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on 15 June 2003
The painter Poussin's famous title might stand as a rubric for this lovely book. Hardy views his cast of rustics through the prism of music: the old church stringed instruments choir is to be replaced with the spanking new organ. There is the added romantic interest of young musician Dick Dewy and the female organist, Fancy Day, who is controversially going to play the large mechanical new organ.

This is a story of established customs breaking down through the interloper: a new vicar in town. Structurally divided into Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, it follows the natural rhythms of the earth and of society. Hardy revels in his descriptive powers.

Filled with nostalgia and that increasingly fashionable concept - "Englishness", and seasoned with wisdom and wit, this is truly fabulous - a mini-masterpice in a similar bag to, say, Mrs. Gaskell's "Cranford".

"Under the Greenwood Tree" was deservedly Hardy's own favourite among his novels.
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on 20 February 2008
I adore Thomas Hardy's work. I recently re- read this beautiful novel. Under the Greenwood tree is a poignant little novel. It is a tale of a traditional country community, it's choir, which is under threat and a romance. The novel highlights the beginnings of change for such communities, through the travails of the "Melstock Quire", which is being threatened by the introduction of a new organ. Meanwhile Dick Dewey pursues school mistress Fancy Day - although he is not her only admirer. There is a gentleness and warmth to the characters we meet in Melstock, their traditions and concerns become ours, it is an absolute joy, a real timeless clasic. Hardy's England is a place I could happily live I think.
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on 13 September 2012
Difficult to get into, but worth the effort

I confess though that the book took me a while to get into. While the very opening was a wonderful description of place, as became typical of Hardy's later writing, he then launches into a very confused scene.

As a reader, my preference is always for characters to be introduced fairly slowly, one at a time, so you can get to distinguish between them and learn to love or hate their various characteristics. What we have here is a whole choir (sometimes spelled colloquially as quire) who are introduced to us all at once. In such an introduction, I found it very difficult to tell them apart. From there, much of the dialogue in the first half of the book was hard to follow. This is compounded by one of Hardy's notable features: his writing in the rural vernacular. Though noticeable in his later books, the speech here is particularly impenetrable at times.

The story really only then picks up in the second half, where two main characters emerge out of the crowd: Dick Dewey and Fancy Day. There is a very gentle romance between these two which is very engaging and shows off Hardy's great talent as a writer of romance. But things in the world of Hardy's Wessex rarely run without a hitch. Some family objections are thrown into the path of the two lovers, seemingly hindering them from their path to matrimony. Also, though they may seem young and innocent, at least one of the two parties, during the course of their engagement, does not exactly rebuff all advances made their way. As for the ending, I shall leave for you to see who it was that wore the wry smile and why.

I could not say that I agree with those who think this one of Hardy's best novels. However, as a work of fiction, it is as good, if not much better, than most other works of the 19th century. Though it is very short, the denseness of the language in the first half of the novel should not be underestimated. But if you can find a tree to sit under for a couple of sunny days, then this would find accompaniment to that idyllic scene.
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Although this title doesn't immediately spring to mind when you mention Thomas Hardy, it is probably in the terms of worldwide sales, the most popular. There is a good reason for this, it is not too long, an easy read, and an ideal piece of escapism.

The story itself has as an underlining plot, the romance between Fancy Day and the men who want to marry her, Dick Dewey, the vicar Mr Maybold, and the farmer Mr Shiner. To be honest, you always know what man Fancy will eventually choose but that doesn't stop this being enjoyable. At the same time you have another plot that involves Maybold wanting to abolish his musicians and replace them with an organ.

I forget who said that it is lovely to wrap up in the warm and read Hardy, and with the wind blowing here this is an ideal time to snuggle down and read, or re-read Hardy, I must admit that I often do so. What is also good about this tale is the whole atmosphere that Hardy creates throughout the seasons, and the different characters that all live in the area.
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on 6 November 2015
We were made to read this book at school when we were 14. It put me off reading Hardy for 5/6 years - I was too young to appreciate it. This book never palls with me. It's enchanting, touching and very Dorset.
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on 12 February 2010
This is my first Thomas Hardy book, recommended as it eases you into his style of writing, and man alive is it a strange style! Hardy makes sure the conversations of country folk sound genuine so you get a lot of "ye", "o'ny", "squizzling", "stimmilent", "onmistakable", "husbird", all of which takes a lot of getting used to. The main character, Dick Dewy, is a "tranter" something I had to look up -it's basically a driver.

Anyway, Dick Dewy falls for the new schoolmistress, the ridiculously named Fancy Day, courting her with competition from Farmer Shiner and Vicar Medley. The side story is of the church "quire" (choir) made up of fiddle players being phased out in favour of an organ played by Fancy Day. I say story, that's it really. As for Dick Dewy, he of course marries Fancy Day.

It's a very gentle and good natured volume, a bit like reading about hobbits (the impression I got from their odd way of talking) and their obsessions with carol singing, cider, and "nutting" (something about gathering nuts). A cross between The Darling Buds of May, and the Wind in the Willows but the characters are humans. Tolerably quaint, even amusing at times. There is an attempt at drama toward the end which is quickly resolved and seemed, frankly, a bit of a cheap lunge at the reader's attention and is quickly resolved anyway. That said, there's very little here besides and I guess that Hardy's reputation comes from more famous books "Jude the Obscure", "Tess of the d'Ubervilles" etc. than from this novel. Not a great book but a nice introduction to Hardy's writing and, from what I hear of his other books, probably his least depressing.
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on 13 June 2015
Another classic by Thomas Hardy, who seems to deeply understand the nature of the country people of this period and who questions their understandable but erroneous beliefs concerning human nature and human relationships. I am rereading this again after 40 odd years and still see the relevance of his wisdom to modern life.
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on 28 June 2015
This was bought as a surprise gift to remind my sister of her O level exam in 1955, she was delighted with the book and I was delighted with the price. Thomas Hardy is back 'in the limelight' after the success of the film Far from the maddning crowd.
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on 15 January 2014
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 local library doesn't stock a great amount of classics. The books are good quality and great value.
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on 9 October 2013
Under the Greenwood Tree (Wordsworth Classics) wonderful you must also read his others too if you hven't done so already ie Far from the Madding Crowd (Wordsworth Classics) The Mayor of Casterbridge, Jude the Obscure especially
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