The interesting insights, details and the warmth with which this book is written make it a joy to read. It has really inspired me to reread Hardy's novels. It is beautifully written, illustrated and presented.
Rather than just locating the places that inspire Hardy's novels and then comparing them to their description, J B Bullen looks at their magical transformation to fit the needs of the story. He reminds the reader that they are not one and the same place, nor landscape, nor building and observing the differences creates fascinating clues for the understanding of characters and storylines.
Despite being a practising architect, Hardy does not record details of a building comprehensively or meticulously, but instead concentrates on it's expressive potential. Waterston Manor, which inspired Weatherbury Farm in Far from the Madding Crowd is described with human characteristics and indeed is a refection Bathsheba Everdene's own character on the one side beautiful and unusual and on the other utilitarian and tough.
The book is filled with fascinating and novel insights into a subject of which it is hard to imagine something new could be said Bullen's prose is easy and flowing and a delight to read, and the book can be read in one or dipped into a chapter and a different Hardy novel at a time.
I have seldom read such a fascinating book! Bullen's style of writing is superb and well researched, easy on the eye and one of those rare books that particularly imbues a real sense of pleasure to read. If you want to know more about the world in which Thomas Hardy lived and wrote about, this is the definitive work, enhanced with numerous photos, sketches and paintings - some from Hardy's own hand.