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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars *mmmmm*
Fab book, of course.

READ BY ALAN RICKMAN.
That man could read the phone book and it'd be a best seller.
Seriously, BUY THIS.
You will not regret it.
Published on 24 Nov 2010 by Beth NicAonghais

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh Dear!
I reluctantly read this book for a Book Club meeting, expecting it, as one of Thomas Hardy's books, to be tedious and it was! It was an interesting look into social conventions of the time, but the story was dull, descriptions of the countryside were overly long and the relationships were not very believable.
Published 25 days ago by Mrs S Rickerby


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars *mmmmm*, 24 Nov 2010
By 
Beth NicAonghais (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Fab book, of course.

READ BY ALAN RICKMAN.
That man could read the phone book and it'd be a best seller.
Seriously, BUY THIS.
You will not regret it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very fine novel, 29 May 2008
I had to read this one at university, ten years ago, and it was my first taste of Hardy. I found it quite difficult to get though at first, mainly due to those long Hardy sentences, but undoubtedly it is a very fine novel, full of haunting and powerful images. I love, in particular, the way that Egdon Heath becomes almost a living, breathing entity.

The description of the Native's mother walking on the Heath in the scorching sun is one of the best pieces of writing I have read in the English language, and has stayed with me, as other vivid images from the book have done - even if I can't remember exactly how they fit in with the rets of the novel.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let it grow on you, and you'll never forget the characters and setting, 17 May 2008
By 
Morena - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
It took me a while to love this book. It was a set text for my A-levels, which is never the best way to meet a book, and the first chapter was not exactly encouraging. Hardy's language, which is filled with allusions to classical mythology, takes some getting used to. And the first chapter is entirely about a heath. Egdon Heath, and some references to obscure mythology for good measure. Throughout the school year, it grew on me - what melodramatic sixteen year old girl would not identify with melodramatic seventeen-year-old Eustacia Vye? - but it wasn't until I took it out in the sun and just simply read it without it being interrupted by class discussions that suddenly I realised I loved this book!

Rerurn of the Native is the story of two mismatched couples and a mother-in-law. Clym is the returning native, back from selling diamonds in Paris and disillusioned with that world. To Eustacia, who longs for excitement, he represents escape. Thomasin is Clym's cousin, a sweet country girl who has got herself entangled with Damon Wildeve, local rake. Oh, and Eustacia and Wildeve have history. And then there is Diggory Venn, an impoverished 'reddleman' (whose job it is to paint the colours on sheep!) one step outside society, who is Thomasin's staunchest and secret advocate.

I loved - if that's the right word - Eustacia's conflicts with Mrs. Yeobright, Clym's mother. The relationship between these two proud women, and a rather oblivious son, really rings true. The characterisation overall is fantastic, and every character is three-dimensional. We watch them fall out over misunderstandings and conflicts of interest, all the while empathising with each party. Even Wildeve, although you've got to love to hate him too.

I also loved the rural world that Hardy evokes, Egdon Heath, which it seems you can never really leave! It was interesting to read about that lost way of life, skimmity-riding and reddlemen! At times, it seems like the heath is alive and interacting with events and characters. A lot of the most important moments are deeply entrenched in the living nature of the heath. All very pagan, in keeping with the novel's intended purpose as a modern tragedy, in keeping with the traditions of Greek tragedy. The rustic characters are pretty funny too. I always smile when I think of Susan poking Eustacia with a knitting needle in church to see if she's a witch!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Ballast to the mind adrift on change", 6 Feb 2012
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
I do not give away any details of the plot in this review of the Penguin Classics edition. This edition comprises the original three-volume version of 1878; the work had previously been published in twelve monthly instalments in `The Belgravia' magazine in the same year. (Hardy regularly made changes to his texts in subsequent editions.) The Penguin Classics set tries to use the original text, "to present each novel as the creation of its own period and without revisions of later times."

