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VINE VOICEon 29 September 2013
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This is a sweet story of love and village life as only Hardy can portray poetically beautiful in every sentence. Fancy Day returns to Mellstock to look after her father. She is soon noted by the villagers as a potential wife and rumours start on which man she will choose.

The story is as much of Fancy's choice in husband as it is in the old way of life being threatened by the new. This is lead by the Reverend Maybold who's insistence on replacing the village choir with an organ, to be played by the educated Fancy, in the church is the first instance of how rural communities would be changed forever.

This is one of my favourites not just for Fancy's story but as an insight into village through the changing seasons of the English countryside.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 August 2013
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Modest, cheerful, charming, short and sweet - this is very different from the more usual dark and brooding gloom and tragedy that work so well in Hardy's literary world. Written about 20 or so years before the `great' novels (Tess,Jude,The Mayor of Casterbridge), this is recognisably Hardy - the agricultural Wessex setting, the `chorus' of rural folk, the marriage plot - but it's a short and simple story with little emotional depth and an uncharacteristically happy ending.

There are elements here which we can identify as being re-worked with greater effect and sophistication in the later books: the three suitors for a marriageable girl (Far from the Madding Crowd ), aspects of Fancy Day's character which reappear in some of Hardy's more complex women, the idea of a girl educated above her station (The Woodlanders).

For all its simplicity, though, this is a charming story. Dick Dewey is adorable - far too good, in my opinion, for vain, shallow, Fancy Day, the little minx! - as are members of the `quire'; and some of the comedy is surprisingly funny. But this is definitely Hardy lite, and gives only the slightest flavour of the grander novels to come.

This Oxford edition is a reliable text with a short introductory essay and some interesting appendices: Mallett's introduction tries to talk up the `melancholy' aspect of the text but I'm not terribly convinced by his argument. Incidentally, if you're new to the novel, don't read the introduction first as it assumes you're familiar with the plot.

So this is an easy and accessible read but I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a first read to someone new to Hardy: the later books are far richer, more complex, and struggle with issues of how personality and environment shape the destiny of characters. This is certainly short and sweet but the depth and resonance of Hardy's later novels is distinctly missing.
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VINE VOICEon 20 November 2013
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Oxford World Classics are fantastic books. Classic novels with the addition of introductions, notes, footnotes and appendices all add comprehension of the text and will aid literature students with understanding and appreciation alike.
I really enjoyed this book. I have only read one other book by Hardy, Tess of the D'Ubervilles, and I much prefer this book. Set in the English countryside, there are country folk and village life throughout and it reminded me of The Darling Buds of May a number of centuries previous.

I would reommend this as a perfect text for students of English Literature
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There are number of very good reviews of this novel. I believe the other reviewers have given a good plot overview. So here goes on my thoughts, for what they're worth. For my part I was introduced to Hardy's work in my English Literature class and even then I enjoyed the narrative and skill of his storytelling, for Hardy this was his second novel and unlike his later works the tale has a happier ending the lead protagonists getting married and the conclusion being more cordial.

This was also the first of his, well noted, series of Wessex books. For me there are two themes that run through the book, firstly - the romantic nature -our main lead one Dick Dewy is besotted, with the comely Miss Fancy Day as he tries entering into the life and affections Miss Day. However, Fancy's good looks have earned her the attention of other suitors, including a well to do farmer and the new vicar at the parish church. The second underlying theme is the changing nature of rural town life in the middle of the nineteenth century, as the Industrial Revolution takes hold on England.

As with other notable works that have been `reproduced' in the Oxford Word's Classic series of books there is a wealth of additional information that accompanied the narrative. There are explanatory notes, and good glossary. There is also a very good introduction which prefaces the work. This book is maybe less well known than Hardy's other works, but for me you get to see the initial `ground work' that is laid down by the author for his later works and gives the reader good insights into the authors machinations.
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on 19 May 2013
This is my first Thomas Hardy book, recommended as it eases you into his style of writing, and man alive is it a strange style! Hardy makes sure the conversations of country folk sound genuine so you get a lot of "ye", "o'ny", "squizzling", "stimmilent", "onmistakable", "husbird", all of which takes a lot of getting used to. The main character, Dick Dewy, is a "tranter" something I had to look up -it's basically a driver.

