of southern England many miles from a city lived a group of people in a tiny village called Little Hintock, population maybe a hundred souls if that. These few are living in the mid nineteenth century what so -called industry there, is naturally dominated by trees...timber they cut and sell and scrape for other products, nevertheless some inhabitants will surprise, intelligent, world travelers, very educated , two with money even. Grace Melbury is returning home from boarding school age circa twenty, smart, lovely , educated, her proud father Mr. George Melbury a lumber merchant the richest person in the village has second thoughts about her marrying Giles Winterborne a solid kind man, working sometimes for him. Growing up and liking each other since they were children, but is he good enough for his daughter now? Above the hamlet just arrived, a new doctor about 28, lives Edred Fitzpiers , lights shine all night from his home, on the hill , beautiful colors change frequently as he presumably studies, an aura of mystery dominates the area the seldom seen physician has become almost a legend to the villagers. Mr.Melbury dreams about such a splendid couple his daughter and Mr. Fitzpiers from an ancient , distinguish but unwealthy family would make and forces Grace to break the unofficial engagement to Giles....crushing him, you can see from a mile away a big, big mistake. The not so good doctor has a propensity to chase pretty women and they find him attractive and charming, doesn't matter if single or married he is always on the hunt. Edred is smitten, Grace curious at first sight, you can guess the rest but... Falling in love the doctor or as close as he gets to the emotion with the rich, gorgeous widow in her late twenties and occasional visitor to Little Hintoch, having a huge mansion there , a Mrs. Felice Charmond, complicates the situation. Both enjoy each others company and their secret passionate rendezvous in the nearby forest become known, causing Grace much anguish... still hot flames can extinguish quickly . In mathematics three into two won't go without a fracture. If you need a terrific novel to consume and are willing to tolerate, and be never quite satisfied by the ambiguous conclusion this is for you. A very professional product from a master in storytelling...his favorite.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The De-fanging of Menfolk: "The Woodlanders" by Thomas Hardy Another Hardy character to rival Sue Bridehead in emotional complexity is, I feel, Grace Melbury in The Woodlanders. Grace is the young country girl sent away by her vain and ambitious father to be educated and refined and when she returns we see how the natural order of a small rural community is irrevocably turned upside down as a result. Hardy explores the impact of If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The De-fanging of Menfolk: "The Woodlanders" by Thomas Hardy Another Hardy character to rival Sue Bridehead in emotional complexity is, I feel, Grace Melbury in The Woodlanders. Grace is the young country girl sent away by her vain and ambitious father to be educated and refined and when she returns we see how the natural order of a small rural community is irrevocably turned upside down as a result. Hardy explores the impact of education and money on Grace and the way these influences affect those around her. Grace is forced by her control-freak of a father to marry the middle-class philanderer Edred Fitzpiers, and thus reject the young local man whom she had expected to marry - the taciturn woodlander, Giles Winterbourne, who 'looked and smelt like Autumn's very brother'. Grace's marriage to Fitzpiers is a disaster which leads to the normal order being drastically altered. More stuff on the other side of the Nebula.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4+] Like other Hardy novels, the relationships in The Woodlanders seem doomed. Yet this novel is also laugh-out-loud funny, a melancholy farce. There doesn't seem to be much genuine love between the quartet of lovers who experience temporary infatuations and suffer through various missteps. Even when things don't end well, there isn't enough passion to call it a tragedy. The most interesting relationship for me is the father/daughter relationship. Although often misguided, Melbury shows real [4+] Like other Hardy novels, the relationships in The Woodlanders seem doomed. Yet this novel is also laugh-out-loud funny, a melancholy farce. There doesn't seem to be much genuine love between the quartet of lovers who experience temporary infatuations and suffer through various missteps. Even when things don't end well, there isn't enough passion to call it a tragedy. The most interesting relationship for me is the father/daughter relationship. Although often misguided, Melbury shows real love and sacrifice for his daughter. I enjoyed this novel and especially loved the woodland setting and learning about the daily working life of its residents.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    “This phenomenal girl will be the light of my life while I am at Hintock; and the special beauty of the situation is that our attitude and relations to each other will be purely spiritual. Socially we can never be intimate. Anything like matrimonial intentions towards her, charming as she is, would be absurd. They would spoil the ethereal character of my regard. And, indeed, I have other aims on the practical side of my life.” Oh dear, what a cad, and this is a Thomas Hardy novel, so it will “This phenomenal girl will be the light of my life while I am at Hintock; and the special beauty of the situation is that our attitude and relations to each other will be purely spiritual. Socially we can never be intimate. Anything like matrimonial intentions towards her, charming as she is, would be absurd. They would spoil the ethereal character of my regard. And, indeed, I have other aims on the practical side of my life.” Oh dear, what a cad, and this is a Thomas Hardy novel, so it will surely end in tears. Reading Hardy is not exactly fun but I do keep coming back to read him, I find his novels oddly entertaining, perhaps as a kind of morbid fascination. The Woodlanders is set in a small woodland village called Little Hintock, a place so rustic you would never find a wi-fi signal. This village is part of the county of Wessex, where nothing happy ever seems to happen. The novel is mainly focused on Grace Melbury, the “heroine” of the book. Grace is an unusual girl for Little Hintock, her father sent her away (not sure where) for several years to be educated, and when she comes back (probably with a Ph.D.) Little Hintock just seems kind of lame. Prior to going to college, she had an understanding with Giles Winterborne, a timber-merchant; but in the eyes of Grace v2.0 a timber-merchant is not up to snuff and will never get the ISO certification; so she points him towards the friend zone. Along comes Dr. Edgar (or Edred in some editions) Fitzpiers, handsome mega cad, and philanderer extraordinaire. So they begin courting and – in a spare moment – Dr. Fitz even manages to squeeze in a roll in the hay with another village girl. Soon after they are married the good doctor starts an affair with Mrs. Felice Charmond, a rich widow and another outsider, who comes to stay at Little Hintock from time to time. Heartache, headache, martyrdom, and typhoid ensue… The tragedy of The Woodlanders seems to stem from nobody knowing what they want, or – more accurately –wanting what is very bad for them; they always make a beeline for the absolute worst option. Grace is the worst of Hardy’s female protagonists. She has no agency to speak of, always making bad decisions, and is scared of her own shadow; so much for her education. Fitzpiers is, of course, a terrible fellow, but then he is the villain of the piece and you are not supposed to like him. Giles Winterborne though, poor bloke, much too good for this world; a bit of an idiot to be honest. Hardy’s characterization is first rate for all of them; the characters are very distinct, conflicted and complex. All of Hardy’s favorite themes are accounted for: a rustic, evocative setting, bad marriage, unrequited love, and the class division. Again urban outsiders some “invade” the nice provincial setting and a miserable time is had by all. I am not sure what he is saying about education here if Grace did not go to college and remains a typical country girl she would have married Giles and everybody would be better off. So education does more harm than good in a setting like Little Hintock? Hardy’s plotting is clever and quite intricate, seemingly trivial and random events in the narrative always have significant and unpredictable consequences later on. He often makes the reader reflect on their own relationship with others, though, not just the spouses, but friends and relatives. Be a little kinder, more honest, and more considerate and a heap of troubles can be avoided. If you have never read Thomas Hardy before, start with Tess of the D'Urbervilles or Far from the Madding Crowd. I think they are better stories with more sympathetic protagonists. Having said that The Woodlanders is Hardy’s own favorite of his works so what do I know? I seem to have read all his major works now, though, so I don’t know if I will read the rest. If this is the last Hardy novel I read (rereads notwithstanding) it is a pretty high (but not happy) note to end on. Notes • Wonderful free Librivox audiobook, beautifully read by Tadhg. Thank you! • The trailer for the 1997 film and the movie poster makes it look like a smoldering romantic story. One of the least romantic books I have ever read. Quotes: “So she did as commanded, and opened each of the folded representatives of hard cash that her father put before her. To sow in her heart cravings for social position was obviously his strong desire, though in direct antagonism to a better feeling which had hitherto prevailed with him” “There was in Grace's mind sometimes a certain anticipative satisfaction, the satisfaction of feeling that she would be the heroine of an hour; moreover, she was proud, as a cultivated woman, to be the wife of a cultivated man. It was an opportunity denied very frequently to young women in her position, nowadays not a few; those in whom parental discovery of the value of education has implanted tastes which parental circles fail to gratify.” “Both looked attractive as glassed back by the faithful reflector; but Grace's countenance had the effect of making Mrs. Charmond appear more than her full age. There are complexions which set off each other to great advantage, and there are those which antagonize, the one killing or damaging its neighbor unmercifully.”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)

