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Wessex Tales (Unabridged) (Naxos Complete Classics) [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Thomas Hardy
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2012 Naxos Complete Classics
Wessex Tales, a collection of short stories including The Three Strangers, The Withered Arm and The Distracted Preacher, deal with a number of timeless themes seen so often in Hardys work, including marriage, class, revenge and disappointed love. Many of the tales have a supernatural tinge, and all are set around Hardys much loved homeland.

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Product details

  • Audio CD: 7 pages
  • Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks; Unabridged edition (1 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843795833
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843795834
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 4.8 x 14.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 652,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Hardy was born in a cottage in Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester, on 2 June 1840. He was educated locally and at sixteen was articled to a Dorchester architect, John Hicks. In 1862 he moved to London and found employment with another architect, Arthur Blomfield. He now began to write poetry and published an essay. By 1867 he had returned to Dorset to work as Hicks's assistant and began his first (unpublished) novel, The Poor Man and the Lady.

On an architectural visit to St Juliot in Cornwall in 1870 he met his first wife, Emma Gifford. Before their marriage in 1874 he had published four novels and was earning his living as a writer. More novels followed and in 1878 the Hardys moved from Dorset to the London literary scene. But in 1885, after building his house at Max Gate near Dorchester, Hardy again returned to Dorset. He then produced most of his major novels: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891), The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved (1892) and Jude the Obscure (1895). Amidst the controversy caused by Jude the Obscure, he turned to the poetry he had been writing all his life. In the next thirty years he published over nine hundred poems and his epic drama in verse, The Dynasts.

After a long and bitter estrangement, Emma Hardy died at Max Gate in 1912. Paradoxically, the event triggered some of Hardy's finest love poetry. In 1914, however, he married Florence Dugdale, a close friend for several years. In 1910 he had been awarded the Order of Merit and was recognized, even revered, as the major literary figure of the time. He died on 11 January 1928. His ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey and his heart at Stinsford in Dorset.

Product Description


Hardy's novels, in my experience (admittedly a long time ago, when I was going through a serious misery-lit phase), are emotional marathons. They leave you drained, desolate, in shock but ultimately satisfied that you finished the course. Ever since listening to Clare Tomalin's biography, The Time-torn Man, I've been meaning to dig out Tess, Jude, Bathsheba, Eustacia and the rest of the Wessex clan, but it will be a mission. I need an incentive. Here it is. Five minutes into the second tale, The Three Strangers, you can feel the old Hardy magic beginning to work its spell. The scene has been set, where else but on his favourite stamping ground (trudging ground might be a better word), the bare, dark, rain-sodden, wind-lashed heath five miles from Casterbridge (Dorchester to you), where 'the tails of little birds trying to roost on some scraggy thorn were blown inside out like umbrellas'. In a small, lonely hut, shepherd Fennel, his dairymaid wife and 19 guests are celebrating the birth of a new baby beside a crackling fire with mead, victuals, music and dancing. Then comes a knock at the door. 'Walk in!' cries our merry host, the latch clicks and in comes a stranger, 'dark in complexion and not unprepossessing as to feature', hat 'hung low over his eyes', which take in the room 'with a flash more than a glance' and like what they see. 'The rain is so heavy, friends, that I ask leave to come in and rest awhile,' he says in a deep, rich voice. Leave is given and a pull of the mead mug, and minutes later there's another knock, and in comes a second dripping stranger, who turns out to be the hangman on his way to Casterbridge to top a sheep-stealer in the morning. I'd forgotten what a consummate yarn-spinner Hardy is. Roald Dahl's end-of-story twists are famous, but Hardy's tales surprise you all the way through, holding your attention as firmly as old Solomon Selby does his audience's at the tavern in A Tradition of 1804. As soon as they see him take his pipe from his mouth and smile into the fire from his inglenook seat, they know what's coming. 'The smile was neither mirthful nor sad, not precisely humorous nor altogether thoughtful. We who knew him recognised it in a moment. It was his narrative smile.' And thus begins the wonderful tale of young Selby's encounter on a Wessex clifftop with Old Boney himself, recce-ing the long-planned invasion of England with one of his Frenchie generals. Next stop, The Return of the Native. --Sue Arnold, The Guardian

In Hardy's first collection of short stories, he presents the region of Dorset in the 1880s the lives of its people, as well as their beliefs and superstitions. Narrator Neville Jason beautifully conveys the rich descriptions of people and place, including regional and historical speech patterns, and characters of varying ages and stations. Romance and family life are often Hardy's focus. Many of the men fall in love with and propose to many women or the same one often, only to be repeatedly rebuffed. In one standout story, a married woman falls in love with a poet she's never met: a situation that ends in a double tragedy. In another story, the celebration of a baby's birth is so well rendered that listeners will feel they re there. --S.G.B., AudioFile

Nobody listens to these eight tales for a joyous uplift: they are Hardy distilled, tales set in rural Wessex in which ordinary human beings are powerless before the ironies, disappointments, unfulfilled promises and tragedies of life. They have a timeless, mythic quality, enhanced by Neville Jason's subtle narration. Only Hardy can sweep from skies and ancient heathland to focus on something minutely observed, such as the weal left by the hangman's noose 'like an unripe blackberry' and his empathy with women is remarkable. --Rachel Redford, The Oldie

About the Author

Thomas Hardy was a poet and novelist of the naturalist movement. He trained as an architect. He was a religious man who was also deeply influenced by Darwin and fascinated by ghosts and spirits.During his lifetime, he was best known for his novels. His stories combine nuanced description of natural surroundings with the sense of impending moral crisis. He claimed that poetry was his first love, though, and in recent years his poetry has received much critical acclaim. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wessex Tales by Thomas Hardy 14 Mar 2012
By lizzie
Format:Kindle Edition
Wessex Tales is a beautifully crafted series of short stories, typically not of the most joyful outcomes, but the grammar and vocabulary leaves modern novels shallow and simple. All the stories draw the reader into the heart of Hardy country and tells of small domestic incidents but also gives great insite into psychology and how this effects the characters so exquisitely woven by Hardy.

