Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Crisp taut and readable, 21 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man (Hardcover)
Unadorned and undeviating can be similarly applied to Claire Tomalin's rapid and readable romp through the life of the novelist and poet. The events keep the reader avidly reading on, and her perspicacious treatment of the novels and poetry reflects her love for her subject. This shines out right from the start of the book. For instance in the preface she picks up on the last verse of one of Hardy's most poignant poems `At Castle Boterel'; verses guaranteed to touch the heart--- and to inspire recourse to the whole poem.

Tomalin crams Hardy's eighty seven years into three hundred and seventy six pages without leaving much out, as she traces his life from son of a small country builder to worldwide acclaim as a consummate writer, and examines his genius for transporting commonplace scenes and occupations into literary immortality.

There is plenty to occupy her: the discomfort Hardy felt in his humble origins, a complex that haunted him all his life; rejection of his early novels bravely borne; religious ambivalence; censure from scornful critics; the beginnings of recognition; the triumph of unparalleled success; and not least the paradoxical attitude he adopted to his wives and loves. For Hardy has been criticised for disparaging Emma during her later years, and then blatantly mourning her in elegies that make up some of his finest poetry while married to his second wife Florence. Tomalin's evaluation of these and other Hardyesque enigmas is objective and emphasises the fact that writing only succeeds when the author is deeply moved by the subject. Tomalin is. She understands how it must have hurt Florence; but that's Hardy.

The book can't really be faulted; it's a fluent account of an epic life. And this reviewer rejects the censure that Tomalin's unsubstantiated conjectures are detrimental; after all, readers will draw their own conclusions on the food for thought they offer. Finally on a mundane note the book (mine a hardback version)is a handsome thing in itself, with its whimsical cover portrait and dark blue end papers, and there's a brilliant index which makes finding comment on the novels and poems an absolute doddle.
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