I've read Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, Mann and Zweig, Conrad and Trollope, but this is the first time I have read any work of Thomas Hardy. And this was inspired by a Christmas holiday in Dorset close to where Hardy wrote the novel and close too to many of the places in which it is set. (A friend spent much of his childhood living at the Silent Woman Inn on the heath road between Wareham and Bere Regis.) And I must say how impressed I was with the first chapter. Here's an example therefrom of Hardy's descriptive powers:

"To recline on a stump of thorn in the central valley of Egdon, between afternoon and night, as now, where the eye could reach nothing of the world outside the summits and shoulders of heathland which filled the whole circumference of its glance, and to know that everything around and underneath had been from prehistoric times as unaltered as the stars overhead, gave ballast to the mind adrift on change, and harassed by the irrepressible New."

The story is of three men and two women circling each other in a dance of fate and circumstance in rural Dorset. At some points, for example Book 2, chapter 7, it has vestiges of a farce, but I cannot comment as to whether this was Hardy's intention. Sure, there is tragedy here, even - as one commentator argues (see below) - Greek tragedy, but there is some dry Austenesque humour too within these pages.

As with Conrad, I found one has to adapt to reading Hardy. His excellent use of language is not everyday. There are persistent references to biblical, classical, or Renaissance persons and deeds, which presumably meant much to the Victorian reader, but which count for little today. Alas, some extended pieces can become longueurs and some combinations of words grate to the modern mind: "spasmodic abandonment", anyone? He can also be abstruse: "His features were attractive in the light of symbols, as sounds intrinsically common become attractive in language, and as shapes intrinsically simple become interesting in writing."

But there is much glorious writing in this novel too and vividly strong and realistic characterisations of all the main players. This enabled the narrative to move this reader almost to tears on at least two occasions, despite the contrivances of the plot. And it is the narrative plot that is the book's weakest element: too often it cannot carry the burden of its intended direction - a reason, perhaps, for why there has been a lack of film or television adaptations of the book. (And yet Dickens's plots too can suffer from this malady.)

This Penguin edition's sixteen-page introduction by Penny Boumelha - and, as with all `introductions' to classic works, this should be read AFTER the work - digs deep into the novel's workings. She sees it as a novel about failure: "the book seems repeatedly, almost obsessively, focussed on the gap between what its characters want and attempt, and what the world in which they live in will allow." She also cleverly remarks how the returning native becomes ever more isolated as the novel progresses, so that at the end he is virtually blind and withdrawn from society, whereas the journey of Venn the reddleman is the opposite.

On the use and meaning of Hardy's biblical, classical, and Renaissance allusions in the text, Boumelha argues that they underline Clym's quasi-Oedipus status; that "the allusions seek to demand for this realist text and this society of agricultural labourers something of the dignity and grandeur that legendary heroes and tragic forms might be thought to have."

I cannot say that I found Tony Slade's notes in this Penguin edition of particular use, nor his references to Hardy's later emendations of the text. Indeed, often they gave away later details of the plot. But the edition's two appendices are of interest. The first demonstrates the personal reverberations between Hardy's life and his words, that the novel "is something other than a detached historical novel"; the second looks at the original illustrations used for the story's serialisation and Hardy's own map of Egdon Heath. A glossary explaining local rustic terms ends this volume.

So, having read one Hardy novel and enjoyed the experience, I am tempted to move on to another ... but which one?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Hardy's best, but profound - and wonderfully atmospheric - nonetheless, 15 Oct 2010
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
First published in instalments in 1878, The Return of the Native is still an immensely readable and engaging story well over a century later. It's the tale of how the return to Egdon Heath (a fictionalised version of Dorset's Canford Heath) of native son Clym Yeobright affects the lives of those around him: proud, bored romantic Eustacia Vye (whom he marries despite the continuing attentions of fickle suitor Damon Wildeve); his mother; and his cousin Thomasin. It's also the story of how the Heath itself exercises a brooding power over the individuals and events that are encompassed within its boundaries.