A good starter book for readers who have not been able to read Hardy in the past.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb. 9 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This collection of 6 short stories is a great introduction to the major works of Thomas Hardy. It eases you into his way of writing so when you come to read his novels you'll undertand more of what he is about.

Two of the stories are somewhat alike in that they both contain a person who has a horrid job (can't say anymore otherwise it could be a spoiler). My favourite however, was The Withered Arm which is a bit like a horror story and is really quite frightening.........it certainly would have been thought of as such in Hardy's time I am sure.

A great book and I recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hardy at his most accessible, I think 26 May 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of short stories with morals or twists - or both - and some well drawn characters. It is an easily-read collection that would provide a gentle introduction to Hardy's style of writing. And the free Kindle version means that you risk nothing by giving them a go.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading. 1 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wordsworth Classics are excellent value. "Wessex tales" is well worth more than the book price for "The Withered Arm" alone - a wonderfully atmospheric piece that maintains its unrelenting grip throughout. The story evokes the Dorset countryside and its people with as much success as it continally creates chilling frissons via its cleverly paced plot. A great read. Not to be missed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed offerings from a master author 13 Dec 2010
This collection of short stories is by no means Hardy's best work, but it is nonetheless a worthwhile read. I won't review each an every story here, but I will bring your attention to what I believe are the two best. They are The Three Strangers and The Distracted Preacher, which bookend the collection of tales.

The Three Strangers is an oddly comic tale, quite uncharacteristic from some of Hardy's more fatalistic tragedies. It is a well-constructed tale regarding the activities of the local hangman, although the 'twist' is rather obvious. But that does not diminish from my enjoyment of the story.

The Distracted Preacher is far and away the best story of the lot. It is very much in the mould of Hardy's more famous novels, where love is thwarted by circumstances and by social and moral standards that must be seen to be maintained. The setting is reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn, though it has to be noted that Hardy's tale was written several decades earlier, raising the interesting question as to whether or not Jamaica Inn was influenced by The Distracted Preacher.

The rest of the stories are OK, but to me, they didn't really stand out and I was left with a feeling of just plain indifference towards them. They weren't especially bad, but they weren't especially good either; certainly not compared to the two highlighted tales here or to Hardy's more famous novels.

In conclusion, I would recommend this, though not as a book to read cover to cover. Rather, it is better to take each story individually and not start one as soon as you have finished another.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic short stories 30 Dec 2011
By Fengirl
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Surprisingly easy to read for tales written so long ago and although two of them have a similar theme they are different enough in the end. The tale of the Withered Arm has a slightly supernatural feel to it but it's none the worse for that, and this particular story gives a good idea of how things were in those days.
A book that you could safely lend to Granny - but she's probably read it anyway
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hardy's short stories 9 Nov 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A must for all those who like the full length novels of Thomas Hardy. He introduces some very quirky characters and situations not usually found in the more well-known of his novels. Short stories are not as well read as they were about thirty years ago, but these are well worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Ashton
Nothing brings to life the trials and passions of the common people in late 17th century rural England like Thomas Hardy's books. This book is a collection of little gems. I like "The Three Strangers" the best because of the element of suspense - everything isn't what it seems at first sight - and because of the beautifully drawn description of the scenery and the scene inside the house. Each tale vividly draws an aspect of English society, life and the landscape in the countryside at the time. I did not like his preoccupation with lost love and sad endings in other tales, but I can understand that love had to struggle against the class structure of the time, and many times lost.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As described, well packaged and promptly sent. Classic tales of times gone by.
Published 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very good.
Published 1 month ago by homeperm 1
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I love all Thomas Hardy novels. This is no exception.
Published 2 months ago by Jen P
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, great value
Bought this for my Mum for Xmas along with 11 other classics, all Wordsworth classics. She's thoroughly enjoying reading them all and excited to have some new books to read as the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Muggsy
5.0 out of 5 stars Wessex Tales
Free down load for my Kindle. Haven't read it yet, saving it for my holidays. Down load worked very quickly
Published 13 months ago by Pat Wolstencroft
1.0 out of 5 stars Removed.
I like the work of Thomas Hardy but i couldn't get interested in this one. I removed it from my Kindle, sorry.
Published 13 months ago by Patricia Mordue
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
What an interesting insight to the napoleonic wars a story you can not put down I would recommend it as a good read
Published 14 months ago by w halford
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
Some of the tales are interesting with a tinge of the folkloric supernatural, in my opinion these are the good ones. My favourite one is the Whithered Arm. Read more
Published 14 months ago by H. Bastawy
4.0 out of 5 stars Hardy happy endings?
Good selection of stories. Wonderful accounts of rural customs of the time. Great, considering it is a free resource.
Published 18 months ago by annie efl
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
I have read other novels by this author and can't wait to read this one. It will make a good read on holiday.
Published 19 months ago by tiddioggie
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