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A Pair of Blue Eyes Paperback – 30 Oct 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Paperback, 30 Oct 2012
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Product details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (30 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1480212849
  • ISBN-13: 978-1480212848
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

Product Description

About the Author

Thomas Hardy, (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist, in the tradition of George Eliot, he was also influenced both in his novels and poetry by Romanticism, especially by William Wordsworth. Charles Dickens is another important influence on Thomas Hardy. Like Charles Dickens he was also highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focussed more on a declining rural society. While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life, and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898. Initially therefore he gained fame as the author of such novels as Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A Pair of Blue Eyes has a special place in Hardy's fiction. It is his most autobiographical novel, being based in part on his youthful courtship of Emma Gifford, the woman who was to become his first wife. Indeed, while the novel was the third of his works to be published Hardy could never quite refrain from tinkering with the text all through his life. After Emma's death, and as remorse and regret for his cold neglect of her during her life took hold, Hardy returned to A Pair of Blue Eyes over and over again, almost as though he were reluctant to let it, and the memories of Emma it brought back to him, fade away into the dark.

The plot is a simple one. A young girl, Elfrida Swancourt - the owner of the sparkling blue eyes of the title - falls in love first with a young architect, Stephen Smith, and then, when Stephen travels to India to make his fortune, with Stephen's mentor, the learned and erudite Henry Knight. Elfrida's troubled indecision in choosing between her two suitors forms the focus of the novel, but what makes it soar way above so much romantic Victorian fiction is the beauty of Hardy's prose. The book contains dozens of superbly written dramatic episodes. Most famous of these is the incident where Henry Knight finds himself precariously hanging from the ledge of a cliff, his fingers gradually losing their hold, and with his life depending entirely upon whether Elfrida can find a way to rescue him. Of course she does, but only by removing a number of her undergarments (in the pouring rain of course) and knotting them into a rope so Henry can hoist himself to safety.
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Format: Paperback
It is often said that Hardy was more accomplished as a poet than as a novelist. Hardy himself admitted that whereas his novels brought him financial stability, poetry was his first and true love.

I, however, by far prefer his prose. Hardy's poetry is fixated on the same old, tired topics, and seems far too interested in versification to enable to it be well-rounded and deep. It's messy and disorientated. But, in prose, free from contrivedly experimental verse-form and the pattern of rhyme and meter, Hardy's brilliance as a writer is exposed.

A Pair of Blue Eyes is not, I suppose, on the same level as Tess of the D'Urbervilles or Jude the Obscure, but it is clean and direct, simple and earnest. Being an early novel, it seems more natural and less laboured in its presentation.

The characters are not always sympathetic, but they are rendered to the reader with such honesty that even if you do not come to like them, they at least have lasting impact. Interestingly, we have no hero or heroine. At first you might think it is Elfride Swancourt, the beautiful clergyman's daughter with the blue eyes of the title (an obvious interpretation of Hardy's first wife, Emma Gifford. Both she and the Cornwall setting of the novel are immortalised in such poems as Beeny Cliff and At Castle Boterel), but then Stephen Smith (who echoes Hardy somewhat), the thoroughly good and naive architect, comes onto the scene. Yet he cannot be the hero is the novel--he is absent for most of it!

Smith is the most sympathetic of the characters, and it is made a victim of, and wronged. But hang on--I don't want you to think that this novel is about good and bad people, wrongdoers and victims. As I have said, the characters are far too rounded for that.
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Format: Paperback
I'm loving Thomas Hardy more and more with every book of his that I read. A Pair of Blue Eyes was one of his earliest books, originally serialised in Tinsley's Magazine from September 1872 to July 1873. Although this is not generally noted as being one of his better novels and is certainly one of his least well known, there was something about it that appealed to me - and I would even say that of all the classics I've read so far this year, this might be my favourite.

A Pair of Blue Eyes is the story of Elfride Swancourt, a vicar's daughter living in a remote corner of England, who is forced to choose between two very different men. One of these, Stephen Smith, is a young architect whom she meets when he is sent by his employer to survey the church buildings. At first, the vicar approves of Stephen and encourages his daughter to spend time with him. It soon emerges, however, that Stephen has been hiding an important secret from the Swancourts; something that could put his relationship with Elfride in jeopardy. Later in the book, another man arrives at Endelstow Vicarage - Henry Knight, an essayist and reviewer from London - and Elfride has to make a difficult decision.

As you might expect with this being a Hardy book, nothing goes smoothly for any of the characters. I would describe A Pair of Blue Eyes as being similar in some ways to the later Tess of the d'Urbervilles, though not as dark and bleak - and not quite as tragic either.

The descriptions of scenery in this book are stunningly beautiful and bring the setting vividly to life. If you're familiar with Hardy you'll know that he sets most of his works in the fictional region of Wessex in the southwest of England. This story actually takes place in Off-Wessex or Lyonesse, which equates to Cornwall.
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