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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
68
4.5 out of 5 stars


on 4 May 2017
What is it they say, a picture paints a thousand words. In Hardy's case a few words paint a thousand pictures. To me, this is Hardy at his best, chapter by chapter the images created transport the reader back to the Victorian era. The plot and sub plots continue to create intrigue and demonstrate that a century later, much of what went on then, still happens today. Excellent read, thoroughly enjoyed
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on 25 September 2017
the lady i got this book for is very pleased with it
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on 14 July 2017
Interesting characters and descriptions of life in tines gone by. Good feeling for the people and places of long ago
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on 29 April 2017
A good edition of a superb classic.
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VINE VOICEon 3 July 2011
The eternal love triangle in the middle of a sylvan setting. Little Hintock is a place of meditation, passivity, narrow reasoning and very closely knit. The returning hero is not some male hussar but teenager Grace educated beyond her 'peculiar station'.

Grace Melford is not a very appealing figure; tame, passive, a bit of a daddy's girl. To be fair, through no fault of her own she is trapped 'between two planes of society'. The two planes are exemplified by the Concorde that is snobbbish Dr Fitzpiers and the Tiger Moth that is 'earthly' Giles Winterbourne.

Fitzpiers is far more fun than 'man of the soil' Giles. He behaves like a proper mountebank considering himself 'a different species' from the locals, availing himself of both the village trollop and the upper class totty before driving a coach and horses through the topical Divorce Laws.

Many critics believe this to be some sort of Darwinian inspired novel but I found this more a novel about social class and choice. I would love to be in the classroom if this book is being taught in a culture which supports arranged marriages.

Other reviewers rate this as one of Hardy's best but I found it a bit worthy and, like Mr South's tree, in need of a bit of pruning. I also endorse another reviewer's comments about the spoiler 'Notes' in the Penguin edition.
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on 27 May 2012
For some reason, this book sat on my shelf for a while before I started to read it and then when it took a while to 'get going' - even compared to some of Hardy's similar works - I almost put it down. A little further on though, I was glad that I persisted. Plenty of other reviewers have previously outlined the plot, so I will mention instead that what I enjoyed was the diversity of characters - some advantaged, some not, some gracious and accepting, others spoiled and shallow but each with their own lot to bear. There are some good relationships between them, as well. The father-daughter one in particular made me despair and it must be testament to Hardy's writing that it is still possible to become emotionally involved with his characters' plights, even though they are confined by class and conventions to which it can now be difficult to relate.

This Wordsworth Classics version has annotated text and I found that this helped with some of Hardy's more obscure classical references.

If you're already a Hardy fan, this may reward a little early perseverance.
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on 14 April 2001
Why do there seem to be so many underrated novels? Perhaps in this case it is because Hardy has written so many great novels. In my opinion, "The Woodlaners," "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" and "Far from the Madding Crowd" are is chef-d'oeuvres.
Although the genesis of the novel may seem quite difficult, it soon becomes an absolute pleasure to read. In portraying the life Grace Melbury and Giles utter devotion for her Hardy surely produces a novel of tragic proportions - even worth of the tragedy of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." Hardy succeeds in creating characters whom we loathe and whom we love by weaving a complex mood where passion, money , ambition and love are principal themes. His descriptive power is hypnotic and he is surely one of the best writers ever.
"The Woodlanders" was the first Thomas Hardy that I read and I would recommend it highly to anyone who has not read Hardy before.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 December 2009
This, I think, is my favourite Hardy novel. While it doesn't have the depth of the later books such as Return of the Native or Jude the Obscure, something about the sadness of all these lives really appeals to me.

Hardy is a masterful plotter and here, especially, we can see the strands winding together to create an organic whole which puts some contemporary writers who are known for their plots to shame.

But the characters, too, are utterly alive: Grace who has been educated beyond her station in life; Marti who loves a man who will never love her; Giles whose life takes a downward turn through no fault of his own, and Dr Fitzpiers, the outsider who upsets the rural life of Sherborne.

Hardy is never an upbeat read, but for a glorious wallow in tragedy and fate he really can't be beaten.
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VINE VOICEon 29 July 2008
The other Hardy novels I've read, Return of the Native and Tess of the d'Urbervilles, centre around exotic, sensual women who stand out like a sore thumb in their community. Grace Melbury is no such heroine - she's more real. Instead of heaping superlatives on her, Hardy tells us early on that she looks completely unremarkable and that "what people therefore saw of her in a cursory view was very little; in truth, mainly something that was not she". She's a cautious, intelligent but sometimes naive girl, who's been alienated from her rustic roots through the faraway education and travels that her proud father insisted upon for his only, adored child. There's nothing innately special about Grace, but she bears her unwanted position gracefully. Then suddenly, she finds herself in a situation where resignation and grace are not enough. She takes responsibility for her actions, rebels and finds her passions. And then, in the end, she makes the best of her lot in an unexpected way. She's no idol, but a woman we can sympathise with, who finds she has to make tough choices and sacrifices as she grows up.

Typically, there is no neat happy ending. The book is filled with images of unilateral taking and longing. Each character aspires to someone 'superior'. Felice Charmond, the lady of the manor at the top of the scale, doesn't even know what she wants, as long as it will stave off her boredom for a few hours. She lives a rootless, vain life, involving herself in Little Hintock only to exploit it. Nobody has much to call their own - it's life for rent. Marty's hair, the life-hold cottages which must revert back to Mrs. Charmond, even the villager's own dying bodies which Fitzpiers tries to buy for scientific experiments. For me, it underlined the unfair lot of those who are tied to the land and held in contempt by their so-called betters. Considering the ill effects of Grace's 'over-education', Mrs. Charmond's ennui and Fitzpier's dissatisfaction and dilletantism in abstract philiosophy, I think Hardy felt that closeness to nature and a simple, focused life were the best way to happiness and integrity.

I also found The Woodlanders quite daring in its relative openness about sex and divorce. However, the more dramatic, emotional parts of the novel only really kick in after half-way through. I would still reccommend sticking with it in the slow first half, and absorbing the overlooked sadness of Marty South and the hapless, noble Giles, as well as the woodland atmosphere.

The witty side of this book needs to be spoken up for, too. It really isn't a misery-fest - several times I laughed, and not just in compartmentalised "rustic" parts, either. Unlike perhaps in Return of the Native, the main characters are not godly creatures living out their destiny on a superior plane, but are gently poked fun at every now and again. Giles' party and the man-trap incident spring to mind.

It is also beautifully written and I found it a little more immediately accessible than 'Native' and 'Tess'. It's not too long either, at 305 pages. I would definitely recommend it for somebody wishing to try Hardy out - after all, it was his own favourite!
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on 22 August 2017
Probably Thomas Hardy's strongest novel.
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