The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
With this being the third book I've read of Hardy's (the other two being The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure) I'm convinced Thomas Hardy was incapable of writing anything but tragedies. Fortunately, he was very good at it. The Return of the Native is another I - can't - believe - their -luck book where anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. But at least Hardy was a master of plotting, so nothing appeared out of the blue. The "native" in question doesn't return until about 140 pages, but there's enough going on throughout that it's rarely boring. Except somewhere toward the beginning, which is a bit of a slog. Past that point, though, and it really moves. It's because of the characters. They're myriad, but all feel very real and full. When characters are in pain, you understand why, even though it might be a bit petty and because of a misunderstanding. In fact, much of this book's tragedy is because people are being misunderstood, which fits its period of the transitioning between Christianity and Paganism. Overall, Hardy made another exceptional book, and I'm a little confused as to why I've been told by a number of people that it's boring. I mean, yes, if you're forced to read it in school, I can see where you'd be bored. But anybody who reads it for leisure will find a thoroughly well-developed and engaging novel. I loved it.
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