    Update--May 7, 2011: I took Hardy's The Woodlanders with me on a recent week-long camping trip to Yosemite National Park, and re-read it while there. It was truly wonderful to sit in some of the most idyllic natural locations in all of the world and read this most amazing novel. If anything, I got even more from the novel this second time through, and highly recommend The Woodlanders to fans of the fiction and poetry of Thomas Hardy. *** I am continuing on with my summer of reading the written Update--May 7, 2011: I took Hardy's The Woodlanders with me on a recent week-long camping trip to Yosemite National Park, and re-read it while there. It was truly wonderful to sit in some of the most idyllic natural locations in all of the world and read this most amazing novel. If anything, I got even more from the novel this second time through, and highly recommend The Woodlanders to fans of the fiction and poetry of Thomas Hardy. *** I am continuing on with my summer of reading the written works of George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. I just finished reading Thomas Hardy's beautiful novel The Woodlanders last night. I have been reading Hardy's novels in the order in which he wrote them, and The Woodlanders, first published in 1887, follows closely on the heels of The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886). In all honesty, I very much enjoyed this novel much, much more than the relentlessly tragic tale told in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Hardy has an amazing knack for thoroughly placing his reader into the environment of his novel. Interesting to me too, is that each of Hardy's novels tends to focus on a different environment and ecology found within the fictional Wessex region of southwestern England. For example, in A Pair of Blue Eyes, the reader becomes fully immersed in the beauty of the vales, forests, and sea-cliffs along the Cornwall coastline; in The Return of the Native, Hardy brings vividly to life the peoples and environment of the Egdon Heath; and in Far From the Madding Crowd we are treated to the rolling hills and pastoral landscape of small rural English farms and pastures used by the sheep herders and their flocks; and, finally, The Mayor of Casterbridge largely takes place in the urban environment of his fictional town, Casterbridge. In The Woodlanders the reader is introduced to the shaded and leafy world of the forest of Blackmoor Vale and the hamlet of Little Hintock. The novel's characters live in the midst of this forested world and make a living with and among the trees. They are involved in lumbering, forestry, and management of orchards. It is a beautiful environment, and lovingly described and re-described by Hardy as the course of the novel moves through the seasons of the year. I love how Hardy integrates the 'mood' of his environment into the plot of the novel. The sounds, sights, and smells of the forest and bridle paths are as much a part of The Woodlanders as are the dialog, thoughts and actions of the characters themselves. In fact, I have come to realize that Hardy intentionally develops the environment in each of his novels to become a fully empowered character in the same sense as his human players. Also, this novel seems to have been one of Hardy's favorites as it was based upon the area where his mother had grown up, a location that he was apparently quite fond of. The novel revolves around Grace Melbury, a young woman who returns to her father's and stepmother's home in Little Hintock, after some years away becoming educated and more socially refined. Unlike Clym Yeobright, in The Return of the Native, Grace is not quite sure that she really wants to remain in the forest of Little Hintock surrounded by the peasant class of her childhood. Her father sent her off to school and has always encouraged her to aspire to a 'grander' lifestyle. She returns to find the young man that still loves her, Giles Winterborne, is still there, and working for her father's timber business, and operating a traveling apple cider press during the harvest season. At first blush it would seem that all looks well for the future of Grace and Giles. As is typical in a Hardy novel, Fate and Irony have a curious way of inserting themselves, generally quite tragically, into the lives of the plot's characters. Quickly the reader is also introduced to the novel's other players: the steadfast and loyal young peasant woman, Marty South; the newly arrived gentlemanly young doctor, Edred Fitzpiers; and the local landowner, the widowed Mrs. Felice Charmond. While Giles and Marty are relatively contented and happy folk of the forest, Dr. Fitzpiers and Mrs. Charmond are clearly out of their element in the Blackmoor Vale, and Grace Melbury is betwixt and between as she endeavors to determine the course of her future. I really do not want to give anything of the plot away at all, but suffice it to say that the novel is quite seductive in that while the reader becomes completely enthralled with the pastoral scenes and life in the forest around Little Hintock, there is at the same time an incredibly epic and pathos-driven tragic drama that is unfolding and spiraling out of control that is of almost Shakespearean proportions. It really is vintage Hardy! I honestly couldn't put the book down for several days. I loved the characters of Giles Winterborne and Marty South. These are two people who are completely in touch with the natural world around them in Blackmoor Vale. Hardy describes a scene deep in the forest with Marty helping Giles plant new seedling trees to replace those harvested by the foresters,"Winterborne's fingers were endowed with a gentle conjurer's touch in spreading the roots of each little tree, resulting in a sort of caress under which the delicate fibres all laid themselves out in in their proper directions for growth. He put most of these roots towards the south-west; for, he said, in forty years' time, when some great gale is blowing from that quarter, the trees will require the strongest holdfast on that side to stand against it and not fall. 'How they sigh directly when we put 'em upright, though while they are lying down they don't sigh at all,' said Marty. 'Do they?' said Giles. 'I've never noticed it.' She erected one of the young pines into its hole, and held up her finger; the soft musical breathing instantly set in which was not to cease night or day till the grown tree should be felled--probably long after the two planters had been felled themselves."Now that's just some great prose! I found myself, time and again, reading a section like this, and then re-reading it and just reveling in the lilting lyricism of Hardy's sentences and paragraphs. A couple of final thoughts-- As you read the novel, periodically refer to the single stanza of poetry, written by Hardy, that serves as the novel's epigraph, and give it some thought,"Not boskiest bow'r, When hearts are ill affin'd, Hath tree of pow'r To shelter from the wind!"Secondly, the reader will encounter the term "man-trap" periodically. These were large, metal traps that game-keepers and land-managers used to try and prevent poaching and other illegal activities on the gentry's lands and estates. Hardy's use of allusion and metaphor is wonderful. This was a beautiful novel to read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I highly recommend The Woodlanders. It is Thomas Hardy at his best. Five out of Five Stars, and a Personal Favorite for me!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    Apparently, this is Thomas Hardy's favorite of all the novels he wrote. My order of Thomas Hardy favorites is: MOST FAVORITE: Far From the Madding Crowd Tess of the D'Urbervilles Return of the Native The Woodlanders Under the Greenwood Tree Two in a Tower A Pair of Blue Eyes Mayor of Casterbridge The Well-Beloved LEAST FAVORITE: Jude the Obscure (way too tragic for me) My 18-year-old son also loves Tess of the D'Urbervilles and took it to BYU with him in his suitcase, one of 3 novels he took with him to Apparently, this is Thomas Hardy's favorite of all the novels he wrote. My order of Thomas Hardy favorites is: MOST FAVORITE: Far From the Madding Crowd Tess of the D'Urbervilles Return of the Native The Woodlanders Under the Greenwood Tree Two in a Tower A Pair of Blue Eyes Mayor of Casterbridge The Well-Beloved LEAST FAVORITE: Jude the Obscure (way too tragic for me) My 18-year-old son also loves Tess of the D'Urbervilles and took it to BYU with him in his suitcase, one of 3 novels he took with him to college. (The other 2 are Great Expectations and Pride and Prejudice.) He thinks those are the best novels ever and that they should be re-read regularly. =)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Another magnificent masterpiece by Thomas Hardy. This is the story of 4 people who lived in Blackmoor Vale. Grace Melbury falls in love with Giles Winterborne. However, his father George Melbury found that his daughter is more appropriate to be engaged instead to Edred Fitzpiers, a handsome and young doctor in Little Hintock. In the meantime, Edred falls in love with Felice Charmond. And then, their lives become inextricably intertwined. The movie based on this classic book The Woodlanders (1997) Another magnificent masterpiece by Thomas Hardy. This is the story of 4 people who lived in Blackmoor Vale. Grace Melbury falls in love with Giles Winterborne. However, his father George Melbury found that his daughter is more appropriate to be engaged instead to Edred Fitzpiers, a handsome and young doctor in Little Hintock. In the meantime, Edred falls in love with Felice Charmond. And then, their lives become inextricably intertwined. The movie based on this classic book The Woodlanders (1997) deserves to be watched.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joy D

