Many people consider Thomas Hardy to be a great novelist and poet; but he is equally a great story writer. These are 19th Century stories; so they do not start in the middle and expect the reader to infer what the author leaves out; they are are not pared to the bone. They start at the beginning, describing vividly the setting of the place and the history of the leading characters, and build up to a proper conclusion. Without trying to derogate 20th Century writers like Hemmingway, these stories are all the better for it. They could have been easily extended to fully blown novels. They have all the touches that one expects from Hardy: vivid decription of Wessex, tragedy untouched by sentimentality; a solid style with touches of literary genius; and a perceptive understanding of the relationship between men and women, people and their environment, and a keen understanding of rustic life just before it was swept away by the arrival of the radio, the telephone, the motor vehicle, electricity and other aspects of modernity. If you love Jude or Tess, read this book. As soon as I had finished it, I hunted down his other short story collections, Wessex Tales, etc., which are just as good.