June 30, 2010

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy: Review

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Soooo, right, life sucks and then you die Part Deux, only in England this time. At least the change of scenery is nice.

Jude "the Obscure" Fawley is an orphan (of course he is) with Big Dreams. He wants to be a scholar and has his mind fixed on reaching the place of Holy Knowledge, nearby Christminster. But life happens when you're making other plans. Jude finds himself with an unwanted wife. Don't feel too sorry for her, the old ball chain is quite a piece of work. How she got him to marry her is nasty business. Once she catches Jude, she finds he isn't what she imagined him to be and she sails off to Australia. So long sucker!

At this point, Jude does the happy dance and heads off to the promised land of Christminster. There he has the misfortune of meeting his tantalizing cousin Sue. Things are looking up for Jude, right? Riiiiiight?! Oh no, it's Hey Jude, he can't Get No Satisfaction. He just Ramble(s) On, because Yesterday all his troubles seemed so far away. And then finally he learns, If You Can't Be With the One You Love (honey), Love the One You're With.

Good Gravy, I thought Edith Wharton did bad things to her characters. I take it all back! Hardy is brutal. You can't even imagine what happens to Jude in this book.

Jude. Judy, Judy, Judy. He just sort of sails along. He really needed to be more forceful and take control of his destiny. He had lots of plans but for some reason or another *ahem, women* they didn't happen. What Hardy seems to say is that it's impossible to be unconventional in that stifling environment.

The women don't come off very well either. I can't decide who is worse: Arabella, who is self-serving or Sue who is neurotic. At least, Arabella is a survivor. I could admire her somewhat, even if she'd run over her granny to have her own way. Sue tries hard to have modern ideas but doesn't have the backbone to follow through.

I'm not sure how I feel about Jude the Obscure. The writing was beautiful but it was so angsty. And tragic. Ugh.

After the last 2 books, I need someone to "take me to the kittens."


Would I recommend it? If you like beautiful writing, but be prepared for some awful scenes.



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19 comments :

  1. I havent read this book but the film came on TV was evening and I had no idea what it was about but thought 'ah its got Kate winslet in it I'll watch it'

    Boy was I in for a shock.

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  2. If you want to see Hardy at his heart-wrenching best, read Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

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  3. Jessica- Yes, I bet it was shocking!

    Tyrie- I read Tess a couple of years ago. I enjoyed (if that's the right word) it more than Jude.

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  4. Sounds like a great little summer beach read! ;-) This is on my list of 100 books to read before I die...

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  5. I have owned Tess for years-started it multiple times-never finished. I am saving him for a cold, rainy day when I am all alone.

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  6. Elisabeth- haha, yeah!

    Jennifer- As long as you check in to Twitter often to let us know you are okay. ;)

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  7. Now I kinda of want to read it!!

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  8. It is almost absurdly tragic - but so good! You have caputured this very well in this review, but I don't blame you for wanting the kittens!

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  9. I really liked Jude the Obscure. Yes, it was tragic and Jude NEVER has anything good happen in his life, but I think it was really well written. On the back of my copy it talked about it having one of the most shocking scenes in literary history and that it was so shocking that Hardy never wrote another book after Jude the Obscure. The scene...VERY SHOCKING! I cannot even imagine how people reacted to this book back in the day. Loved it.

    Sounds like you need to treat yourself to a brain candy book next. :)

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  10. I think I'll skip the book and take the kitty instead.

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  11. I'll read it if you can tell me what page the happy dance is on. :-D

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  12. LOL, these authors are so nasty to their creations, aren't they? I haven't read Hardy, but when I think of tragic characters I think of Theodore Dreiser's

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  13. I am intrigued by your descriptive summary!

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  14. Maybe I should read Jude again. I read it when I was 15 or 16, for an English class in high school, and thought it was the most ghastly thing I had ever been forced to read. The only other Hardy I've read is Far from the Madding Crowd, which I actually enjoyed, to my surprise.

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  15. Hopewell- lol! Good!

    Hannah- Hardy tends to stick an absurdly tragic scene of 2 in his books.

    Carin- Well, one critic called it Jude the Obscene so I'm guessing they were shocked too.

    Kathy- Kitties are good too. :)

    Jill- Um, page 105, um yeah, that's right.

    Andi- I haven't read any of his yet but I'll be prepared.

    Suzanne- Thanks!

    Rob- I've heard good things about Madding Crowd. I have it on my shelf. I should make it my next Hardy.

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  16. Okay, I totally get why you didn't like it...really, I do. I'm kind of a nut though, as that I really liked this one! I'm kind of a Thomas Hardy fan, and don't really know what my deal is with all the angst and tragedy thing. I LOVE Tess of the D'Urvervilles. In fact, it's on my list of favorites. I guess I just thought it really was in the face of readers of the day who put the church first and foremost, making life unforgiving and difficult for those who have had misfortune.

    Honest, I do get why you weren't a fan. My best friend about killed me for recommending this one to her! :)

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  17. I'm a bit of a Hardy fan-girl--I love every Hardy novel I've read (6 of them, I think), but this is by far the darkest, so I'm always reluctant to recommend it. I mean, *that scene*. (Shudder)

    The thing that I really like about Hardy, is that he can take all of these unpleasant people who I'd never want to know and write about them in such a way that I care about them anyway.

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  18. I've been meaning to try Hardy simply because I know Teresa at Shelf Love is such a huge fan and I want to have an open mind. But um, I am not sure I can handle it. I'll have to try something at some point...

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  19. Your review has made me decide to read this book. Just thought I'd let you know.

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