‘People go on marrying because they can’t resist natural forces, although many of them may know perfectly well that they are possibly buying a month’s pleasure with a life’s discomfort’
Rating: 3 stars
Read: 27 November – 5 December, 2018
I can’t quite wrap my head around Thomas Hardy. I come away either really loving his writing or completely questioning everything. Jude the Obscure was an odd mixture of both. Half of the novel was pure brilliance, the other half was a mess. But let’s start with what the novel is about. Here’s the blurb from the Wordsworth Classics because it sums up the story better than I ever will:
Jude Fawley is a rural stone mason with intellectual aspirations. Frustrated by poverty and the indifference of the academic institutions at the University of Christminster, his only chance of fulfilment seems to lie in his relationship with his unconventional cousin, Sue Bridehead. But life as social outcasts proves undermining, and when tragedy occurs, Sue has no resilience and Jude is left in despair.
It’s Hardy’s attempt at destroying many things that contemporary society holds dear, marriage and education included. I think he is much more persuasive in the first objective than the second, but they were both explore brilliantly throughout. I love nineteenth-century narratives that deal with marriage (
but you guys already know that), so I was bound to love this. And I did. Well, half of it anyway. It got a little silly towards the end. It was the worse ending for this kind of story (I won’t say it’s the worst Hardy ending because Two on a Tower still exists).
A lot of Victorian novelists attempt to destroy the idea of marriage yet fail so miserably. They aren’t compelling or passionate enough, and end up resolving the novel in a more conventional way (eventual marriage or some form of punishment – see Brontë’s Shirley or Hardy’s Tess). Hardy actually wrote a profound and groundbreaking novel that slowly chipped away at the institution. It was quite emotional at times. I would definitely recommend it on these grounds.
However, the last hundred pages were utterly ridiculous. It took away any seriousness of the novel. Jude was so convincing to start with, but Hardy took it a step too far. I find he does this a lot. He thinks he can one-up himself but he can’t. It ends up becoming so melodramatic that I end up wanting to throw my book against the wall. I won’t say what happened (there were two major WTF moments), but just know that they were disappointing. They came out of nowhere, and didn’t add anything effective to the plot. It definitely ruined the book for me.
Other than that, it had so much potential. It was a little too long and could have been said more powerfully in less words, but I was happy to be with Jude and Sue a little bit longer. I liked the characters despite their naivety and stupidity. I think Hardy is exceptional at world building (aka Wessex) and at writing complex characters, but his plots can be a hit or miss. I thought this a disappointment in all honesty.
Have you read any of Hardy’s work? What’s your favourite? I’ve love to discuss it with you in the comments below!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X