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Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man [Paperback]

Claire Tomalin
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Oct 2006
Thomas Hardy is one of the sacred figures in English writing, a great poet and a novelist with a world reputation. His life was also extraordinary: from the poverty of rural Dorset he went on to become the Grand Old Man of English life and letters, his last resting place in Westminster Abbey. This seminal biography, by our leading biographer, covers Hardy’s illegitimate birth, his rural upbringing, his escape to London in the 1860s, his marriages, his status as a bestselling novelist, and in later life, his supreme achievements as a poet.

Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; Open market ed edition (5 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670915130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670915132
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.4 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,713,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A fascinating case study in mid-Victorian literary sociology."
-"The New York Times"

"Admirable . . . One returns to Thomas Hardy with renewed pleasure and surprise."
-"The New York Review of Books"

"Tomalin brings . . . the skills of an experienced and accomplished biographer . . . and the confidence of a deeply informed literary critic."
-Jonathan Yardley, "The Washington Post" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Claire Tomalin was literary editor of the New Statesman and Sunday Times. She has published a collection of journalism and is the author of seven highly acclaimed biographies, including: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft (Whitbread First Book Prize); The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens (Hawthornden Prize, the NCR Book Award and James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography); and Pepys: The Unequalled Self (Whitbread Book of the Year).

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hardy the Enigma 24 July 2007
By Gregory S. Buzwell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Thomas Hardy will always remain something of an enigma: a man best known for his lyrical descriptions of landscape and country life who almost without fail chose to spend the summer months in the smog and grime of London; a man who wrote some of the most moving love poems in the language in honour of his wife but only after her death and only after treating her with cold neglect during their marriage. A man obsessed with class and social status who in his novels always sided with the underdog. He is, I suspect, simultaneously a biographer's dream subject (so many contradictions, such a fascinating character) and worst nightmare (so enigmatic and so inconsistent).

I thoroughly enjoyed Claire Tomalin's book, although I do have one or two reservations. She is excellent on Hardy's attitudes towards women. Hardy clearly adored the ladies, albeit in an idealised sense. One only has to read his descriptions of Eustacia Vye in 'The Return of the Native' or of Tess in the book that bears her name to see how much beautiful women appealed to him, and indeed how well he understood them. The women in his own life however, especially his first wife Emma Gifford, failed, through no fault of their own, to live up to his ideals and he sadly became tired of them. Emma's journey as Hardy's wife, taking her from a free-spirited girl to a sad and lonely figure living almost alone in an attic, is well explained in the book. You sense Tomalin has a deep sympathy for Emma and she does much to portray her as a thinking, feeling human being. A woman who played a major role in Hardy's development both as a novelist and as a poet.

The book is also very good on Hardy's childhood and his youthful friendship with the brilliant but troubled Horace Moule.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good story 6 Dec 2007
I borrowed this from my friend earlier this year and finished it last month on a trip to Dorset. I read Robert Gittings' two-volume (Young Thomas Hardy, The Older Hardy) biography of Hardy a long time ago, so the story of his remarkable life and his two contrasting marriages was familiar to me, but it was good to hear about these things again. Claire Tomalin has an easy style which occasionally slips into the second person as she suggests to the reader what "you" might have thought had you been there, but she's also worked hard at her research and brings up some interesting snippets. For example, at one point she notes that Hardy was friends with Bertrand Russell's aunt, and wonders what each would have made of the other had they met. She also gives a memorable vignette from (one of) Hardy's funerals, which was probably the only occasion on which Kipling and Shaw met.

