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Two on a Tower (1882)

by Thomas Hardy

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5781232,057 (3.63)28
Two on a Tower is Hardy's most complete and daring treatment of the theme of love between characters of different classes and ages. This sensational tale, which some reviewers of the first publication considered to be immoral, is informed throughout by the astronomical images and reflections that preoccupied Hardy at the time of the book's composition.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
I am really enjoying some of the lesser know Hardy novels and this one has the added attraction of a healthy dose of astronomy and much of it seems quite accurate for the time. I was esp. tickled to have my place of work (when I am actually in the office) have a minor role in the plot. But the plot itself was also enjoyable, though it began to lag toward what I was sure would be a tragic ending, since it is Hardy after all. The tragic ending was a bit more tragic and melodramatic than I expected but I really did enjoy getting to know both Swithin and Vivette and thoroughly disliked the odious Louis. A very enjoyable read and more Hardy still on my list!
  amyem58 | Feb 15, 2021 |
I read Two on a tower within two days and enjoyed it thoroughly. The story is simple: a love affair between an older woman and a handsome younger man. There is not too much of an age difference between them in today’s terms, the man Swithin St Cleve, just 20, Viviette Constantine, 28. What wonderful names Hardy selects for his characters. Other poles in the story are science, Swithin a budding young astronomer and Viviette, a woman full of emotion and experience. One is rich, Viviette, Swithin poor and from a different class. Viviette is married (to begin with anyway) and Swithin is not. A lot of the action takes place on top of a tower owned by Viviette. The footpaths and pathways under the trees to the tower are well and mysteriously trodden throughout the story. People just miss each other, deliberately or by chance; people disappear through doors unexpectedly or hide behind a curtain. Letters, life-changing, arrive at the last minute just after a different life-changing decision has been made. These last-minute twists and turns could not happen in the world of mobile phones. The complexities of marriage, Viviette’s marriage, and the death of her husband or rumour of it, are hard to believe. On top of all this is the claustrophobic pressure of village life and social etiquette. All eyes are on the couple and all around are whispers. The church plays a significant role from curate to Bishop. It is a real page turner and had me rushing towards the last page and the usual shocking denouement.
I have now moved on to The hand of Ethelberta. The preface by Hardy in this edition leads me to believe that there will be ‘a certain lightness of mood’ (page v). We shall see. ( )
1 vote jon1lambert | Jun 15, 2019 |
“Two on a Tower” is one of my favourite Hardy novels. I’m reviewing this six years after I read it, so can’t offer an in-depth account, but I intend to give it a second look some day.

What I do remember is another tragic love story, written like only Hardy could write. Definitely worth a read. ( )
  PhilSyphe | May 3, 2018 |
Most of the major Victorian novelists, as I am fond of pointing out, wrote one scientist novel: Dickens, Eliot, Gaskell, Collins, Kingsley, Trollope. Thomas Hardy, I am even fonder of pointing out, wrote three. Two on a Tower, his 1882 astronomer romance, was the middle one, following his 1872 geologist romance A Pair of Blue Eyes and preceding his 1887 amateur naturalist romance The Woodlanders. If we were to trace a trajectory of Hardy's opinions on science as way of seeing across them (a somewhat risky critical move, perhaps), we see that Hardy grows more pessimistic across the fifteen years (as Hardy seemingly did about everything).

While science is largely incidental in A Pair of Blue Eyes and while the scientist in The Woodlanders is a monster, Two on a Tower is somewhere in between in its depiction of a romance between Swithin St. Cleeve, the young astronomer, and Lady Viviette Constantine, an older married woman. Swithin finds beauty in the stars, but his elevated vision struggles to see Viviette's beauty on Earth-- even though she sees his quite clearly. Then, when he does shift his perception in order to see her, he loses sight of the stars that gave him so much wonder. And this being Hardy, nothing can ever work out correctly. This is my favorite of Hardy's three scientist novels: you really want this romance to work out, but know it never can, and there's beautiful imagery and some great ideas. The universe is unforgiving, and so is Thomas Hardy.
2 vote Stevil2001 | Nov 17, 2017 |
I'm so glad I re-read this. I remembered it as ultra romantic, star-crossed lovers against the actual stars. It didn't feel ultra romantic this go 'round. I can see why people feel like this is a minor or lesser Hardy, all the strings and duct tape shows, his poor characters cannot get a break even when it looks like smooth sailing, and his two romantic leads are duds.

Still, I enjoyed reading it again and may try more Hardy this year. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Hardyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ingham, PatriciaPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shuttleworth, SallyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Ah my heart! her eyes and she
have taught thee new astrology.
Howe'er Love's native hours were set
Whatever starry synod met,
'Tis in the mercy of her eye,
If poor Love shall live or die.'

Crashaw: 'Love's Horoscope'
First words
On an early winter afternoon, clear but not cold, when the vegetable world was a weird multitude of skeletons through whose ribs the sun shone freely, a gleaming landau came to pause on the crest of a hill in Wessex.
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Two on a Tower is Hardy's most complete and daring treatment of the theme of love between characters of different classes and ages. This sensational tale, which some reviewers of the first publication considered to be immoral, is informed throughout by the astronomical images and reflections that preoccupied Hardy at the time of the book's composition.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140435360, 0141199431


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