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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest love-stories in twentieth-century English literature, 19 Sep 2011
By 
J C E Hitchcock (Tunbridge Wells, Kent, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love for Lydia (Paperback)
Like a number of British authors writing in the early twentieth century, H. E. Bates was greatly influenced by the work of Thomas Hardy. He shared with Hardy not only a deep love of nature and of the English countryside, but also a talent for vivid verbal descriptions of that countryside. There are also thematic links between the two writers. Bates's "The Feast of July" has a similar plot to that of Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles", and "Love for Lydia" makes employs two plot devices much used by Hardy, love between people of different social classes and two or more men in love with the same woman.

All of Hardy's novels are set in the South-West of England (or "Wessex" as he called it), especially his native Dorset. Bates too concentrated on certain regions of the country as the setting for his novels, typically Northamptonshire, the county where he grew up, and Kent, the country to which he moved in the 1930s. (Some of his wartime stories, such as "The Jacaranda Tree" and "Fair Stood the Wind for France" are set abroad).

Like "The Feast of July" and "Charlotte's Row", "Love for Lydia", first published in 1952, is one of his Northamptonshire novels, set in the small industrial town of Evensford, possibly based upon his home town of Rushden, a town where the main industry is the manufacture of shoes and leather goods. The story takes place during the late 1920s and early 1930s and is narrated by the main character, Mr Richardson, a young apprentice journalist on the local newspaper. (We never learn his Christian name). The novel may be semi-autobiographical; Richardson is around the same age as the author would have been and, like him, works both as a reporter and as a warehouse clerk.

The title character is Lydia Aspen, a girl from a once-wealthy but now impoverished aristocratic family who, after the death of her father, moves to Evensford to live with her elderly aunts and her eccentric uncle. Richardson first meets her when he is sent to their house, a crumbling mansion isolated from the rest of the town behind a high stone wall, on a journalistic assignment. Lydia, a seemingly shy girl, has led a sheltered existence, and her meeting with Richardson allows him to introduce her to the pleasures of ordinary life; for instance, he takes her skating on the frozen rivers, a popular local pastime during cold winters.

Lydia and Richardson fall in love, but he realises that he is not her only admirer. She has at least three others- Alex Sanderson, the son of a local businessman, Tom Holland, a young farmer, and Bert "Blackie" Johnson, a car mechanic. Richardson realises that Lydia is not the shy, innocent girl for which he initially took her but can be wilful and fun-loving, and that she greatly enjoys the attentions of so many young men. His position is made more difficult by the fact that Alex and Tom are both close friends of his, and of each other. The Hardy novel with which "Love for Lydia" has the closest affinity is perhaps "Far from the Madding Crowd" with which it shares a serene ending following earlier tragedy. The impetuous Lydia has something in common with Bathsheba Everdene, and Tom recalls Gabriel Oak in his temperament as well as his profession.

"Love for Lydia" is one of Bates's best novels. As I mentioned earlier, the author had a great talent for conveying the beauty of nature in words, and that talent is much in evidence here in his descriptions of rural scenes at all seasons of the year. Northamptonshire (and, indeed, the East Midlands in general) is not normally regarded as the most spectacular area of England, but Bates here shows that even relatively unspectacular landscapes can have a beauty of their own. Similar descriptive powers can be found in Bates's other writings, but this book also demonstrates qualities which are sometimes lacking in some of his other works.

In some of his earlier novels, Bates's handling of his plots is not always satisfactory; an example is "Charlotte's Row" which, although it has some interesting themes, is let down by a weak ending, involving a clumsy shift of emphasis away from the main characters. "Love for Lydia", by contrast, is much more focused on its main storyline, that of Richardson and Lydia, and brings it to a satisfying resolution. The use of the first-person mode of narration adds a greater emotional power and immediacy to the work. Bates is able to make us empathise deeply with his hero as he experiences both the joys and the sorrows of young love and of friendship, as well as the pain of the tragedies which affect him and those close to him. This is one of the finest love-stories in twentieth-century English literature.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving, atmospheric and sublime, 6 Aug 2008
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love for Lydia (Paperback)
I read this as a teenager and totally fell in love with the story. I still have the book but have never quite dared to re-read it in case it's not as wonderful as I remember!

Set just after the first world war, Lydia moves to a country town to live with her aunts and uncle, and plays havoc with the emotions of the young men who see her. It's all here: first love, unrequited love, jealousy, passion and despair - but H.E. Bates is a restrained and sublime writer so this never descends into over-blown chic-littish melodrama. I think I've persuaded myself I must re-read it immediately!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving and atmospheric novel set between the wars, 22 Oct 2006
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Love for Lydia (Hardcover)
I read this as a teenager (and watched the TV serial!) and totally fell in love with the story. I still have the book but have never quite dared to re-read it in case it's not as wonderful as I remember!

