Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

Posted by Guy Pringle, 3rd May 2013

For me this is comfort food or a warm blanket beside the fire – or better still a glass of Lucozade when I was a kid ‘cos it proved I really was ill.

 

Just the thought of Diggory Venn, Reddleman is enough to make the hairs do what they do. Each time I return to this book it’s been long enough for the details of the plot to have faded so I discover the twists and turns all over again. Me? A goldfish? Don’t know what you mean.

 

It’s true – as we discussed at length at reading group, sorry Karla – that Hardy can be toilsome and, sometimes, dull. But the way he piles small agony on small agony until the whole edifice is staggering makes up for it. And for me the real skill is the way he rationalizes his characters’ actions – even the bad guys, yes, you Wildeve - so you suddenly find yourself not only understanding but even agreeing with them.

 

Back in fifth form in the north east, those yokels in conversation were more than annoying but I swear on a bike ride in the New Forest last weekend I was actually on Egdon Heath and, dammit, I’m sure that fellow up ahead walked just like Clym Yeobright.

More than recommended.

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