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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and inimitable, 21 Dec 2009
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Return of the Native (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Eustacia Vye is one of my favourite heroines: from the time we find her atop a deserted hill dancing in the light of her bonfire she has an elemental life of her own. Passionate, desperate, with a kind of inner wildness, she has something of Emily Bronte's Cathy about her, but a Cathy who is expected to become domesticated and housebound.

The unravelling of her life, and the supporting stories of the community at Egdon Heath, make this a profoundly dark novel in Hardy's inimitable style.

I particularly like the Oxford World Classics editions for their beautiful covers but also for the excellent notes and introduction. A bargain at this price.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Bleakness, 22 May 2010
Gregory S. Buzwell "bagpuss007" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Return of the Native (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
There is something truly epic about Hardy's The Return of the Native, something very akin to Greek tragedy. Noble and well-meaning actions invariably result, though connections not being made and wrong conclusions being reached, in misery and suffering. All of the characters are touched with true humanity, no one is entirely good or entirely bad, they are all painted with very human loves and passions, they are all touched with some nobility of thought, and yet they are all deeply flawed; even the very landscape itself, the bleak but strangely beautiful Egdon Heath, casts a visible shadow across the lives and behaviour of all who live there.

The story centres around Eustacia Vye, a raven-haired and devestatingly beautiful outsider who suddenly, and miserably, finds herself resigned to a life on the heath. Eustacia is one of Victorian fiction's great creations - perhaps the most beautiful depiction of a 'high-maintenance' temptress ever put down on paper. The women on the heath either avoid her or else accuse her of being a witch, while the men regard her as a very bright light into which, moth-like, they can merrily fly to their doom. Initially drawn to the intelligent but rather unambitious Wildeve she soon discards him when Clym Yeobright - the native of the title - returns to the heath having spent the previous years in that centre of pomp and vanity, Paris. Hearts are broken, tears are shed, the best of intentions lead to the worst of outcomes and tragedy ensues. It's bleak stuff but such was Hardy's gift for description (the way the landscape is described, with its birds and snakes, its insects and animals and the relentless passage of the seasons is exquisitely beautiful), and such was his gift for narrative (the way the story moves from character to character is a masterclass in how to piece together a tale without resorting to any clunky authorial intrusion) that the story is an absolute pleasure to read.

Many scenes linger in the mind: Eustacia standing by the bonfire on November 5th; the play in which Eustacia takes the role of the Turkish Knight; Mrs Yeobright trudging towards her doom on the sun-blasted heath, watching a heron take to the skies like a departing soul; Diggory Venn, covered in red dye, playing dice by the light of glow-worms with Wildeve; an effigy of Eustacia made from wax being cast into the embers of a fire. It's all stunningly visual, moving, passionate and, above all else, so very beautifully described. You can make a case for any one of a half-dozen Hardy novels being the great man's best but, personally, if I could only take one of his books to a desert island then, well, difficult choice though it would be, this is the one I would take.
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The Return of the Native (Oxford World's Classics)
The Return of the Native (Oxford World's Classics) by Thomas Hardy (Paperback - 14 Aug 2008)
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