Anyway, Dick Dewy falls for the new schoolmistress, the ridiculously named Fancy Day, courting her with competition from Farmer Shiner and Vicar Medley. The side story is of the church "quire" (choir) made up of fiddle players being phased out in favour of an organ played by Fancy Day. I say story, that's it really. As for Dick Dewy, he of course marries Fancy Day.

It's a very gentle and good natured volume, a bit like reading about hobbits (the impression I got from their odd way of talking) and their obsessions with carol singing, cider, and "nutting" (something about gathering nuts). A cross between The Darling Buds of May, and the Wind in the Willows but the characters are humans. Tolerably quaint, even amusing at times. There is an attempt at drama toward the end which is quickly resolved and seemed, frankly, a bit of a cheap lunge at the reader's attention and is quickly resolved anyway. That said, there's very little here besides and I guess that Hardy's reputation comes from more famous books "Jude the Obscure", "Tess of the d'Ubervilles" etc. than from this novel. Not a great book but a nice introduction to Hardy's writing and, from what I hear of his other books, probably his least depressing.
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VINE VOICEon 21 August 2013
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I am a massive fan of classic literature, particularly from the Victorian and Edwardian periods, and when possible I always choose the Oxford World's Classics edition of these books. These editions are always good quality in terms of their production (good paper and print quality), but more importantly for me they always include excellent introductions, appendices and footnotes written by respected specialists in literature which add great value to the book and aid the understanding of both the text, the context in which it was written and the career of the author concerned.

This OWC edition of a Thomas Hardy classic is no different to the other books in this series, containing all of the above. I confess that I was put off Hardy's work having read Tess of the D'Urbervilles for my A-Level English Literature and hating it. However, I recently re-read it in the OWC edition and fell in love with it, finally being able to appreciate Hardy's style and value as an author, hence why I wanted to read more. This is one of Hardy's less "gloomy" novels, depicting the almost quaint lifestyle of a period of time which we have all but lost now and hence is appealing. It is a fairly easy read and, whilst it wont stay with you as other better books of the period will, it will entertain which is all you can ask of a book. Some of the language used is, as to be expected from Hardy, colloquial but once you get used to this then this book is very accessible and a good introduction to his style. The accompanying notes and introduction are also an excellent aid to the readers understanding and enjoyment of this work.
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VINE VOICEon 19 July 2013
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This early novel by Hardy lacks a lot of the tragedy and gloom of his later works. There are two main stories in the novel: the first being the breaking up of the church band and choir; and the second being the romance between Dick Dewy (a member of the ousted choir) and the new school mistress Fancy Day (who inadvertently causes the breaking up of the choir when the churchwarden and vicar decide they want her to play the organ instead). The Mellstock Choir give up their place to the single church organ gracefully (with only a minor attempt to postpone it), despite knowing that this modernisation is only happening because both the churchwarden Shiner and vicar Maybold love Fancy Day. Their pursuit of the fickle and flirtatious young school mistress cause various problems for Dick as he tries to make her his wife. The rural rivalries and intrigues that make up this novel are all quite gentle and innocent, making this one of Hardy's most accessible works.
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The Oxford World Classic range is usually my first choice when it comes to buying a classic novel to read. The text is always taken from the most complete or best-regarded edition, which has been researched from all those available. This novel is no exception. The provenance of the text is explained and therefore not in doubt. If you are studying the book, then this is crucial. You could otherwise waste time reading the wrong version of the text. A range of research notes is also include. These notes give additional information about the text, giving historical context and clarification where needed. There is also a bibliography for furthering your study of the novel.

