Jude the Obscure
I’ve avoided Thomas Hardy for most of my life: first from ignorance, then on the advice of a few friends whose taste I trust. Then I read an inspirational article in the TLS this summer, on the relationship — both personal and working — between Hardy and Henry Ibsen, which directed me towards Jude the Obscure. The description I found there led me to hope that the novel’s themes (anticlericism, the emerging modern person, etc) would be right up my alley. So I took the dive.
I wish I hadn’t. The themes I was looking for are present in this novel, but Hardy’s breathless, exuberant style was hard to handle. The first half of the book wasn’t great, but I knew the good stuff — Jude’s relationship with Sue and their struggle with the external world — was yet to come. It came, and kept coming until the book’s final pages, but Hardy’s overbearing style (especially the dialog) made the final 200 pages, which should have been deeply tragic, a chore to read. I truly wanted this novel to be good, even great, but unfortunately that was not the case.
Sorry, Hardy: I’ve had enough of you, and won’t try again, unless I have no choice.