Books: The Woodlanders (1887) by Thomas Hardy
All you need to know about the books you meant to read
Saturday 15 June 1996
Theme: The "immortal puzzle" of "how to find a basis for sexual relation". (Hardy's Preface) All the characters are isolated fantasists who have immense difficulty communicating.
Style: As ever with Hardy, there are some disconcerting shifts from the lyrical to the bronchial: but the narrative voice maintains its puzzled tone and seldom lapses into coercion.
Chief strengths: The countryside escapes being sentimentalized because Hardy senses the evolutionary struggle that charges both landscape and character: "On older trees still than these, huge lobes of fungi grew like lungs. Here, as everywhere, the Unfulfilled Intention...was as obvious as it could be among the depraved crowds of a city slum."
Chief weaknesses: Giles is good, but he is rather a wet lettuce. His fidelity to Grace can seem a facet of his chronic absence of empathy.
What they thought of it then: Some journalists found the Charmond-Fitzpiers relationship a little "distasteful", but the reviews were favourable and The Woodlanders proved to be Hardy's biggest hit since Far From the Madding Crowd (1874).
What we think of it now: The least appreciated "major" Hardy novel. It lacks the nostalgic tug of his early work and is not as marmoreally "tragic" as the later stuff. Hardy himself, however, thought it his best story.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 3 French woman dies in freak bungee jumping accident
- 4 Greece crisis: Crowdfunding campaign crashes Indiegogo, raises half a million in just three days
- 5 Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck to divorce and end their 10-year marriage
The Rolling Stones announce biggest ever touring rock exhibition with Saatchi Gallery
Glastonbury 2015: The best bits you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to The Libertines' secret set
Glastonbury 2015: The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James' Twitter Q&A didn't exactly go as planned
Glastonbury 2015: Shocking scenes of rubbish left strewn across campsite as clean-up begins
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS