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Jude the Obscure (1895)
by Thomas Hardy
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four stars for big ideas
Not since A Farewell to Arms has a scene so twisted my heart as Thomas Hardy has with this little volume concerning the various ails of countryside morality. If one is able to contend with a few hundred pages of tergiversation concerning duelling, yet in of themselves null and void, marriages - that for me did get a little tiring after a while, but each to their own - and view the bickering and frequent flights from one dead marriage to the other as moments within some grand tragic orchestra swelling toward a crescendo of quotidian nineteenth century misery and death then yes.... you might just get a kick out of Jude the Obscure.
It starts off grim and then gets really grim.
I was invited to read this book as part of a group of other Goodreads members to participate in close reading of Jude the Obscure. This has been a real eye-opener to me as I am always glad to read in areas I am not familiar with and 19th century English literature is one of those areas I simply ignored. I am actually more familiar with Russian literature than English as it was required reading for my degree program in college.
Regardless, Thomas Hardy's novel is a pleasure to read. It is always a little bit challenging getting used to a previous century's writing style but once I did this book took off for me, both because of Hardy's enjoyable writing style and the story of Jude. I honestly can say I looked forward to coming home at night and reading this book and will be seeking out more of Hardy's novels in the future.
The group reading has been an education. There are a lot of people with more experience than me in reading classics like Jude the Obscure and the comments and suggestions about the deeper meanings of the story and the characters has been very interesting to read. We aren't quite done and will wrap up soon with a discussion of the final two chapters.
Thank you, again, to Ken for the invite and I hope we can do more of these together.
Belongs to Publisher Series
Doubleday Dolphin (C22)
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Is contained in
Far From the Madding Crowd / Jude the Obscure / The Mayor of Casterbridge / The Return of the Native / Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Five Novels) by Thomas Hardy
Far from the Madding Crowd / Jude the Obscure / The Mayor of Casterbridge / The Return of the Native / Tess of the d'Urbervilles / The Woodlanders (The Wessex Novels) by Thomas Hardy
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Wikipedia in English (1)
Hardy's masterpiece traces a poor stonemason's ill-fated romance with his free-spirited cousin. No Victorian institution is spared - marriage, religion, education - and the outrage following publication led the embittered author to renounce fiction. Modern critics hail this novel as a pioneering work of feminism and socialist thought.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)823.8Literature English & Old English literatures English fiction Victorian period 1837-1900
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3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.
Editions: 0140435387, 0141028890, 0141199830
Themes are hope, study, death, work, marriage, divorce, and infidelity. It strikes me that women are not portrayed that favorably although I do like Sue, Jude’s cousin and love interest.
Jude Fawley is a scholar by inclination and by soul’s longing, and a stonemason by trade. The story of his life is the story of hope – and the loss of hope. Thomas Hardy has said there is nothing of himself in the character of Jude but some critics are able to find parallels.
Jude is depicted compassionately and intimately, with optimism and longing informing his thoughts and actions as a boy and young man. The narrative is easy to follow, but I was surprised, after giving the book a quick re-read this weekend, to find that it was actually written in 1894. I would have guessed it was a hundred years older; the language of the characters seems to tell me that and there are no events or other features that place the story in time.
This is the darkest classic novel I have ever read. I grew to love Jude as much as one can love an imaginary figure, and it was distressing to watch him fail to realize his early promise. There is a scene in the book about the very slow slaughter of a pig (told in distressing detail), and that’s what this story is – the very slow killing of Jude’s hope. He started with big dreams, but he remained obscure.
I don’t regret reading or re-reading the book, partly because I educate myself with every classic work I read and partly because I so enjoyed Jude as he started out. However, be warned; you will not feel good after finishing this work. ( )