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on 17 November 2014
The plot has been so much rehearsed and summarised that I do not think there is a requirement to repeat this once more. So, just a few thoughts on the novel. I have read much Hardy over the years, though hitherto had not got around to this – possibly somewhat put off by its reputation for unremitting gloom.
It is a well written and powerful story. For late nineteenth century, certainly candid in its discussion of society’s stultifying sexuality and matrimonial arrangements, thus its reputation when first published as considered, by some, to be an immoral work. The four main characters – Jude Fawley, Sue Bridehead, Phillotson and Arabella all have a combination of frustrating and sympathy-inducing characteristics; there are no real unreconstructed evil monsters in the quartet, and even though Arabella is a selfish and cunning minx, the reader does not feel entirely lacking in empathy with her and the situations she finds herself in.
The overall theme is very much the typical Hardy one whereby characters are battered around by force of circumstance and the utter unpredictability of nature and the universe. There is little they can do about it, except struggle to do they best they can and accept that there is no overall plan to life and no directing deity to provide a rationale or strategy for the suffering that poor folk in the late nineteenth century Wessex experienced.
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on 31 July 2006
When I received this book for Christmas last year, I looked at it and wondered if I would ever read it. Fortunately, I decided to about a month ago and did not regret it. It was a real hard-hitting read;don't be fooled by the blurb which sort of suggests it is a romantic sweet book as it is more powerful than that. It was one of few books that I can honestly say, when finished, left me with a shocked almost sad look on my face(and thats saying something as Iam an avid reader and not much hits me that much). The ending is completely unexpected which keeps you hooked. I highly recommend it.
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If like me, your were put off Hardy by studying him at school or if you have in your mind's eye a writer obsessed with Wessex and a kind of moralising pastoralism, then try reading Jude. Here is a novel written with real emotional conviction and shot through with an anger which only comes from real experience. It is really a book about rebelling against conventions particularly about sexual morality and the aspirations of the artisan. Jude Fawley is an abandoned child who from his earliest years dreams of a richer fuller life both culturally and physically which he believes will be opened to him through higher education, symbolised by the distant spires of Christminster (Oxford). The passion with which Jude adores everything the venerable university stands for is only matched by his awareness of the futility of his dreams but that does not stop his hunger for books and learning which occupy his every free moment as he practices the trade of a stonemason. However, his sensual appetites override his academic ambitions and he finds himself imprisoned in a marriage devoid of the passion that brought it about. Meeting Sue Bridehead who he perceives as his soul mate underlines his captive state and they both come to question the very purpose of marriage resolving to live together without the need for a piece of paper. Yet the consequences of offending Victorian social codes are severe: from social exclusion to the loss of employment and indirectly the death of their children. Sue's response involves a return to the mindset she eschewed in her youth, Jude remains defiant bemoaning the fact that he was `fifty years ahead of his time' and coming to hold his beloved Oxford and its metaphysics in contempt. Rarely has the anguish of broken dreams had more resonance than here. Indeed Hardy prefigures the modernist obsession with self and the clash between impulse and duty. The tone throughout is bleak and often bitter, but the emotional dilemmas are so vivid and authentic that the scenes have genuine pathos and the characters the depth to engender sympathy. The book has a touch of the classical tragedy about it, and even Hardy's rather pedestrian language scarcely limits the power of his heartfelt plea for the tolerance of difference. If you haven't read Hardy begin here, if you think you don't like his work, Jude is the book to change your mind.
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on 12 February 2006
Like many, I read Hardy novels at school rather than through choice. I was put off by his ability to take what seemed like pages to describe a tree!! This book was a gift and I am so grateful for it.
Jude's story is beautiful, heart-breaking, plausible and sincere. His desire to live a content life, demanding very little from society, is thwarted by poverty - and women! I shared his hope, his frustration, his sense of loss and his love for Christminster. I feel richer for having spent my time with Jude and plan to return to Hardy as a grown-up to see what it can offer me today. Do yourself a favour, read this book.
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on 22 October 2004
This is a dreary and depressing novel.......and as such is one of Hardy's finest! Widely renowned, this was Hardy's last novel in his long and rich days of writing. Worth reading perhaps just for that!
