Top positive review
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Let it grow on you, and you'll never forget the characters and setting
on 17 May 2008
It took me a while to love this book. It was a set text for my A-levels, which is never the best way to meet a book, and the first chapter was not exactly encouraging. Hardy's language, which is filled with allusions to classical mythology, takes some getting used to. And the first chapter is entirely about a heath. Egdon Heath, and some references to obscure mythology for good measure. Throughout the school year, it grew on me - what melodramatic sixteen year old girl would not identify with melodramatic seventeen-year-old Eustacia Vye? - but it wasn't until I took it out in the sun and just simply read it without it being interrupted by class discussions that suddenly I realised I loved this book!
Rerurn of the Native is the story of two mismatched couples and a mother-in-law. Clym is the returning native, back from selling diamonds in Paris and disillusioned with that world. To Eustacia, who longs for excitement, he represents escape. Thomasin is Clym's cousin, a sweet country girl who has got herself entangled with Damon Wildeve, local rake. Oh, and Eustacia and Wildeve have history. And then there is Diggory Venn, an impoverished 'reddleman' (whose job it is to paint the colours on sheep!) one step outside society, who is Thomasin's staunchest and secret advocate.
I loved - if that's the right word - Eustacia's conflicts with Mrs. Yeobright, Clym's mother. The relationship between these two proud women, and a rather oblivious son, really rings true. The characterisation overall is fantastic, and every character is three-dimensional. We watch them fall out over misunderstandings and conflicts of interest, all the while empathising with each party. Even Wildeve, although you've got to love to hate him too.
I also loved the rural world that Hardy evokes, Egdon Heath, which it seems you can never really leave! It was interesting to read about that lost way of life, skimmity-riding and reddlemen! At times, it seems like the heath is alive and interacting with events and characters. A lot of the most important moments are deeply entrenched in the living nature of the heath. All very pagan, in keeping with the novel's intended purpose as a modern tragedy, in keeping with the traditions of Greek tragedy. The rustic characters are pretty funny too. I always smile when I think of Susan poking Eustacia with a knitting needle in church to see if she's a witch!