While sharing wine and book talk in a local bar (I prefer “pub” since we are discussing Thomas Hardy), it was noted by one of our “irregulars” that our book sharing group seems to be driven to read those titles which are free or cheap. Astute observation; hence, the title of this very post, dear reader, that I came across while browsing, on site, at Daedalus Books for a mere $6.98 – in hardback! Thomas Hardy, you exclaim! Good heavens! Yes, I too confess to a tender spot for his writing – highly detailed, perhaps excessive, one might say – with descriptions ranging from the novel’s landscape to its architecture.
Married to an artist and Whitbread-winning author, no less, this academic, this J.B. Bullen, offers a beautiful exposition of Hardy the author – researched, footnoted, and documented making any librarian’s heart pitter-patter with joy. Overlay a series of sensitive narratives – a story for each of Hardy’s novels – that both widen one’s horizons to the author’s brilliance,
On Far From the Madding Crowd, Bullen writes, “Of its fifty-seven chapters, at least thirty-one are set in conditions where vision is partly or totally obscured” (40).
while simultaneously enfolding the reader within the bittersweet world of his characters and their dramas. It is here, upon a dark, obscure path where Bathsheba Everdene begins her downward spiral.
“This bit of the path was always the crux of the night’s ramble, though, before starting, her apprehensions of danger were not vivid enough to lead her to take a companion” (165).
There is much to be said for re-reading the classics in tandem with a serious, albeit lovingly composed and illustrated companion piece. There is much to be said for age, also. I rather doubt, in my teens or even twenties, that I would be as thrilled to the bone as I am now with Mr. Hardy and his world, even with Mr. Bullen’s guidance, and the experience of living. Thank you to both authors for a chance to re-visit, re-learn, and re-love literature.
And, I am only at Chapter 1.
Bullen, J.B. Thomas Hardy: the World of His Novels. London: Frances Lincoln Limited Publishers, 2013. Print.
Hardy, Thomas. Far From the Madding Crowd. New York: Open Road Media, 2014. eBook.