    The Woodlanders was published in 1887 and it is reflective of its time. The story centers around life in Little Hintock, a fictional village in rural England. Grace Melbury, the only child of a timber-merchant, is returning home after being educated in the city. Her father has paid for a higher education to enable her to rise above her social station and marry well. She has been courted by local resident Giles Winterbourne, but when his situation deteriorates, their bond is broken. She is then The Woodlanders was published in 1887 and it is reflective of its time. The story centers around life in Little Hintock, a fictional village in rural England. Grace Melbury, the only child of a timber-merchant, is returning home after being educated in the city. Her father has paid for a higher education to enable her to rise above her social station and marry well. She has been courted by local resident Giles Winterbourne, but when his situation deteriorates, their bond is broken. She is then noticed by a physician, Dr. Fitzpiers, who initially sees her as not quite “good enough” due to his higher social standing, but is won over by her education, cleverness, and charm. A wealthy widow complicates the relationship between Dr. Fitzpiers and Grace, leading to unhappiness for everyone involved. This book is a classic Victorian novel. The pastoral setting is vividly described. It contains long descriptive sentences with somewhat archaic construction, requiring some re-reading along the way. It is focused on the characters, and their interactions and motivations. There is not much in the way of “action” especially the way “action” is emphasized in contemporary fiction. It is well-constructed and flows pleasantly. Hardy has something to say about happiness, such as finding it in a simple and honest life and being content with what we have. Hardy employs themes typical of his novels, such as marital fidelity, social class, the erosion of values that come with “progress,” and unsuitably matched pairs. He appears to take issue with the way women were typically treated and examines the double standards of the time. Hardy provides hints of upcoming events and outcomes through the use of snippets of quotes from prominent poets and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. I enjoy reading about life in the 19th century from those that lived it. While we can always read historical fiction written in current times, it is particularly insightful to read it from a point of view of someone who never knew life in its modern form, where carriages and horses were modes of transportation, candles or lanterns used as sources of light, and goods were hand-made. It is apparent in reading this novel that even though technology and change have made the world into a much different place, human nature remains much the same. Recommended to those that enjoy Victorian-era literature.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    A brilliant Hardy, with wonderful characters and a brilliant engaging plot - full of that poignancy I so love in Hardy. For the majority of the book, I was thinking this might be my new favourite Hardy. I might be, although I'm still undecided as I didn't adore the ending. Nonetheless, a real staple Hardy and a brilliant brilliant book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This is a very strong 4, closer to 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed reading this Hardy novel that I'd never even heard of until finding Katie Lumsden's YouTube channel, "Books and Things" (a link to her channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNBg...). Katie loves Victorian lit., and is so enthusiastic and passionate about it that I've caught the fever too. And I'm really grateful, because Vic lit is such a comfort read for me. This was an unpredictable love story that I really enjoyed. Thomas Hardy This is a very strong 4, closer to 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed reading this Hardy novel that I'd never even heard of until finding Katie Lumsden's YouTube channel, "Books and Things" (a link to her channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNBg...). Katie loves Victorian lit., and is so enthusiastic and passionate about it that I've caught the fever too. And I'm really grateful, because Vic lit is such a comfort read for me. This was an unpredictable love story that I really enjoyed. Thomas Hardy writes so beautifully, and if you love the natural world as I do, you owe it to yourself to pick up one of his books. Grace is a fascinating heroine who sometimes behaved in ways I didn't expect. No way I could have predicted the ending. It's a character-driven story in which a lot happens. And the characters all have enough depth that they are *enough* to drive the story. This isn't something I often find with modern fiction. Often, character-driven stories are boring as hell because nothing really happens. It isn't enough to be inside someone's head. They have to have thoughts. We need to be exploring themes, themes that are relevant to us all, that make us human. Hardy does this, and does it beautifully. All of the main characters showed lots of growth in the story, and made it a joy to read and listen to. (The narration by Samuel West was excellent and deserves six stars.) I really enjoyed this book and I really want to thank Katie for her enthusiasm for Austen, Dickens, Hardy, Gaskell, the Brontes, and others. I want to follow in her footsteps and read every novel these people have produced! The big bonus is there is so much here to spend time examining and analyzing once you know the story. Will be even more meaningful the next several times through. I'm about to go on a run of Victorian lit, and really looking forward to it! I hope you have a chance to check out Katie's YouTube channel, you'll love her!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    The Woodlanders is the latest read in my on-going Hardy challenge. Several friends and I have been reading (or re-reading in my case) all of Hardy’s fiction in chronological order. I’m not sure why this is only the second time I’ve read The Woodlanders, as I remember been mesmerised by it when I was eighteen. I can remember clearly where I was when I read it – and despite always meaning to, I never managed to get around to re-reading it in the intervening years. I am so glad I left it until now, The Woodlanders is the latest read in my on-going Hardy challenge. Several friends and I have been reading (or re-reading in my case) all of Hardy’s fiction in chronological order. I’m not sure why this is only the second time I’ve read The Woodlanders, as I remember been mesmerised by it when I was eighteen. I can remember clearly where I was when I read it – and despite always meaning to, I never managed to get around to re-reading it in the intervening years. I am so glad I left it until now, as it has been such a joy. I love my Hardy, as many of you will know, and those fond memories of my first reading of it have been upheld. Despite not being a happy story – that’s maybe no surprise, this is Thomas Hardy we are talking about – The Woodlanders is less melodramatic than some of Hardy’s best known novels. The themes are familiar ones, and in The Woodlanders there are definite echoes of previous novels such as Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd, and the tragic Tess of the D’Urbervilles which came four years later. Hardy’s preoccupations with marriage, sexual mores, social equality and rural life are all present in this wonderful novel. “There was now a distinct manifestation of morning in the air, and presently the bleared white visage of a sunless winter day emerged like a dead-born child.” The canvas is less broad than say The Return of the Native and Far from the Madding Crowd, mainly a small woodland community, the hamlet of Little Hintock. At the heart of this small community is George Melbury who has educated his daughter Grace considerably above her social station. Grace promised to local man Giles Winterbourne returns from school to her father’s house seeing her home with new eyes. Melbury’s ambitions for his daughter cause him to regret an earlier vow to Giles’s father. “He Looked and smelt like Autumn's very brother, his face being sunburnt to wheat-colour, his eyes blue as corn-flowers, his sleeves and leggings dyed with fruit-stains, his hands clammy with the sweet juice of apples, his hat sprinkled with pips, and everywhere about him the sweet atmosphere of cider which at its first return each season has such an indescribable fascination for those who have been born and bred among the orchards.” Into this rural idyll of timber dealers and woodland workers come two outsiders. To Hintock house, comes landowner the beautiful widow Felice Charmond, while a gifted young doctor Edred Fitzpiers comes to take up a small hillside practice nearby. In Fitzpiers, who is of an old and noble family, Melbury sees a brighter future for his adored daughter Grace. As Grace and Giles’s youthful affection begins to fade in the wake of Melbury’s interference, Marty South a strange young woman nurses her own old love for Giles which goes unrequited. The world of the woodlanders of Little Hintock is an old one, one of traditions and ancient trades – Mrs Charmond and Fitzpiers do not entirely fit into this world, bringing with them sophistications and ideas at odds with the woodland people. As some of my fellow Hardy readers will possibly read this review – I hesitate to say too much more – in case of spoiling the rest of the story. Suffice to say, in my opinion – whatever that is worth – this is an outstanding novel. Hardy’s descriptions allow the weaving together of beautiful imagery with a well-crafted story. I actually found the ending – of which I’ll say no more – to be wonderful poignant. For anyone who has read it – a question (no spoilers in your replies please) what do we think of Grace and Marty? I like both of them, for different reasons – although I began by thinking I wouldn’t care much for Grace. One of the things I like about Hardy’s female characters is that they seem real – they are flawed, vulnerable and sometimes do things the reader disagrees with. They are never merely vapid creatures in crinoline. Grace Melbury is no Bethsheda Everdene, but she grows as the novel progresses and the woman who emerges has been transformed from the girl she was by her experiences and disappointments in love.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Eadie

