Bookish Discussions · Reviews

Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders:


Spoilers | Rating: 3 out of 5 stars | Read: 25 February – 3 March, 2018. 

Firstly, I’d just like to say that I’m sorry for not having posted this sooner. I tend to post my reviews in the order that I’ve read them, but this one escaped me. Nevertheless, it’s finally here. Enjoy:

The Woodlanders (1887) is my fourth Thomas Hardy novel. Whilst it wasn’t my favourite, it was still a lovely little tale that I’d recommend to you. It’s about Grace Melbury, a country-girl who returns home from her middle-class school. Despite being promised to the simple woodsman, Giles Winterborne, she feels she is now above him, and finds herself drawn to the new doctor, Edred Fitzpiers. Hardy’s ‘novel of betrayal, disillusionment and moral compromise depicts a secluded community coming to terms with the disastrous impact of outside influences. And in his portrayal of Giles Winterborne, Hardy shows a man who responds deeply to the forces of the natural world, which, ultimately, betray him’.

The very premise of this story sounded so wonderful to me: I love how Hardy blends Realism with Naturalism to create such beautifully intricate stories. Whilst this story was both beautiful and intricate, it also lacked for me. But, before I get into the negatives, let’s discuss the things I enjoyed about this. Firstly, the marriage narrative. I am extremely interested in novels concerned with marriage in the Victorian period. I think Hardy explored it quite interestingly, but I don’t think it was his strongest attempt at writing about it. I have read other of his novels that deal with this kind of topic in a more engaging way, aka Two on a Tower.

I also enjoyed Hardy’s attention to detail. The Woodlanders lacks the pastoral scenery that I love Hardy for, but he did describe everything so beautifully and minutely. He would take the smallest thing and turn it into something wonderful. Through the detailed descriptions of the settings, the characters, and their emotions, I could conjure up the story in my head so easily. It painted the most beautiful picture, especially of Wessex, which is why, I think, I enjoyed the story so much. I didn’t like the fact it wasn’t tragic in tone. I like when Hardy pulls the rug from under us, but this was a little predictable. He’s good at evoking melancholy and sadness in his readers, but I didn’t experience that from this.

Honestly, it fell short for me in some areas. The first two volumes didn’t engage me as much as the last one did. There was a lot happening, with many characters to follow around, but I lost interest quite quickly. I either wasn’t interested in the story or its characters, or I just wasn’t in the mood but, either way, it didn’t live up to the expectations. However, the third volume definitely picked up. I swiftly became invested in Grace, who previously had no substance, and I actually became interested in Fitzpiers, who I hated in the first two volumes (I mean, I still hated him, but he started to intrigue me). I was eager to find out how their story line would end.

Nonetheless, a lovely read by Hardy. It was good, just not my favourite.

Thanks for reading, Lauren X


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