One of Thomas Hardy's classic statements about modern love, courtship, and marriage, The Return of the Native is set in the pastoral village of Egdon Heath. The fiery Eustacia Vye, wishing only for passionate love, believes that her escape from Egdon lies in her marriage to Clym Yeobright, the returning "native", home from Paris and discontented with his work there. Clym wishes to remain in Egdon, however - a desire that sets him in opposition to his wife and brings them both to despair. Surrounding them are Clym's mother, who is strongly opposed to his marriage; Damon Wildeve, who is in love with Eustacia but married to Clym's cousin Thomasin; and the oddly ambiguous observer Diggory Venn, whose frustrated love for Thomasin turns him into either a guardian angel or a jealous manipulator - or perhaps both.
This stew of curdled love and conflicting emotions can only boil over into tragedy, and the book's darkly ironic ending marks it as both a classically Victorian novel and a forerunner of the modernist fiction that followed it.
Public Domain(P)2010 Tantor
This book is an excellent example of how wonderful a listening experience can be when a fantastic writer combines with a gifted narrator. Thomas Hardy writes in a way that makes mundane details seem enthralling. While the story is entertaining enough, on its own it wouldn't compel four stars; it's the writing that does the trick. Well worth a listen.
I have to admit this isn't one of my favorite novels by Thomas Hardy. But if you're a Hardy fan, it's well worth a listen, and Simon Vance does his usual excellent job keeping the characters straight and the action flowing. (One surprise is a fair amount of humor in the conversations among the various inhabitants of the countryside; I don't usually think of "humor" and "Thomas Hardy" in the same breath, but he has his moments.)
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