    The novel reflects common Hardy themes: a rustic, evocative setting, poorly chosen marriage partners, unrequited love, social class mobility, and an unhappy, or at best equivocal, ending. As with most his other works, opportunities for fulfillment and happiness are forsaken or delayed. The plot was very credible and the characters were well developed. It had a very sad ending but very fitting for the circumstances. I would recommend this book if you have enjoyed some of this other writings.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Moonlight Reader

    As part of one of my Goodreads groups, I am doing a Hardy project this summer. The Woodlanders isn't the first Hardy I've read - in 2015, I read Far from the Madding Crowd and I read The Mayor of Casterbridge some time prior to 2011. As is my custom, I saved the scholarly introduction for my edition until after I read the book. The Woodlanders is one of Hardy's later books, published in 1887, and is set in the woodland village of Little Hintock. It explores many of the usual Hardy themes: As part of one of my Goodreads groups, I am doing a Hardy project this summer. The Woodlanders isn't the first Hardy I've read - in 2015, I read Far from the Madding Crowd and I read The Mayor of Casterbridge some time prior to 2011. As is my custom, I saved the scholarly introduction for my edition until after I read the book. The Woodlanders is one of Hardy's later books, published in 1887, and is set in the woodland village of Little Hintock. It explores many of the usual Hardy themes: marriages (not good), sexuality (unrestrained), and social class (snobbery), especially class mobility (resulting in misery). It wouldn't be Hardy without a fair amount of melodrama, including several assaults, a man who dies because he is deathly afraid of a tree, and attempted maiming with something called a "man-trap," an off-screen murder, and a lingering death from typhoid. I don't think that Hardy hits the melodrama meter quite as aggressively as he did with Far from the Madding Crowd, but since that book was basically bat shit, that's damning with faint praise. The primary plot revolves around a young woman, Grace Melbury, and her romantic travails. She is in love with a young man, Giles Winterbourne, who is a "woodlander," by which I mean that he works in the woods cutting down trees and pressing cider and the like. Grace is the only daughter of Mr. Melbury, who is a bit more affluent than most of the citizens of Little Hintock, and he has made substantial financial sacrifices to send Grace away from her home to a school. She returns after completing her education, and, as a result, is "neither fish, nor flesh, nor fine red herring," as the old expression goes. From her father's perspective, she has been elevated above Giles, and he encourages to look a bit higher in marriage than an impoverished woodlander who doesn't even have a house. Along with Giles & Grace, we have Edred Fitzpiers, a young doctor who comes to Little Hintock to practice medicine, and Felice Charmond, the wealthy and beautiful young widow who owns a nearby estate. Notice that on the one hand, we have two very staid British names - Giles & Grace - and on the other hand, we have two poncy French names - Edred & Felice. This is not a coincidence. Edred falls hard for the lovely Grace, who is persuaded by her father to let him pursue her. Initially, it seems that Edred has less than honorable intentions, but he ultimately marries her. It's unclear if this is because he knows that she won't engage in a dalliance with him, or if he actually falls in love with her. Once Grace & Fitzpiers are married, the book grows much darker. Fitzpiers strikes up an affair with Felice, which Grace learns of from her father. Winterbourne mopes around like Bella after her sparkly vampire abandoned Forks, going into a decline. It's sort of fun to see the Victorian male version of a decline, since it's usually the Victorian woman who fall into a decline for no apparent reason whatsoever. It involves typhoid and a cider press because a man's got to eat, even if he is desperately unhappy over the loss of his beloved. There is weeping, gnashing of teeth, a spot of assault, and a flight to the continent. Things end badly for Felice - who is murdered by a stalker that she has bewitched with her saucy flirtations - and Giles - who expires in noble sacrifice, nursed by Grace, clearing the road for a reconciliation of the miserable couple. The Woodlanders explores the unhappy impact of unwise marriage. Victorian society was moribund, and social mobility was out of the reach of most people. The single exception to that rule was really marriage - through marriage, partners reach one another's level. It pulls up lower classes and pulls down upper classes. We are left with the impression that it was Mr. Melbury, by educating Grace above her station, put into motion a series of events that resulted in misery pretty much across the board. As a well-educated woman from the twenty-first century, this sort of irritates me. On the other hand, I get his point. This book has a semi-happy ending, with Edred and Grace finding some equilibrium. It was apparently one of Hardy's favorites of his own books, which makes me pity his wife. A lot of people find Hardy very difficult to read because he is so grim. I can't take him seriously, however. There is just too much drama.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    So I read this book because I love Hardy's work--Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and Far from the Madding Crowd. The Woodlanders isn't as famous as these three. It's interesting to read Hardy and D.H. Lawrence together. Both focus on themes of marital/sexual alienation, discovery, and rebellion, and have great sympathy for women. Both were also poets, and Hardy went so far as to shun novel-writing for poetry later in his life, believing many of his novels, because they were So I read this book because I love Hardy's work--Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and Far from the Madding Crowd. The Woodlanders isn't as famous as these three. It's interesting to read Hardy and D.H. Lawrence together. Both focus on themes of marital/sexual alienation, discovery, and rebellion, and have great sympathy for women. Both were also poets, and Hardy went so far as to shun novel-writing for poetry later in his life, believing many of his novels, because they were serialized, to be too influenced by commercial necessity. As a writer, Lawrence is the more "modern" and self-consciously experimental of the two. Hardy is more austere in style, while at the same time more optimistic than Lawrence about the possibility of human goodness. Both writers were regarded as controversial in their lifetimes due to their frank treatment of sex and their latent critiques of the English class system. The Woodlanders is a story about Grace and her close-quarters relationship with the three men in her life: her father who dotes on her and has invested his middle-class salary into her education, her childhood sweetheart Giles who comes to represent a purity/unity with nature threatened by industry and the upper class, and her adult lover Fitzpiers, a doctor with an aristocratic background. The novel starts at the point where Grace returns to her parent's woodland home after finishing school. Her father is tormented by his promise to "give" her to Giles, since her education has now elevated her above him in class and standing. Grace thus marries her social better, Fitzpiers, but comes to sorrow when he regrets his "slumming" and essentially abandons her. The book focuses on the minutiae of propriety in the handling of a young unmarried woman, and the choices available to an abandoned wife when divorce was still only an option for the uber-rich. It's fascinating to see the ways in which Grace and her men must all constantly face acceptable social strictures governing their behavior, even when they attempt to defy these strictures. Hardy points to how this social structure ultimately keeps Grace imprisoned and alienated from herself. By the time she discovers how she really feels and what she wants, it's too late, and society, especially the divorce laws at the time, make sure to keep her from happiness. Stylistically, the Woodlanders is not as mature as Jude the Obscure. Hardy lays it on a little thick at the end, and the characters often come across as too broadly sketched, where Grace = the doe-eyed ingenue, Giles = the Christ figure/pure of heart Nature Boy, and Fitzpiers = the heartless aristocrat. Still, serialized or not, the book is fascinating for its concentrated setting (one small village in the woods), and for the dense and darkly comical mood Hardy's sympathetic third-person narration evokes.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Poiema