Like so many of Hardy's novels, its deeper themes are tradition and change, passionate individuals and the impersonal forces that imperil and doom them. I don't think The Return of the Native is Hardy's best novel, though: too much flows from coincidence, mischance and eavesdropping for it to have the sense of a true tragedy, in which the characters' fates spring fundamentally and inexorably from their own failings. And those characters are uneven, too: I found Eustacia hard to like, Clym earnest rather than appealing. Some of the depictions are actually quite thin - a few deft brush-strokes rather than a finished oil painting - and whilst they are not all `types' by any means, they're sometimes, like Diggory Venn for example, more `caught up in events they have half-consciously set in motion, reacting inarticulately' (Introduction, 21) than they are actants with any real 'body' to them.

Nonetheless, Hardy's sober worldview is every bit as clear in The Return of the Native as in, for example, The Mayor of Casterbridge. We are victims of ourselves, natural laws and chance. The more passionate, rebellious, ambitious, stubborn we are, the more likely the forces of nature are to use our natures to destroy us. As George Woodcock, in his fine introduction to this edition observes, it is those `whose ambitions are small, whose love is disinterested, and whose nature is easy, Diggory and Thomasin, who survive as whole persons' (27). Pessimistic and ultimately conservative, perhaps: but for all its defects, this is still a read that will bring you starkly face to face with some of the great questions about character, purpose, free will and determinism to which humankind will forever be seeking answers.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read, 20 July 2006
By 
This book is one of Hardy's finest; it invokes the landscape better than any of his other novels, particularly Egdon Heath and the people living at, and on its edges. The scenes using the heath are outstanding - the bonfire which is used to "summon" Clem to Eustacia, the games of dice which end up using the light from glow-worms, and the dreadful deadly walk over the heath by Clem's mother in high summer are just tremendous. The novel requires insight and probably doesn't suit adolescents; but for adults, I recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raven-haired hotty takes on Egdon Heath, 13 July 2009
By 
Mr. S. J. Wade "thebardofb6" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Underneath the dense verbiage of the Hardy prose, lies a superb tale. The story of an exotic-looking maid, with the sort of mouth Hardy takes a page to describe. With her daddy coming from Corfu, she brings a raven-haired exotic beauty to the dower and sombre Egdon Heath. She's eaten up with a wanting and a yearning and she'll do anything and ruin any life to get what she wants. So this young vixen needs a man but she can't make her mind up. Her burning passion and love of drama fuel a self-destructive caprice. Blinded by her own narcissism and egotism. Karma? Nemesis? A deus ex machina dressed in red. A snake in the grass. She must escape. She must. Will she? Hardy's exquisitely constructed mechanism relentlessly ticks away, bringing her closer, closer to her fate. Amusing country yokels prividing comic relief.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and challenging piece of literature., 25 Oct 1998
By A Customer
In this gripping story Hardy writes of his native Wessex with a clear passion and understanding. Indeed in this story of mis-loves and ironic coincidence the superbly described 'Egdon Heath' is given characteristics which are only matched by the books' main character, Eustacia Vye. The Heath is not just the setting for the novel but very much the sobering counter balance to Vye's passionate nature. During the novel she tries unsuccessfuly to defeat the Heath which holds her prisoner. I have read this book as a set text piece for A-level and expected a hard going read, but I was instantly captured by the tangible world Hardy creates. I would recommend this novel to anyone who can appreciate the English word at it's very best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic in every sense, 12 Mar 2011
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A real delight to hear this great story beautifully read, in its unabridged form, by brilliant Alan Rickman. Perfect for cold winter evenings by the fire ! Highly recommended, particularly at its reduced price.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Oh Dear!, 26 Mar 2014
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I reluctantly read this book for a Book Club meeting, expecting it, as one of Thomas Hardy's books, to be tedious and it was! It was an interesting look into social conventions of the time, but the story was dull, descriptions of the countryside were overly long and the relationships were not very believable.
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