Top positive review
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Brilliant re-creation of Hardy's later years
on 27 January 2014
The author has steeped himself in the story of Hardy, Florence and Gertrude: and re-told the story with graphic immediacy. Few episodes, if any, are pure invention; but the vivid, lucid narrative makes it much more readable than a non-fiction account could be. It makes you re-live the story as Hardy, Florence and Gertrude must have experienced it, in the setting of Max Gate as they knew it.. Parts of the narrative told from the point of view of each; only Gertrude, as in life, comes out with much credit. Not much fun being married to a writer devoted to writing; perhaps writers should only marry other writers.... Yet this novelist makes you feel sympathy for them all in their tense relationships. One of the most moving scenes is Florence's visit to Gertrude's cottage, to persuade her not to fulfil her life's ambition of acting the part of Tess in London, as she had triumphantly done in Dorchester. This again is authentic, as recorded in Florence's correspondence with Cockerell. The only `historical' mistake is in the description of Lawrence of Arabia as `a tall young man', when in fact he was just over 5ft 5": the writer must be thinking of Peter O'Toole in the film; but this does not detract from the magnificent book.