    Having loved Thomas Hardy's _ Far from the Madding Crowd_, I decided to take a chance on this lesser-known work. I am so glad I did! Hardy is a genius at symbolism, and weaving subtle meanings into his nature descriptions. In this case, the setting was the deep woods of Dorset and he brought the trees so much to life that they almost stood as a mysterious protagonist. In other novels, I tend to get bored with overly wrought nature descriptions, but I savored the earthy evocations he created. Having loved Thomas Hardy's _ Far from the Madding Crowd_, I decided to take a chance on this lesser-known work. I am so glad I did! Hardy is a genius at symbolism, and weaving subtle meanings into his nature descriptions. In this case, the setting was the deep woods of Dorset and he brought the trees so much to life that they almost stood as a mysterious protagonist. In other novels, I tend to get bored with overly wrought nature descriptions, but I savored the earthy evocations he created. Hardy is a word-genius: "They halted beneath a half-dead oak, hollow, and disfigured with white tumors, its roots spreading out like accipitrine claws grasping the ground. A chilly wind circled round them, upon whose currents the seeds of a neighboring lime-tree, supported parachute-wise by the wing attached, flew out of the boughs downward like fledglings from their nest." Here's another beauty: "He went on foot across the wilder recesses of the park, where slimy streams of green moisture, exuding from decayed holes caused by old amputations, ran down the bark of the oaks and elms, the rind below being coated with a lichenous wash as green as emerald. They were stout-trunked trees, that never rocked their stems in the fiercest gale, responding to it entirely by crooking their limbs. Wrinkled like an old crone's face, and antlered with dead branches that rose above the foliage of their summits, they were nevertheless still green—though yellow had invaded the leaves of other trees." This is a tragedy, elegantly sculptured. The language can be challenging at times, but those who enjoy gleaning subtleties and substantive themes will find soul satisfaction in the reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    You can’t be lily-livered and read Thomas Hardy. You have to have grit. This is equally true of The Woodlanders, written by Hardy in 1887 as one in the series of his Wessex novels. The Woodlanders is a “Gatsby-esk” look at class distinctions; how the privileged class invariably and uncaringly run rough shod over the lower and middle class – in this case in mid-19th Century England. Fitzgerald’s book followed some 38 years later and dealt with the same issue on American soil. Giles Winterborne You can’t be lily-livered and read Thomas Hardy. You have to have grit. This is equally true of The Woodlanders, written by Hardy in 1887 as one in the series of his Wessex novels. The Woodlanders is a “Gatsby-esk” look at class distinctions; how the privileged class invariably and uncaringly run rough shod over the lower and middle class – in this case in mid-19th Century England. Fitzgerald’s book followed some 38 years later and dealt with the same issue on American soil. Giles Winterborne (the hero) and Grace Melbury (the semi-heroine) are born to lower to middle class families in rural England and are promised to each other early in life (at least by Grace’s father, who does so to ease his conscience). Mr. Melbury, however, has prospered enough to send Grace away to school to provide her with education and refinement. Upon her return, he thinks her worthy of someone better than Giles. He becomes for her the “fly in the ointment” and sets in motion through his intransigence a concatenation of events which lead Grace into misery and disaster. Not really a bad man, he is a bumbler. Ultimately, there is no fulfillment for any of the characters. Grace seems to find partial redemption at the end, but the reader is left with the notion that she has merely jumped from the frying pan into the fire. As with The Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the D’urbervilles, Hardy deals with issues affecting rural England during the first half of the 19th century – additionally, he explores the vagaries of class distinction, marriage relationships and morality. His literary style is unsurpassable – he may have equals among the Victorian authors, but no master. Hardy’s novels carry great emotional impact – I conclude each one feeling that I have been smacked right between the eyes. The final impact always seems to come at the end of the novel – often the last page. I added this book to my third topten.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rosalind

    Every bit as lovely as I remembered it. My view of this as my favourite Hardy is only confirmed, even if my recent splurge of rapid reading slowed down dramatically as I was reading it. The first two thirds took a couple of days, the remainder has been spun over two weeks simply because of time pressures and because this is a book that demands not to be read superficially in small doses, but needs to wait for time to be allocated to it. It's less melodramatic than some of Hardy's better-known Every bit as lovely as I remembered it. My view of this as my favourite Hardy is only confirmed, even if my recent splurge of rapid reading slowed down dramatically as I was reading it. The first two thirds took a couple of days, the remainder has been spun over two weeks simply because of time pressures and because this is a book that demands not to be read superficially in small doses, but needs to wait for time to be allocated to it. It's less melodramatic than some of Hardy's better-known novels, and it doesn't have the same huge Wessex landscapes against which the smallness of human existence is contrasted. Instead, its setting is confined to one small part of West Dorset, a suffocating micro-world hemmed in and overshadowed by trees. Within this prison, Hardy documents a centuries-old agrarian society which was already dying, its inhabitants as much allegory as beautifully-constructed flesh-and-blood. In this world are Giles and Marty, people who live by the trees and have done for generations, frozen like the figures on Keats's urn, never quite to find each other for the love to which they are surely destined. From outside come the strangers, Dr Fitzpiers and Mrs Charmond, as sophisticated, superficial and uncomfortable with this introverted world as the century coming over the horizon. And they would stay apart but for a fifth person, Grace Melbury, with a foot in both camps thanks to her socially ambitious father. She is the catalyst for explosive changes. The Woodlanders was published in the year of Victoria's jubilee, a time of supreme confidence in the world. In that context, Hardy's sense of Greek tragedy, of hubristic protagonists struck down by the gods, seems particularly perspications. But there are no simple morals in this story; the ending is ambiguous, the apparent gloom and bleakness shot through with dry wit marking Hardy a kind of Leonard Cohen of the Victorian novel (Giles, who has little time for God, strops his knife on a leather-bount psalter), The book is surprisingly modernist in feel, anticipating not only James and Lawrence but the cinema.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Acknowledgements General Editor's Preface Chronology: Hardy's Life and Works Map: The Wessex of the Novels Bibliographical Note Introduction Further Reading A Note on the History of the Text --The Woodlanders Appendix I: 1895 Preface; 1912 Postscript Appendix II: The Location of 'The Woodlanders' Appendix III: The Law, Marriage and Divorce in 'The Woodlanders' Notes Glossary

