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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasurable read
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel of Hardy's. Ethelberta is socially ambitious and moves in higher circles than the class position into which she is born. The novel is pleasurable and easy to read with a good tension throughout which made me feel like I wanted to know who Ethelberta chooses for a husband.

The character delineation is interesting enough although I...
Published on 11 Jan. 2007 by N. Hannigan

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unlike Hardy's Other Novels
This novel about the social climbing daughter of a butler is quite unlike any other novel by Thomas Hardy that I have read - and I've read most of them.

For a start, the subtitle is "A Comedy in Chapters". Although I accept that there is humour in some of Hardy's works, "comedy" is not the first word that springs to mind when you think of Thomas Hardy...
Published on 26 Jun. 2010 by Sandra A. Hardingham


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasurable read, 11 Jan. 2007
By 
N. Hannigan "Bookbird" (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel of Hardy's. Ethelberta is socially ambitious and moves in higher circles than the class position into which she is born. The novel is pleasurable and easy to read with a good tension throughout which made me feel like I wanted to know who Ethelberta chooses for a husband.

The character delineation is interesting enough although I felt that Hardy did not adequately present Ethelberta's relationship with Julian (the man she loves). Hardy doesn't delineate the love story between these two sufficiently which doesn't create any emotion within the reader when Ethelberta begins to consider more financially beneficial suitors. However, it is a comedy and the light hearted theme remains throughout the novel.

All in all this is a good bedtime read, easy enough but still intelligent enough to keep you interested. Keep your eye on Lord Mountclere, I think he is great!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unlike Hardy's Other Novels, 26 Jun. 2010
This review is from: The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This novel about the social climbing daughter of a butler is quite unlike any other novel by Thomas Hardy that I have read - and I've read most of them.

For a start, the subtitle is "A Comedy in Chapters". Although I accept that there is humour in some of Hardy's works, "comedy" is not the first word that springs to mind when you think of Thomas Hardy.

Then, after opening chapters set in Hardy's beloved Wessex, the central part of the book is set in London. Although Hardy worked in London for a while, it is clear that he had little love for the place and the descriptions of locations are perfunctory. It is when the action returns to Wessex that for me it really came to life. There is an exciting description of a ship caught in a storm off Knollsea (Swanage) and an amusing account of a visit to Corvsgate (Corfe) Castle. I found myself really caring about which of the four suitors Ethelbertha would end up with and there are a couple of twists before the end.

If it has been possible to award 3 1/2 stars I would have done so. I quite liked the novel but I didn't love it in the way that I love "Far From the Madding Crowd" or "The Return of the Native" and I certainly didn't feel the catharsis that I did when I read "Jude The Obscure".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Hardy’s very best, 7 Oct. 2014
By 
Bob Sherunkle (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Hardy divided his novels into these categories: “character and environment”, “romances and fantasies” and “ingenuity”. The best-known, most powerful novels are all in the first group, and judging by the two I’ve read from the other two groups – The Well-Beloved (“romances and fantasies”) and recently The Hand of Ethelberta (“ingenuity”) – they are rather a mixed bag. Hardy said he wrote “Ethelberta” as “an interlude between stories of a more sober design”, and it shows.
The scenario is promising. Ethelberta, a beautiful young woman of humble origin, is the widow of a very brief marriage to a rich young man. Having thus acquired a tenuous respectability, she strives to achieve a permanent place in society while secretly maintaining her numerous siblings, and the plot is centred on the success or otherwise of her stratagems to manage these two lives. Not surprisingly, she is torn between romance and security; to make things worse, her rather hopeless suitor Christopher is the love object of her timid younger sister, Picotee.
The editor of the Wessex Edition argues that this plot is a vehicle for Hardy to counterpoint the below-stairs world he grew up in with the London society he newly encountered in the 1870s, to the extent that one of the characters is modelled on Leslie Stephen.
So far, so good, but the plot tends to eclipse the characters; as the Wessex editor observes, “Ethelberta is no Bathsheba Everdene”, however much she ties men in knots, and many of the other characters are not wholly convincing. Another shortcomjng is the use of landscape. I have just started Return of the Native, in which the opening chapters major on the grand immutability of Egdon Heath before leading into the transient lives of mortals; but in “Ethelberta”, apart from one episode, the landscape is merely a two-dimensional background. Indeed, the final chapters consist of several characters chasing each other in ever-decreasing circles round the Isle of Purbeck, for all the world like an al fresco Whitehall farce.
As this is a comedy, all, of course, ends well – though not quite as I expected. I’m glad I read it, but I got a bit bored towards the end. If you haven’t already read any of the “great” novels – “Jude”, “Tess”, etc – I suggest you read some of them before “Ethelberta” and the other lesser-known novels. I think it’s no accident that his tragic novels were his greatest achievement.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Hardy - The Hand of Ethelberta, 1 May 2010
By 
Mr. J. R. Gibson (UK) - See all my reviews
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I collect the McMillan Pocket editions of the Wessex Novels by Thomas Hardy printed in the early 1920s. They tend to turn up at Second Hand Bookshops and can be in various conditions from good to pretty poor. I received my copy of this publication within three days of ordering it and found it to be in excellent condition. The book itself is an excellent read for a Hardy fan. Jim Gibson - Preston Lancs UK
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The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters (Penguin Classics)
The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters (Penguin Classics) by Thomas Hardy (Paperback - 31 July 1997)
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