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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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This collection of 6 short stories is a great introduction to the major works of Thomas Hardy. It eases you into his way of writing so when you come to read his novels you'll undertand more of what he is about.

Two of the stories are somewhat alike in that they both contain a person who has a horrid job (can't say anymore otherwise it could be a spoiler). My favourite however, was The Withered Arm which is a bit like a horror story and is really quite certainly would have been thought of as such in Hardy's time I am sure.

A great book and I recommend it.
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on 14 March 2012
Wessex Tales is a beautifully crafted series of short stories, typically not of the most joyful outcomes, but the grammar and vocabulary leaves modern novels shallow and simple. All the stories draw the reader into the heart of Hardy country and tells of small domestic incidents but also gives great insite into psychology and how this effects the characters so exquisitely woven by Hardy.

A good starter book for readers who have not been able to read Hardy in the past.
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on 26 May 2012
This is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of short stories with morals or twists - or both - and some well drawn characters. It is an easily-read collection that would provide a gentle introduction to Hardy's style of writing. And the free Kindle version means that you risk nothing by giving them a go.
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Wordsworth Classics are excellent value. "Wessex tales" is well worth more than the book price for "The Withered Arm" alone - a wonderfully atmospheric piece that maintains its unrelenting grip throughout. The story evokes the Dorset countryside and its people with as much success as it continally creates chilling frissons via its cleverly paced plot. A great read. Not to be missed.
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on 13 December 2010
This collection of short stories is by no means Hardy's best work, but it is nonetheless a worthwhile read. I won't review each an every story here, but I will bring your attention to what I believe are the two best. They are The Three Strangers and The Distracted Preacher, which bookend the collection of tales.

The Three Strangers is an oddly comic tale, quite uncharacteristic from some of Hardy's more fatalistic tragedies. It is a well-constructed tale regarding the activities of the local hangman, although the 'twist' is rather obvious. But that does not diminish from my enjoyment of the story.

The Distracted Preacher is far and away the best story of the lot. It is very much in the mould of Hardy's more famous novels, where love is thwarted by circumstances and by social and moral standards that must be seen to be maintained. The setting is reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn, though it has to be noted that Hardy's tale was written several decades earlier, raising the interesting question as to whether or not Jamaica Inn was influenced by The Distracted Preacher.

The rest of the stories are OK, but to me, they didn't really stand out and I was left with a feeling of just plain indifference towards them. They weren't especially bad, but they weren't especially good either; certainly not compared to the two highlighted tales here or to Hardy's more famous novels.

In conclusion, I would recommend this, though not as a book to read cover to cover. Rather, it is better to take each story individually and not start one as soon as you have finished another.
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on 30 December 2011
Surprisingly easy to read for tales written so long ago and although two of them have a similar theme they are different enough in the end. The tale of the Withered Arm has a slightly supernatural feel to it but it's none the worse for that, and this particular story gives a good idea of how things were in those days.
A book that you could safely lend to Granny - but she's probably read it anyway
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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 21 January 2016
This book contains a number of short stories by Thomas Hardy. The writing is well up to the expectations of this west country author and is set in the Dorset countryside around the town of Casterbridge (Dorchester).
These stories have the customary sting in the tail. The book overall is a superb read. I highly recommend it.
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on 11 August 2010
Professor Michael Irwin, plodding through his obligatory academia-sheen intro to this edition, tells us that many Hardy novels can be identified from their first line alone. So it's gurt lush like that five out of the seven short stories here start with some reference to agricultural England, the south-west, meadows, ewes, cows, dairies, milkers, and a town (of the singular and non-bustling variety). Which is fair enough really, as Hardy's animus was his personal vision of the region he grew up and spent most of his life in; his Wessex, a Dorset of the past, worn away by the same inevitable forces of fate and time he sets up against all his most memorable characters.

In his General Preface to the Novels and Poems, Hardy described how one of his aims as a novelist was to "to preserve for my own satisfaction a fairly true record of a vanishing life", and his method seems surprisingly modern. In all the Wessex Tales he stresses his separation from the narrative by presenting it as a piece of local myth, a story passed on through the generations. All the tales are brought up from the past, "fifty years ago a lonely cottage stood...", adding to the dreamlike quality of Wessex, a place that never really exists but in the imagination of Hardy himself, but which you half expect to see popping out of local archives and museum daguerreotypes.

Some of the stories are linked directly to historic events of the early to mid 1800's; like the stationing of the King's guard's at Lyme Regis, and Napoleon's possible reconnoitring of the south coast. Some stories are pure drama, or even horror; The Withered Arm has a healthy macabre edge to it. The two major stories, novellas almost, Fellow-Townsmen and Interlopers at the Knap, are brilliant examples of Hardy's depiction of people at the whim of not only their own ineluctable fate, but also their own failures of character. People who fail to make that stand for their own, and because the blank universe itself will not intercede, fail to take what was there for them all along.

The Wessex Tales are a great introduction to Hardy's general themes, his naturalistic approach, and his questioning of late Victorian social morality. You can read any of them in a sitting and none of them disappoint. Can't ask for more than that.... except for maybe a happy ending here or there.
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on 23 May 2016
Having visited Hardy Country - I wanted to read more. Wessex tales provide a flavour of Hardy in short stories - an ideal read for those who have or going to visit Dorset.

The price was excellent and delivery was swift
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