  19. 4 out of 5

    ☆Ruth☆

    I enjoyed it perhaps a little more than I expected to.... but in my opinion it's not on a par with Far from the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native or The Mayor of Casterbridge. In this novel particularly, it seems that Hardy can never use a short word when a long one is available, so some of the passages are a bit laborious and there are places where he decidedly overplays the pathos and melodrama. The theme is similar to FFTMC and the pastoral setting is rather haunting... made me feel I enjoyed it perhaps a little more than I expected to.... but in my opinion it's not on a par with Far from the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native or The Mayor of Casterbridge. In this novel particularly, it seems that Hardy can never use a short word when a long one is available, so some of the passages are a bit laborious and there are places where he decidedly overplays the pathos and melodrama. The theme is similar to FFTMC and the pastoral setting is rather haunting... made me feel quite nostalgic for those simple rustic days. However I found the main characters predictable rather than interesting and the plot simplistic with the emphasis more on the protagonists' emotions and their bucolic surroundings rather than the storyline.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I was warned before I started reading this that Thomas Hardy is a miserable bastard. Four chapters in and he was comparing winter mornings to dead babies so I can't disagree. This wasn't a happy book but I did enjoy it. Hardy's prose are beautiful and the way he describes the forests and apple orchards really brings the setting to live. I liked the characters for the most part. There are two typically "good" and "moral" characters and both get the saddest endings with one dying and the other I was warned before I started reading this that Thomas Hardy is a miserable bastard. Four chapters in and he was comparing winter mornings to dead babies so I can't disagree. This wasn't a happy book but I did enjoy it. Hardy's prose are beautiful and the way he describes the forests and apple orchards really brings the setting to live. I liked the characters for the most part. There are two typically "good" and "moral" characters and both get the saddest endings with one dying and the other doomed to a life of loneliness, shackled by their own faithfulness. There are no real "bad" characters. They're judgmental and selfish and they ruin their own lives and the lives of those around them by making the wrong choices. Even the main villains of the piece have fully human motivations and flaws. But yeah, Hardy is one miserable bastard and this is one miserable book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    If it's a Thomas Hardy novel, it's a tragedy. *sad face* I was first exposed to Hardy in high school, being assigned Jude the Obscure for AP English. Entering the Navy, I was determined to continue to read, read, read, both -brow high and low, and eventually made my way through Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Far from the Madding Crowd. The Woodlanders was never on my radar, though, and it wasn't until I went on a "free for Kindle" purchasing binge, If it's a Thomas Hardy novel, it's a tragedy. *sad face* I was first exposed to Hardy in high school, being assigned Jude the Obscure for AP English. Entering the Navy, I was determined to continue to read, read, read, both -brow high and low, and eventually made my way through Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Far from the Madding Crowd. The Woodlanders was never on my radar, though, and it wasn't until I went on a "free for Kindle" purchasing binge, was I reminded of Hardy and the novels of his that I had never read. The Woodlanders follows the tale of the folk of Hintock, Great and Little, and more specifically Grace Melbury, daughter of a successful businessman who has endeavored for her to be educated far beyond the status of most country girls of the day. Although her father has promised her to the son of a man the father once wronged, ambition soon rules the day, and the daughter is made to seek after greener pastures. What follows is heartache, betrayal, indignation, sorrow, death, and then hope. And then sorrow again. Seriously, in the last couple of chapters I'm like, "OMG, everyone is going to end up dead in a pool of blood!" Thankfully, it didn't turn out that way, but Hardy manages to twist the knife of tragedy once more into the one character who was always honest and noble. *tut* Damn you, Thomas Hardy!! Hardy's prose is lyrical, because he was also a poet. Those novels of his I read when younger were Penguin Classics editions, the ones with the black banner across the top and old paintings as the cover art. They were annotated, thankfully, because when reading Hardy one needs a dictionary of 19th century antiquated words and a guide to the various laws which governed inheritances. My trusty Kindle helped (some) with the words, but there was one legal matter that I still can't quite grasp (another example of our noble and honest hero being betrayed by Hardy). I'm only giving this four stars instead of the five I would probably give Jude and Tess because I feel the plot is not as rich and deep as theirs. Hardy also does not give as thorough a psychological examination of the characters as I feel he did in his other works, and finally, because The Woodlanders, as a title, does not match the panache of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and Far from the Madding Crowd. It sounds more like a story about the meeting of tiny little elven folk who live betwixt here and there in the shadows of the forest. This was a lovely book to read, however, and I had a hard time putting it down. Hardy provides a beautiful portrait of a lady...oops, wrong author...examination, rather, of a time when social mores and stations were rigidly enforced, as well as bringing to life the lovely Wessex countryside. In all seriousness, Hardy was a master at this type of novel, and he truly deserves his reputation and place as one of the all time greatest writers of the English language.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ginny

    This book is like nothing else I have ever read. Characters, relationships, and landscape twist and turn, "branch" out in a new direction, send out new shoots of life. Much of it, for me, was laugh-out-loud funny. Much was mythical, with many references to Norse and Classical mythology. The prose changes constantly--lyrical and descriptive suddenly becomes stilted and awkward. The title is bang on. A village of people harvesting trees live in a different dimension, and outsiders disrupt the This book is like nothing else I have ever read. Characters, relationships, and landscape twist and turn, "branch" out in a new direction, send out new shoots of life. Much of it, for me, was laugh-out-loud funny. Much was mythical, with many references to Norse and Classical mythology. The prose changes constantly--lyrical and descriptive suddenly becomes stilted and awkward. The title is bang on. A village of people harvesting trees live in a different dimension, and outsiders disrupt the flow.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Renee M

    The things I loved about The Woodlanders are the things I love about reading Hardy: the beautiful description, the characters who are believably from country life, the persistent resonance of actions and choices. But it's just so Hardy that I feel like the characters and storyline will blend, in my memory, into all the others. If it doesn't, I'll come back and add a star.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ann Litz