But - as others have pointed out - it's Tomalin's treatment of the poetry that takes up most of her attention. The tale of how his guilt and regret at his first wife's death found its expression in a large collection of extraordinary poetry (which profoundly unsettled his second wife) is a distinctive one, and is worth telling in detail, but I'd've liked more attention paid to his novels. These - I think - are the route through which most readers encounter Hardy but unfortunately, she seems to lose interest in them as she goes through his life; certainly the treatment of his later books - which are far more important - is more cursory than the account she gives of the earlier ones.
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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highlighting the poetry 5 Nov 2006
By Lynette Baines VINE VOICE
Claire Tomalin's biographies are always worth reading, she's one of the few biographers I read no matter who their subject is. Thomas Hardy is one of my favourite novellists and poets, so this was a perfect match for me. Tomalin manages to say something fresh about a man who has been endlessly written about. She concentrates on the poetry, which has often been relegated to second place behind the novels. She also shines a light on Hardy's relationship with his first wife, Emma, who emerges from the book as a spirited and exciting young woman. The book opens with a beautifully written chapter on Emma's death and how this inspired Hardy to write some of his most beautiful love poems. Their relationship had deteriorated to the point where they hardly spoke and Emma lived in the attic, but her death released all his happy memories of their courtship and early life together. Tomalin's previous books on Ellen Ternan and Dorothea Jordan have shown her ability to imagine the lives of women on the margins, and with Emma Hardy, she has recalled her to life. The book sent me back to the work, which is what I look for in a literary biography.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Hardy: The Time Torn Man 21 Feb 2011
This book was chosen for a Book Club read after recently reading "Far from the Madding Crowd". It gives a very good sense of insight into the character of Thomas Hardy and the social aspects of nineteenth century England. Perhaps Claire Tomalin draws a little too much on diary notes and personal letters at times, but overall a good and interesting read. I was fascinated by the railway as a new form of travel and as a result have now purchased a History of the Railways entitled "Fire and Steam", by Christian Walmer.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-paced introduction to Hardy's life. 23 Aug 2008
By b
It has been almost a year since I read this biography but I enjoyed it. I am not an expert on Hardy by any means and have not read any other accounts of his life although I have enjoyed reading both his novels and poems.
I appreciated the detailed construction of the society Hardy was born into. From the start we are aware of what type of family he was born into, the struggles he faced and his ambition to learn. The helpful map at the start demonstrates the extent to which Hardy's world was centred around a small patch of England. I also found Tomalin's accounts of Hardy's novels to be thoughtful, incisive and interesting. I have not read Desperate Remedies, but I will. Her analysis of his poetry is equally informative and astute. She is not afraid to criticise her subject, but is always aware of what he was aiming to write.
I would recommend this book highly to anyone who wants to enhance their knowledge of Hardy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hardy Annual
The image for most people of Thomas Hardy is like the front cover illustration. Claire Tomalin charts the spectrum of his life particularly referring to the relationships he had... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bob Siner
5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Hardy author Claire Tomalin
Clear, Alive with a good sense of the times and society that Hardy lived in. Tomalin is an author of great perception
Published 2 months ago by elisabeth orion-gray
5.0 out of 5 stars Crisp taut and readable
Unadorned and undeviating can be similarly applied to Claire Tomalin's rapid and readable romp through the life of the novelist and poet. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Molly Marsden
1.0 out of 5 stars review of the beginning
I received this as a present when it came out because Hardy is my favourite writer. I think anyone writing a biog of hardy needs to have a respect and appreciation for him. Read more
Published 18 months ago by GW
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine biography of Hardy
Claire Tomalin has written another very good biography. It should send us back to reading Hardy's great novels, amongst which she picks out The Woodlanders, The return of the... Read more
Published 22 months ago by William Podmore
5.0 out of 5 stars Unobscure
This book is a really good introduction in to the life of Thomas Hardy. I have to admit that I approached Hardy having never read his novels. Read more
Published on 17 Jan 2012 by C. S. Bancroft
5.0 out of 5 stars A really great read.
I am not an avid ready but it dawned on me when visiting Max Gate that over the last thirty years I had probably read pretty-much all of Thomas Hardy's novels, and so I decided to... Read more
Published on 3 Jan 2012 by WarrenR
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing.
I found the book curiously colourless and lacking in any real reason to exist. As other reviewers have pointed out Tomalin doesn't even seem to like her subject. Read more
Published on 17 Nov 2011 by Young Goblin
5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Hardy
I loved Tomalin's book on Pepys and when I found a copy of her work on Hardy in a library in Beijing I found it hard to put down. Read more
Published on 29 Sep 2011 by K. S. Hutchence
3.0 out of 5 stars Quick and easy read - but annoying
It is an easy and interesting read, so if you just want a quick overview of Hardy's life, it does the job. Read more
Published on 3 Aug 2011 by Amazon Customer
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