How I Decided to Give Hardy Another Try

“It was like Middlemarch with LESS JOY,” I found myself saying to my sister the other day. She had asked me about Thomas Hardy, who I was supposed to read in a Victorian Lit class I took.

You’ll notice the “supposed to read” there. I never actually finished the book that was assigned (Jude the Obscure). (I didn’t do very well in that class.)


Penguin classic, cover illustration by Coralie Bickford-Smith / image via Goodreads

She was asking, not, as I thought, because of references to Hardy in another book the both of us had just read (Love, Nina — which was a delight and you should probably go read it immediately), but because there is a new adaptation of one of Hardy’s novels coming out as a movie: Far From the Madding Crowd. Notably not Jude the Obscure. There also hasn’t yet been a Penguin clothbound classic with a cover illustrated by Coralie Bickford-Smith for Jude the Obscure. If there were, the illustration could easily be teardrops (as emblematic of poor decisions) falling from clock faces. (Seriously, go check out the plot summary!)

Anyway — so my sister is currently reading Far From the Madding Crowd, which apparently is described by someone, somewhere as the “happy Hardy”. And this of the author about whom The Guardian has a guide-to-grimness infographic: Bleakness Is My Weakness! I thought to myself, why not?

I’ve also been in a period of wordlessness — blame the thousand extraneous circumstances conspiring to bring one down (bleakness is also my weakness?) — and sometimes what it takes for me to get out of that funk is a book that makes me think about the language, in the context of its usage (to understand as I read) but also on a larger scale, to lament its loss in phrases like “point of espial”.

So here we are. Far From the Madding Crowd. Time alone will tell if this will become my next Middlemarch. Happily, it’s not as long.


6 thoughts on “How I Decided to Give Hardy Another Try

  1. wenzer

    I’m enjoying it thus far. I’ve even laughed once or twice. Only two chapters in though, so there’s still time for encroaching bleakness!

  2. Kathy Bryan (@Kelby59)

    Never made it through Jude the Obscure either, and I love the dark soul of Hardy land. Madding is lighter than most of the rest. Tess is probably my favorite. Sorry for the twitter length titles. Simple laziness on my part. My first Hardy book was Return of the Native. Read it as college freshman in late fall, cloudy and chilly out. I adopted Thomas Hardy as a surrogate father on the spot.

    1. ms.grammarian Post author

      No worries on the Twitter-titles! (Twittles?) And thank you for your comment about Jude the Obscure; I feel better for calling it quits when even an aficionado gave it up!

  3. taplatt

    I haven’t read Far From the Maddening Crowd, but Jude the Obscure was certainly bleak and depressing. For some reason I’d still like to try Tess, though… Good luck!

  4. taplatt

    I haven’t tried Far From the Maddening Crowd, but Jude the Obscure was certainly bleak and depressing. For some reason I still want to try Tess one day, though… Happy (I hope?) reading!


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