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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 12 December 2012
Prior to reading this, I was led to believe that it was quite un-Hardy-esque in every conceivable aspect. I took this to mean it was quite unlike his other writings in style, themes, use of language and of characterisation, etc. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is not a wholly accurate description of Desperate Remedies at all. In fact, it's really a rather good book with many features in it that readers of Hardy's more famous works may well recognise.

The story revolves around the affairs of one Cytheria Graye, whose father dies at the start of the novel and who leaves no inheritance of any value. So her desperate remedy, encouraged by her protective brother, Owen, is to take up residence as a domestic assistant to a middle-aged spinster, Miss Aldclyffe (who seemed to have been somewhat inspired by Miss Haversham from Dickens' Great Expectations). The opening of the book takes the reader down some tunnels, with sudden twists and turns in the plotline, though with such a tight focus, I will admit that something of the locational scale of Hardy's later writing was missing.

Eventually, the story settles to a more rural pace and we find ourselves in a story of unrequieted love, foiled affairs and underhanded manipulation of the characters. Mid-way through the book, almost the whole cast of characters are thrown together in a tumultuous event, with the remainder of the book dealing with the fallout thereof. I hesitate to be more specific, lest I spoil the book for anyone. It is only in the resolution that Hardy really goes in a different direction than that which he took with his later novels. Yet one can clearly see early hints here of later writings such as Far From The Madding Crowd, Jude The Obscure and The Return of the Native.

The pace of the book is a little uneven, with turgid, aimless passages suddenly giving way to a flurry of prose of exciting events and vivid imagery. While it may be a little off the beaten track in terms of the Hardy canon, it is by no means the weakest of his writings and I'd encourage you to dive in.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 September 2015
I wouldn’t exactly call myself a Hardy aficionado – having only (I think) previously read Tess of the d’Urbevilles, which I did like a lot – but this 1871 novel (which was first published anonymously) was recommended to me. And, I am glad I took up the recommendation since Desperate Remedies is a highly engaging read, mixing elements of romance, thriller and (even) detective novel. Given this combination, Hardy’s novel thus reminds me (to an extent) of Dickens – we have the common plot element from the period of 'hidden family histories’ to be revealed later – and, even more so, Dickens’ novelist friend Wilkie Collins, as the novel’s heroines, the two Cythereas – one an aristotocratic lady, the other a young, impoverished orphaned woman – discovering a past familial connection, become ensnared in an increasingly fast-moving tale of deception, coercion, blackmail and murder.

Hardy’s writing style is (typically for the period) quite convoluted and takes a little getting used to, but this does not detract from what is a thoroughly engaging read and one that comes highly recommended.
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This is Thomas Hardy's first published novel. Don't think that this is a pastoral novel, because it isn't, it's usually considered to be a sensation novel. Although it has elements of the sensation genre in it, it also has aspects of other genres as well, making it hard to fit neatly into one niche. As usual Hardy gives us fully rounded characters that we can feel for and understand. This book is probably more psychological than most of his novels and gives us a nice pot boiler of a story. Some of the actions of the protagonists in this book don't always seem to make sense, but as you read on everything falls into place.

When this book was first published it was criticised and courted controversy, something which Hardy would see time and again throughout his novel writing years, but as always with Hardy his novels are pure perfection. He breaks through the conventions of nineteenth century novel writing to give us a more realistic story, and although in this book the 'baddies' get their come-uppance and the 'goodies' get a happy ending as was traditional, we get something more. Our baddie in this book isn't treated as someone purely evil but is treated sympathetically, reminding us that not everything is black and white, but usually varying shades of grey.
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on 10 November 2012
I really enjoyed this book. It is fast paced and full of mystery and twists and turns, not hard going at all for a book written 150 years ago. Not as heart wrenching as Tess but good fun!
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on 19 September 1999
'Desperate Remedies' was Hardy's first published novel. The story of an orphaned brother and sister (Tom and Cytherea), their friend Edward and their relationships to an aristocratic lady (Miss Aldcliffe) and her steward (Manston).
The story begins like many of Hardy's novels with a gentle development of the relationship between Cytherea, Tom and Edward. One would be forgiven for thinking that the whole book will progress in this way. However, don't be fooled and persevere because very quickly it develops into a Victorian pot boiler with fires, murder, conspiracy and much sneaking about in the middle of the night.
The storey is riveting and if you haven't enjoyed Hardy in the past please try this book as it is very different from his later work. Although the book is commercial, his genius shines through as does his ability to communicate the complex relationships between classes and sexes in Victorian society.
On the down side, Hardys patronising misogynism that is so evident in all his books shines through as does the transparent way in which he uses the male characters to represent what he considers to be all the finer characteristics of his own personality.
This is a small price to pay for what is a great book and which will appeal at a range of levels from Victorian melodrama through to sophisticated description of Victorian mores and society. If that's not enough watch out for the lesbian scene which Hardy was able to get past the censors because they didn't have a clue what he was talking about!
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on 8 September 2014
This is the third Thomas Hardy novel I've read and I really enjoyed it (unlike "Under the Greenwood Tree"). The story is interesting and keeps you guessing with some neat twists. Characterisation was good for all the main characters except for Miss Aldclyffe whose motives were never fully explained.
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on 8 February 2016
This must be the worst book Hardy ever wrote, just could not settle to it, and I am a big Hardy fan, so beware!
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on 8 March 2016
Tiny print, had to squint
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on 21 June 2001
The first Hardy I have read - and sadly, I am disappointed.
I enjoyed the plot, which did twist and turn (but only in the last third of the novel) and was very engaging. In addition, I was engrossed in the book after the wedding of Cytherea to Manston. The following chapters were the most frantic and very fast-paced.
The bad points were that the characters were insufficiently explored or described by Hardy (unlike a typical C19th Russian Lit. novel of a similar ilk). For example, I was utterly unconvinced of the love between Cytherea and Edward Springrove. In addition, there was no psychological explanation of Manston's condition; no clue as to why he was capable of murder. The characters could have shined more brightly, had Hardy bothered to place more emphasis on them rather than the geography of the novel (which has some scenes in London).
The Editors placed too much emphasis on the sexual undertones of the novel which I thought were very minimal indeed. The so-called lesbian scene is nothing of the sort and to a C21st audience a 'lesbian scene' has a very different meaning. Clearly there were some sexual references, but they did not add to the experience (unlike Tolstoy's 'Kreutzer Sonata').
On the strength of this, I shall read another novel by Hardy, but with a lowered expectation. If one is expecting revelations on the human condition, search elsewehere. It is however an undemanding read, and will bring short-lived pleasure - perfect for a train journey to the West country.
Gus Symons
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