22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Best Hardy to start,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Woodlanders (Penguin Popular Classics) (Paperback)
There are several writers like Hardy, whose hard, yet ultimately humane, eye is not for everyone. They last, but they don't pick up too many honours in their own lifetimes and they never have the mass popularity of either Dickens or Austin. Both those geniuses also had the knack of appealing to a broad audience without frightening it. Hardy frightens you. He certainly discomforts you and refuses to let you suck your thumb. The only element of escapism in him, really, is the scenery itself! And that's an escape we all make, given the chance, from time to time. He keeps his eye on the subject. He tells you things you might not otherwise want to know and he tells a powerful version of the truth. All 'lads' should read Hardy so that they know what a realistic, 'hard-edged' writer is really like. Hardy despaired after the failure of Jude and happily for us went back to writing poetry, but, like George Meredith or George Gissing or today's DeLillo or Moorcock, Hardy is just too unsentimental for the average reader. The opposite of sentimentality is not swagger and aggression or a catalogue of terrors, but this -- a good-hearted, wise man with a wonderful eye who really can tell the wood from the trees! And to push the comparison harder than Hardy would ever have done, if you don't know Hardy, this is a very smooth entry into the dark, sometimes dramatically bright, forest that is Hardy's genius and a place where all lovers can come. And where they will always learn something to their advantage.