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The Woodlanders (1887)

by Thomas Hardy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,166486,063 (3.82)100
Set in the secluded forest community of Little Hintock, Thomas Hardy's "The Woodlanders" inextricably links the dramatic English landscape with the story of a woman caught between two rivals of radically different social statures. Grace Melbury is promised to her longtime companion, Giles Winterborne, a local woodlander and a gentle, steadfast man. When her socially motivated father pressures her to wed the ambitious doctor Edred Fitzpiers, Grace's loyalties shift--and her decision leads to tumultuous consequences. With its explorations of class and gender, lust and betrayal, "The Woodlanders" is one of Hardy's most vivid and powerful works. This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the text of the 1912 Wessex edition and includes Hardy's map of fictional Wessex. "The finest English novel."--Arnold Bennett "From the Trade Paperback edition."… (more)
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[b:The Woodlanders|341281|The Woodlanders|Thomas Hardy|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1389977312l/341281._SY75_.jpg|2502604] is written in the moody, sometimes downcast, style of Thomas Hardy’s more famous novels, [b:Tess of the D'Urbervilles|32261|Tess of the D'Urbervilles|Thomas Hardy|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1434302708l/32261._SY75_.jpg|3331021] and [b:Jude the Obscure|50798|Jude the Obscure|Thomas Hardy|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1389403264l/50798._SY75_.jpg|41342119], with the romantic flavor that defines [b:Far From the Madding Crowd|31463|Far From the Madding Crowd|Thomas Hardy|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1388279695l/31463._SY75_.jpg|914540]. It becomes obvious early on that Giles Winterborne and Grace Melbury are not to have a smooth course to love, although their youthful attachment and her father's approval should have pointed to the fact that they would. The presence of a new doctor in the district, Doctor Fitzpiers; the mysterious landlady at the manor, Mrs. Chamond; and the natural beauty, Marty Smart, round out the cast and push forward the calamitous events that are to come.

The battle between frost and thaw was continuing in mid-air; the trees dripped on the garden-plots, where no vegetables would grow for the dripping, though they were planted year after year with that curious mechanical regularity of country people in the face of hopelessness…

Thomas Hardy is a wizard when he speaks of the connection of man to nature, it echoes the events in the lives of his characters, perhaps God's commentary on what mankind conceives. He so often writes in a Romantic tradition, seeing nature as the purer, moral path, and the decline in rural society as a deterioration of the world at large. The pure characters in this novel are Giles Winterborne and Marty Smart, and the descriptions of the two of them in their natural labor are some of the most riveting passages in the story. It must say a great deal about Hardy’s view of the world that the semi-villainous Fitzpier ends in better stead than either of them at the end of the novel. Alas, in life and in Hardy, good does not often prevail.

And yet to every bad there is a worse.

I wonder if it is the romantic or the melancholy side of me that loves Hardy so much. His view of the world we live in is not rosy and sometimes downright bleak, and yet he shows us glimpses of goodness and the possibility of happiness--for there is often a path to happiness that his characters shun, and a very few of them come to destinations that might result in some redemption. Often it is simply a lack of self-awareness or an inability to communicate their feelings that land them in their terrible circumstances; and which of us cannot relate to those moments in life?

Every time I start a Hardy novel I think, “this one will not live up to the others”, but as it progresses, I revise that thought, for Hardy always builds toward a gripping climax and never makes you feel you have wasted your time with his characters or been handed a mediocre plot. I have one more Hardy on my required reading for this year...with any luck I can add another before the end of 2020 and make it three.


( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
It was well written, but too depressing for my taste; too many sad stories, too much love wasted on the wrong people. Hardy's literary talent can't be overlooked, so anything he writes will get at least three stars from me, but I prefer the other novels of his I've read to this one, even ones with sad themes. For some reason, they didn't leave me feeling sad the way this one did. ( )
  EmeraldAngel | Jun 3, 2021 |
Good light reading. ( )
  vdt_melbourne | May 23, 2021 |
In my recent Hardy readings, this one was the hardest to really dig into. I had one restart and it kept getting pushed aside for other reads. But once I finally got started, I enjoyed it alot. The theme of the new/modern world bumping against the old/traditional one played out in many ways, mainly in the character of Grace Melbury. I found her very sympathetic, not as fiesty as Elfride of A Pair of Blue Eyes but still trying to find her own way. However, Marty South was a hidden gem and her last two paragraphs stole the whole novel for me.
  amyem58 | Apr 17, 2021 |
This melodramatic tale is not up to par with Hardy's four big classics, but it's worth a read if you're a fan of the author.
Grace Melbury has been effectively engaged to Giles Winterborne for years. But Grace has been sent off to school for a better education, while Giles has stayed in the tiny village of Little Hintock and worked his apple cidering trade. Grace's father is concerned that she will never be satisfied with the rural life Giles can provide for her, and indeed, Grace is worried about that too, although she cares deeply for him. Upon being wooed by the dashing and flirtatious Dr. Fitzpiers, the engagement is broken off and Grace marries the young doctor. A doctor who is no sooner married than he is off wooing a different woman.
There are several other local characters tied up in this tangled story of love, betrayal, and infidelity, but these are the primary ones. One of the reasons I've loved Hardy's "big four" is the mood of the rural English countryside at the end of the 18th century. Little was devoted to the setting in The Woodlanders. Hardy dives almost instantly into the plot, and sticks with that almost enirely, leaving the setting to whatever the reader imagines. For me, this made it a weaker, less enjoyable novel. ( )
  fingerpost | Dec 29, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (71 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Hardyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boumelha, PennyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kramer, DaleEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, SamuelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Not boskiestbow'r
When hearts are ill affin'd
Hath tree of pow'r
To shelter from the wind?"
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The rambler who, for old association's sake, should trace the forsaken coach-road running almost in a meridional line from Bristol to the south shore of England, would find himself during the latter half of his journey in the vicinity of some extensive woodlands, interspersed with apple-orchards.
In the chronology of Thomas Hardy's fiction The Woodlanders (1887) comes between The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) and Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891). (Introduction)
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Set in the secluded forest community of Little Hintock, Thomas Hardy's "The Woodlanders" inextricably links the dramatic English landscape with the story of a woman caught between two rivals of radically different social statures. Grace Melbury is promised to her longtime companion, Giles Winterborne, a local woodlander and a gentle, steadfast man. When her socially motivated father pressures her to wed the ambitious doctor Edred Fitzpiers, Grace's loyalties shift--and her decision leads to tumultuous consequences. With its explorations of class and gender, lust and betrayal, "The Woodlanders" is one of Hardy's most vivid and powerful works. This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the text of the 1912 Wessex edition and includes Hardy's map of fictional Wessex. "The finest English novel."--Arnold Bennett "From the Trade Paperback edition."

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When country-girl Grace Melbury returns home from her middle-class school she feels she has risen above her suitor, the simple woodsman Giles Winterborne. Though marriage had been discussed between her and Giles, Grace finds herself captivated by Dr. Edred Fitzpiers, a sophisticated newcomer to the area - a relationship that is encouraged by her socially ambitious father. Hardy's novel of betrayal, disillusionment and moral compromise depicts a secluded community coming to terms with the disastrous impact of outside influences. And in his portrayal of Giles Winterborne, Hardy shows a man who responds deeply to the forces of the natural world, though they ultimately betray him.
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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