    One of the joys of reading an early book by an author famous for later works is recognizing the intimations of the greater novels in the lesser. In this sense Woodlanders is a lavishly illustrated seed-catalog of Hardy classics. The novel begins with one of the most desolate passages in literature, and one that succintly summarizes the novel’s theme of happiness just out of reach: “The physiognomy of a deserted highway expresses solitude to a degree that is not reached by mere dales or downs, and One of the joys of reading an early book by an author famous for later works is recognizing the intimations of the greater novels in the lesser. In this sense Woodlanders is a lavishly illustrated seed-catalog of Hardy classics. The novel begins with one of the most desolate passages in literature, and one that succintly summarizes the novel’s theme of happiness just out of reach: “The physiognomy of a deserted highway expresses solitude to a degree that is not reached by mere dales or downs, and bespeaks a tomb-like stillness more emphatic than that of glades and pools. The contrast of what is with what might be probably accounts for this.” Deep and foreshadowing imagery, especially in the natural world, persists throughout the novel -- such as a particular winter day that emerges “like a dead-born child.” Hardy also associates different characters with different seasons -- Dr. Fitzpiers, for example, with false spring, and Giles with robust autumn. The references to Norse mythology are a welcome respite from Hardy’s usual Greco-Roman archetypes. But the real pleasure (if a reader can call it that) is the scattering of Hardy-esque touchstones: * Parental pressure for a woman to marry “up” no matter what, even when the woman herself insists it would be a mistake (Tess of the D’Urbervilles) * Misunderstandings and missed messages (just about every Hardy novel) *At least one character “always doomed to sacrifice desire to obligation” (Return of the Native, Far from the Madding Crowd) * Idealization that leads to dangerous infatuation with an unknown person (Native) * Marrying the “wrong” person (every Hardy novel ever) * Female characters bearing the consequences of the male characters’ follies; “the woman pays” (Tess) * Relishment of self-punishment, “cultivating, as under glass, strange and mournful pleasures” (Jude) * Marriage itself being linked imagistically with gins and traps, particularly the sound of a desperate trapped rabbit (Jude) * Two people who are actually halves of a whole (Jude) In itself, Woodlanders is a fine novel, even if at times it lapses into convenient coincidence more often even than most Dickens novels. Innocent characters are punished while at least one villain seems to be outright rewarded, as if Hardy’s reaction to Darwin is not that the best of a species survive but the worst. Woodlanders is a proper introduction to the harsh physical and psychological world of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. For someone who’s already a fan of the master of despair, Woodlanders is the sketchbook of what would become Hardy’s brilliant masterpieces.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I have a thing for Thomas Hardy. Maybe my husband should be worried. Normally mothers have to take the blame for everything, but this novel is about a father and his love for his daughter. It compels him to give her a good education at a finishing school: when the girl returns to her hometown there is nowhere for her to show her accomplishments or use her skills. It also makes her grow apart from her childhood sweetheart, the man her dad would like her to marry. This is the paradox at the heart I have a thing for Thomas Hardy. Maybe my husband should be worried. Normally mothers have to take the blame for everything, but this novel is about a father and his love for his daughter. It compels him to give her a good education at a finishing school: when the girl returns to her hometown there is nowhere for her to show her accomplishments or use her skills. It also makes her grow apart from her childhood sweetheart, the man her dad would like her to marry. This is the paradox at the heart of the novel. As a result, this girl, Grace, is going to find herself torn apart between Giles, who is deeply and constantly in love with her, and Fitzpiers, the new doctor in the area. It is very intriguing how her dad tries to engineer first a relationship with Giles and then with Fitzpiers, and then back to Giles and so forth, so Grace does not really know her own feelings and falls into a relationship almost by default. This is the case with Grace and Fitzpiers. They fancy themselves in love, they will themselves to fall in love. By contrast, Giles and Marty South, victims of unrequited love, are steady and unmoved in their feelings regardless of circumstances. I wonder whether Thomas Hardy is suggesting that civilization and education complicate things a bit too much. The structure of this book is awesome. It starts off and finishes with the two single appearances of the same character, the barber. Also, like in "A Pair of Blue Eyes", Hardy manages to get the protagonist out of her clothes at a key point in the story. The part where Giles behaves so gentlemanly towards Grace as to risk his own life as a result, seems a bit farcical to me and difficult to believe, but then I am a twenty-first century reader. I really liked how at the end of the book Grace's dad and his friends, coming back from a search party, judge how the situation between Grace and Fitzpiers is going to go from then, and retell various stories about marriage, Hardy's leit-motiv. I have never been a great fan of the countryside, but I appreciate the beauty of English villages and this is a side of Hardy that I really enjoy too. How I wish he were a member of goodreads and could clik on the "I like" button after reading my review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    K.

    Thought I'd try out Mr. Hardy again, it's been a while. At times, he is delightful. At times he is melodramatic and morose. Sometimes he's in-between. I love him delightful, I can appreciate him in the middle, I just nearly gag when he's wallowing in morbidity . Sadly, this book, at least the 36% I read of it, anyway, fits in the latter category. I knew that could be the case and went into this book with eyes wide open. I'm not averse to the characters or story so far, as much as apathetic. But, Thought I'd try out Mr. Hardy again, it's been a while. At times, he is delightful. At times he is melodramatic and morose. Sometimes he's in-between. I love him delightful, I can appreciate him in the middle, I just nearly gag when he's wallowing in morbidity . Sadly, this book, at least the 36% I read of it, anyway, fits in the latter category. I knew that could be the case and went into this book with eyes wide open. I'm not averse to the characters or story so far, as much as apathetic. But, you know, it's hard to love a book when there are lines like this in it: "There was now a distinct manifestation of morning in the air, and presently the bleared white visage of a sunless winter day emerged like a dead-born child." Okay, that is quite possibly the most ghastly way to describe a blah-ish winter morning I have ever encountered. I mean, really. Could anything be more repellent? I suppose so, but one must admit (unless you're a member of the "Jude the Obscure" is the world's greatest book crowd) it's pretty bad. I don't mean to suggest that the whole tone of the book follows suit, or that it's a bad book. How can I, when I'm leaving it two-thirds unfinished? But it's distasteful enough so I find myself overwhelmingly uninterested in finishing it, at the present anyhow. I also don't mean to suggest that extremely disgruntled, depressed, oppressed, despairing people shouldn't write their feelings out on paper...I just don't care to spend time with them right now. I do mean, if you're a real person, a friend of mine, on my couch next to me, with a big problem, I'll keep you company and all that, but I'm not going in search of Jude and Sue. And just so you know, I've read enough Hardy to judge for myself (in case you think I'm just a low-brow loser). I'm done being snarky now. It's fun on occasion.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Throughout this novel I was taken by the way Hardy visualises scenes either through subjective viewpoints, showing us what specific characters see, or choose to see, or from the eye of the omniscient observer, the author. Some of my favorite novelists - Graham Greene is another example - excel in the art of sequencing, chosing the most telling scene to establish theme, character and setting and advance plot. Hardy displays a similar knack here, with each episode bearing its own strength and Throughout this novel I was taken by the way Hardy visualises scenes either through subjective viewpoints, showing us what specific characters see, or choose to see, or from the eye of the omniscient observer, the author. Some of my favorite novelists - Graham Greene is another example - excel in the art of sequencing, chosing the most telling scene to establish theme, character and setting and advance plot. Hardy displays a similar knack here, with each episode bearing its own strength and unity while contributing inexorably to the larger narrative. Setting and story are inextricably woven together, with the natural surroundings of the village of Little Hintock playing their own role as a character in this story. Hardy is subtle and incisive in his characterisation, although he does give way to melodrama in certain crucial scenes - scenes that seem to be able to bear the burden of so much emotion, however. His unsentimental take on social divides and institutions gives the story of cross-connections in the romantic affairs of a handful of people a timelessness and freshness that more conventional tales from this era lack. Most of all, I was drawn in by the quality of Hardy's prose; penetrating, beguiling, wryly aware of human foibles, yet never sententious, always ready with a telling detail and an apt allusion. They don't write them like this anymore.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lucie

    Thomas Hardy has my entire heart. I had missed his writing so much and going back to Wessex felt like home.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Okay, so I've seen the movie with Rufus Sewell. I mean who doesn't like Rufus. It was so heart wrenching, but I kind of liked it. Hoping I like the book a lot better than the movie. :)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ben Babcock