This The Oxford World Classic is yet another welcome addition to my collection. It's a thorough, serious edition, well-presented, and looks rather nice on the bookshelf, too.
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VINE VOICEon 9 September 2013
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Published anonymously in 1872 this delicious slice of rural England, and Wessex in particular, continues to endure as witnessed by this new publication by Oxford World's Classics.

The tale barely 200 pages long is sandwiched between an informative introduction (with maps), an extensive and comprehensive bibliography and a very useful Chronology in parallel Hardy/historical and cultural background (if only all classics included this contextualising bonus!!) at the other end lie the appendices and, for me, at last solving the mystery of the subtitle "A Rural Painting of the Dutch School" an essay on its origins. Hardy has always been a very visual writer and relating a story like this to the Dutch school of painting is most interesting. Film has served Hardy well indeed, I would hazard that more people have seen films based on Hardy novels than have actually read the source material. As an aside my English tutor claimed that ~Hardy had become unreadable!!! what an ass.

Hardy brings the Mellstock church choir wonderfully to life and they are a microcosm for the life in rural England at the end of the 19th century. A considerable amount of rural England was slow to join the new century.

I am so glad to see that this novel has not been reduced to the pastel-coloured covered chicklit that poor Miss Austen has been reduced to in recent times.

The novel covers the four seasons with a conclusion and centres upon the lovely Fancy Day, ~ brilliant nomenclature ~ the new church organist and her dalliances with Dick Dewy, choir member and Vicar Maybold ~ Hardy revisits this love triangle in many later "heavier" novels,like all good stories and pantomimes this one ends with a merry wedding

It was a great reread and I hope many others find the simple pleasure as agreeable as I did
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VINE VOICEon 21 August 2013
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I have never really got on with Hardy's earlier/lesser novels. This, as only his second published novel, is superficially a rural idyll with two thin inter-related plots: three men competing for the love of pretty village schoolteacher Fancy Day, and the replacement of the church "choir" (actually an amateur chamber group) by an organist - Fancy herself.

There is, of course, much more to it. Hardy is painting an affectionate and respectful picture of the Dorset of his youth, but with the wisdom of historical hindsight. Although the action is set just before the arrival of the railways, the phasing out of the choir is a metaphor of change in an apparently changeless society; as one of the choir observes, "we must be almost the last left in the country of the old string players". As to the love rivalry, one of them does win the girl, but there is curiously little said about the disappointment of the other two men. This is due to the stylistic intention given in Hardy's sub-title, "A Rural Painting of the Dutch School"; in a brief appendix, the editor Philip Mallett outlines Hardy's intention, and shows how the characters are figures in a scene rather than true protagonists in a drama of events.

The useful introduction and notes help to set the novel in the context of Hardy's work, and explain that Hardy's later amendments to the text have two purposes: not only a re-focussing of the characters and of their dialect, but also revision to fit the topography of "Wessex", which was only embryonic when he wrote this novel.

It was enjoyable reading, but with its intentionally two-dimensional character portrayal I didn't find it stirring. (Contrast with the later novels, above all "Jude", where your exasperation at the hero's comprehensively cooking his own goose occurs precisely because his mental development, and struggle between head and heart, are so evocatively portrayed. If not for the "Wessex" theme, it would almost be hard to believe that this early novel and "Jude" were written by the same hand.)With the theme of one woman courted by three men, all of different class, there is even a faint rehearsal of "Far from the Madding Crowd", but we never feel that Fancy would for long incur the charge levelled at Bathsheba Everdene: "Your good looks may do more harm than good in the world." We are fairly sure that Fancy's mild flirtatiousness is temporary, and that, once married, she will end up like any satisfied Mellstock matron.

Hardy achieves his "Dutch School" objective, and in some ways the novel, with its four sections for the events of each season, is reminiscent of a Hogarth series of prints. For this reason, and also his flawless execution (in some ways better here than in the "great" novels), I have rated it as five stars. However, this is in terms of aesthetic appreciation of an exquisite miniature, rather than response to the psychological drama increasing through his novel-writing career (Vermeer contrasted with Van Gogh? As always, it depends what sort or reading experience you prefer.
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