Set just after the first world war, Lydia moves to a country town to live with her aunts and uncle, and plays havoc with the emotions of the young men who see her. It's all here: first love, unrequited love, jealousy, passion and despair - but H.E. Bates is a restrained and sublime writer so this never descends into over-blown chic-littish melodrama. I think I've persuaded myself I must re-read it immediately!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, 27 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Love for Lydia (Paperback)
This is the first time I have read H E Bates and I was entranced.The descriptions of nature, the changing class, cultural and physical world, the emotional attachments of the characters....I feel I must read it all over again.
I initially searched for the TV version of Love for Lydia which I believe was screened in the 1970s. I remember thoroughly enjoying this and, caught up in a wave of nostalgia, planned to purchase the DVD. I may still do this, but the book was very satisfying and I would heartily recommend it to anyone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Even better second time round, 26 May 2014
By 
D. P. Robson "Mr Majestica" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love for Lydia (Paperback)
I read this whilst still at school - it was being aired at the time as a series on UK TV. That was in 1978!

I read it recently and still love it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic romance set between the wars, 28 Nov 2013
By 
Marshall Lord (Whitehaven, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Love for Lydia (Paperback)
"Love for Lydia" by H.E. Bates is a superb story of young love, set between the wars in the fictional small town of Evensford.

The story begins in 1929 and is narrated in the first person by one of the young men who has his heart turned upside down by Lydia Aspen, one of two sisters who returned to the town after the death of their brother and proceeded to set the town alight. Tragedy, unrequited love, jealousy, and the ecstasy of love are all beautifully depicted in this novel.

It was adapted as a London Weekend Television series in the seventies, and this is available on DVD (Link: Love for Lydia - 5-DVD Box Set (in English, with optional Dutch sub-titles))

Bates was a brilliant novelist and this is one of his best works.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Taste of Bates, 11 Nov 2013
By 
Bethany Askew "bethany" (U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love for Lydia (Paperback)
I remember watching the TV series "Love for Lydia" in the late 1970's. Though I remembered little about the plot and even less about the actors or the acting, I do know I was absolutely bowled over by it. I always meant to read the book but never got around to it. Then, a few years ago, I heard the odd part read on Radio 4. Again, I thought I must read it. Again I forgot about it. I'm not sure what brought it back into my mind. I believe the book may now be out of print. The 2007 edition I found on Play.com is an excellent condition second hand copy.

The story is told in a slow ponderous style, very different from the modern pacy novels I have been reading lately and it took me a while to get into it, in part because I had to keep checking back to understand what was going on. Once I had got used to it though I was absolutely captivated. It's one of those books that's worth reading for the use of words alone. It's poetic, lyrical, melodic. The descriptions are just wonderful. Here is how the narrator describes one of the Miss Aspen's:

"As she spoke she ruffled up in her chair and no longer dumpling-like and rotund, seemed to be going through a process of an almost grotesque enlargement, fluffing herself out, sprouting wings. Like a hen about to spring up on a perch after laying an egg."

By today's standards the descriptions of the countryside and the setting are very long, but they are so beautiful. There are far too many to choose from, but here are just a few:

"The colour of the frozen afternoon, all apricot and bronze, came levelly across the ice in a startling horizontal fire"

"A lichen-like green hung above the sunset, and the shadows, all across the snow, became of indigo brilliance before finally dissolving."

"The lilac and the chestnut flower, clogging the air with a haunting drowsy perfume that still rises, above all the smell of grass and bluebells and lilac and primrose, to mark the spring and summer that I spent there."

This last quote also demonstrates perfectly the nostalgic, poignant feel of the novel, the feeling of someone looking back on a time fondly remembered, one that will never return.

Set between the first and second world wars the atmosphere evoked is of a perfect time. And even while the author is describing the present action he makes it clear he's looking back on it: "Evensford in those days" "At that time" "Twenty years later".

During the course of the book things already begin to change, presaging the future change brought about by the Second World War. In the few years spanned by the book the "ruling class" lose their power and the sway they hold over the "lower classes". There is talk of them losing their money. Indeed the town of Evensford falls into decline with the coming of the "slump", and unemployment as factories and workshops close down.

Against this background a love story is played out, one so nave and poignant it tears at your heart strings. As the novel progresses the atmosphere becomes so dark and portentous you wonder where it's going and almost dread reading it for fear of what is going to happen

I won't spoil the ending for those who have not read it. I'll simply say "Read it." You won't be disappointed. More than a classical work by a masterful writer, this is one of those books that will stay with you long after you've finished it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very good service, 14 Jun 2013
By 
A. Palmer (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love for Lydia (Hardcover)
Easily found and with several other providers available the book was
delivered as expected and well worth the money for a first edition.
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5.0 out of 5 stars H E Bates, 30 Jan 2013
By 
J. Garley - See all my reviews
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Very good service - the book ois fine - H E Bates was born in my home town so I am really biased.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I remember the TV series, 6 Jan 2012
This review is from: Love for Lydia (Paperback)
I bought the book because I loved the TV adaptation in the 70 s. Enjoying H E Bates style. Will probably purchase the dvd now. Gently romantic.
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Love for Lydia
Love for Lydia by H. E. Bates (Paperback - 25 April 1974)
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