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. My mad love affair with the work of Thomas Hardy deepens and continues with The Woodlanders, the latest of his novels to grace my shelves. I found this well-preserved Penguin Classics paperback in a used book shop in Edinburgh for 2. I bought it (and a few other books) more so I could say I bought some books from a used bookstore in Scotland than for any other reason. But Hardy is one of those authors whose entire oeuvre I intend to consume, book by book. Though The Woodlanders is a relatively My mad love affair with the work of Thomas Hardy deepens and continues with The Woodlanders, the latest of his novels to grace my shelves. I found this well-preserved Penguin Classics paperback in a used book shop in Edinburgh for £2. I bought it (and a few other books) more so I could say I bought some books from a used bookstore in Scotland than for any other reason. But Hardy is one of those authors whose entire oeuvre I intend to consume, book by book. Though The Woodlanders is a relatively slim volume compared to some of his other works, and though I had the entire week off work thanks to the half-term, it took me an entire week to read it (compare this to the three days over which I read Tess of the d’Urbervilles ). Sometimes, when it takes me that long to read a book, I lose patience with the plot, and my enjoyment suffers no matter how great the book is. This was not the case with The Woodlanders. I’m aware I come across as an insufferable fanboy, but I want to be honest from the start of this review: with each Hardy novel I read, my appreciation of him as an author grows more than I ever expected. Words alone cannot express the intense enjoyment that devouring Hardy’s words provides. In many ways, the plot doesn’t start simmering until Grace and Fitzpiers tie the knot and those inevitable dominoes of marital woes begin to fall. However, I love the chapters that lead up to their marriage precisely because Hardy does such a good job of showing the reader why this marriage will be a rocky one, while at the same time keeping us interested. Hardy could have started the book just prior to their marriage and forced a bitter pill of an unwieldy prologue down our throats, but it wouldn’t have been the same. Thanks to my familiarity with Marty South, Giles Winterbourne, the Melburys, and Fitzpiers, Grace and Fitzpiers’ marriage had a lot more significance when it finally happened. I tweeted, “Grace just married that scoundrel Fitzpiers. This will all end in tears.” (Actually, I’m pleasantly surprised by the ending, but we’ll get to that.) I’m not sure what it is about Hardy that gives me the urge to tweet as I read; I did it quite often for Tess, and I did it a few times for this book as well. I think it’s the operatic nature of the plot, the fact that the narrative deviates well into melodrama at several points. From the dashing but somewhat dastardly Fitzpiers to confused, uncertain Grace Melbury, Hardy’s characters are a complex mixture of conflicting and contradictory desires and deeds. There is plenty of interpersonal conflict in this book, but almost all of it originates not in malice but simpler, more sympathetic misunderstandings owing to differences in class, education, temperament, and opinion. As a result, bad things happen—quite a bit—but the question of whether any of them happen to bad people is more complicated. This is the chief reason I fell so hard for The Woodlanders. Coming off the juggernaut of Tess, I was sceptical that this more obscure work would have anywhere near the same impact. I had calibrated myself for enjoyment more of the Two on a Tower or perhaps Jude the Obscure level. (I have to revisit the latter now, because so many people comment on how it is a maturation of the themes Hardy explores in this book. So if I loved The Woodlanders, maybe there is hope for Jude yet.) While this book might lack the central, defining incident of Tess, it shares Hardy’s incredible grasp of the subtle shades of human character. Even the people in this book who serve as antagonists, such as Fitzpiers with his philandering, are sympathetic. Through judicious use of the limited third person narrator, Hardy allows the reader to understand why each character makes the choices that they do. So yes, Fitzpiers is a cad, and it’s easy for us to see what will happen to their marriage before Grace does … but he’s not a cad of the irredeemable, moustache-twirling variety. He’s a complex person trapped by his upbringing, his prejudices, and his flaws. Similarly, Grace—who, by her very name, is supposed to be the sympathetic heroine of this story—is trapped by her own naivety, as well as her father’s confused ideas about what will be the best for his little girl. Mr Melbury’s designs on Grace’s future tugged at my heartstrings. He loves his daughter deeply and, having the means at his disposal, invested in her future by sending her away to an expensive school. As a result, she is more educated and more refined than the other inhabitants of Little Hintock. Melbury has promised himself that he will marry Grace to Giles Winterbourne, as a kind of apology for marrying the woman Giles’ father wanted to marry. Yet he worries that Grace is now too good for Giles, that having her settle for him will doom her to a simpler life than she deserves. Melbury vacillates throughout the entire first part of the book, debating whether to go ahead with his cockamamie attempt at karmic balance or to encourage Grace to follow her heart. This essential indecision in his character returns later, after he debates how to advise Grace during her estrangement with Fitzpiers. I can sympathize with the class conflicts Hardy presents in these events. Little Hintock is a very isolated place, something I think Hardy tries to emphasize from the beginning, with the slow, rambling cart ride that takes us into the town and ultimately to the house of Marty South. Melbury, as a wood merchant, is one of the most successful and powerful men in the village, and he wants to give his daughter the best. If that best means escaping life in the village—as the companion of the young widow, Mrs Charmond, or the wife of the village’s new, up-and-coming doctor—then so be it. Of course, it doesn’t quite cross Melbury’s mind to ask Grace what she wants. It is tempting to read The Woodlanders and interpret it as a criticism of the institution of marriage. Indeed, in his study here, Hardy shows how it can be found wanting—for both sexes. Yet there is more to it than that, for Hardy portrays all different manners of relationships. In Grace and Fitzpiers we have the unhappy marriage. Felice Charmond provides the perspective of a widow, as well as Fitzpiers’ latest and most enduring object of infatuation. And Marty South wants nothing more than to be married to Giles, who wanted to be married to Grace! In this complex daisy chain of relationships, Hardy demonstrates that happiness is not as simple as being or not being married. It depends on subtler, more elusive alchemy than that. Will Grace and Fitzpiers eventually be happy? Hardy, unlike Dickens, does not provide a neat little epilogue with any definite conclusions. If Grace’s father is correct, Fitzpiers’ infidelity will continue in time, and it remains to be seen whether Grace can cope with that. But it’s notable that Hardy ends the book not with Grace and Melbury but where he started it, with Marty South. He ends the book with Marty at Giles’ grave, alone because Grace is no longer there to accompany her: “Now, my own, own love,” she wispered, “you are mine, and only mine; for she has forgot ’ee at last, although for her you died! But I—whenever I get up I’ll think of ’ee, and whenever I lie down Ill think of ’ee again…. But no, no, my love, I never can forget ’ee; for you was a good man, and did good things!” This choice to end reflecting upon Giles’ role in events seems to hint that Grace’s time with him, and particularly his death, has altered her forever. Grace “forgets” Giles because his death, and Fitzpiers’ subsequent absolution of her role in it, is a catalyst that allows her to reconsider her estrangement from her husband. Here, Hardy reminds us that even if Fitzpiers remains unchanged, Grace has been through much, and that will be a factor in whatever lies ahead for them. The ending, then, is not a happy one. Marty’s unfulfilled love for Giles notwithstanding, it is not a tragic one either. It seems that, with The Woodlanders, Hardy strikes the balance of the human condition: real life seldom admits purely happy or tragic endings, but rather tends towards a solemn compromise of the mediocre. Grace and Marty’s respective choices result in their respective outcomes, neither of which are very dramatic but are simply … life. And so, in an isolated village in one part of his Wessex, Thomas Hardy manages yet again to impress and astound. The Woodlanders is powerful because it is simple on the surface but profound in its subtext. With a small but complex cast of characters and straightforward but compelling plot, this book reaffirms my admiration for one of the greatest novelists of the nineteenth century. As I wrote in one of my comments below, Thomas Hardy is off the fucking chain. In my opening, I referred to “devouring Hardy’s words”, and that’s precisely the type of verb necessary to describe the intense pleasure of reading his work. Some books are meant to be read; others are meant to be inhaled and consumed. The Woodlanders is certainly one of the latter.

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