Though, let me warn you, this is not to be entered into lightly. It is real reading. The plots are intricate and beautifully proportioned, the characters are stark and individual, and the ending leaves you feeling short of breath and in need of a glass of whiskey.
Hardy has managed to create a deluge of characters that are so incompatible you know that life cannot go on happily for long. Jude the weak and Arabella, Jude the tragic and Sue - it proves to be a stimulating though saddening life story as Hardy follows Jude around his fantasy of Southern England, centring on the towers of Christminster (Oxford).
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on 17 September 2016
So good to read a book written with sincere words and thoughts, no modern nonsense that fills most reading rubbish that is kill,sex,swearing screaming and utter stupidity. THese days of writers were the good old days. BRing back Hardy Dickens, Wordsworth and more.
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on 3 August 2000
This book will absorb you into its pages. I found I could relate to Jude's childhood and that part of the book was pleasant and comforting to read. Once his early dreams begin to evaporate it becomes a sad and touching story of the sacrifices one will make for love. The characters are well developed and I felt I was living the story - a number of times I wanted to shout at Jude not to be so stupid!
A great read, and definitely not a book to rush through.
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on 13 March 2016
Don’t read Thomas Hardy if you want to feel uplifted. Having said that, the two leading characters and plot in this are so implausible that it is difficult to feel moved by the tragedy that the story portrays. Most of the time I was so annoyed and infuriated by the illogical actions of both that the fact that the events contributing to Jude’s downfall are so contrived that I found myself shaking my head in disbelief.
Although Jude himself is at times treated badly by fate, the weakness of will he displays with regard to Arabella is beyond belief; his second and final entrapment by her being near to implausible. This weakness is also apparent in his infatuation with Sue Bridehead, and his steadfastness in this despite her infuriating fickleness in her affection for him. Her behaviour throughout the story would lead any rational person to conclude that she was mentally unstable, and yet he endures this when anyone else would have dumped her long before the almost inevitable conclusion and tragedy. It has been suggested that Hardy may have been trying to portray Sue as a forerunner of the feminist movement, but that’s no excuse for her contradictory and eccentric behaviour.
This infuriating story is a vehicle for Hardy to explore the three themes of marriage, thwarted ambition and, to a lesser extent, class. Through Sue, he challenges the concept of marriage, and when the book was written in the late 19th century, it was perceived as scandalous in suggesting that marriage was an artificial and unnecessary imposition. The story’s conclusion appears to bear this suggestion out, as it largely contributes to final tragic fate of Jude and Sue.
Hardy himself insisted that his main theme was thwarted ambition, and this is certainly the case for Jude. However, class, and thence lack of money and connections significantly contributes to this, and is underlined by his life in Christminster (Oxford), which starkly contrasts his struggles as an artisan against the privileged inhabitants of the gleaming spires.
Against all this must be borne in mind that this was written in 1894, and should be judged with that in mind. We've had 122 years of increasingly sophisticated literature since then, and so Hardy and his contemporaries can seem anachronistic. I wouldn't recommend this as an introduction to Hardy. Try Far From the Madding Crowd and Tess first, although they too display Hardy’s tendency to subject his characters to often unlikely interventions of fate.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 December 2009
This has to be the gloomiest of all Hardy's depressing novels. Jude rises from his rural beginnings to win a scholarship to university but life is never that easy for Hardy's characters. Following his relationships with two very different women, his life takes on a dynamic of its own.

I don't want to spoil the plot for new readers but this novel contains one of the bleakest and most desolate scenes of any book I have read. Hardy's vision is always dark and unflinchingly grim but he outdoes himself here.

A great read, but not my favourite Hardy.
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VINE VOICEon 12 June 2016
The sublime and the ridiculous.

Jude as a boy dreaming of the Spires of Christminster as he sits atop a barn in the late evening sky and later standing outside the college gates as an itinerant stonemason rather than inside as the academic he hoped for, his lifelong dreams shattered. Yet in truth Jude never convinces the reader as having driving ambition. Sue Brideshead describes him as a 'dreamer of dreams...a tragic Don Quixote'. He always seems to be the victim of circumstances yet truly he needs a kick up the jacksie.

In contrast the novel descends into silliness with the reappearance of the lying hound Arabella and the zealotry of the 'tantalising, capricious' Sue Brideshead. A new parlour game of Musical marriages to replace Musical chairs? The attempts of Jude and Sue to live together as 'counterparts' outside the norms of Victorian values of marriage were fascinating. It's a pity Mr Hardy isn't around to explain why he developed the ending the way he did. Still love him though.
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