Friday, November 07, 2008

Book Review -- "Jude the Obscure"

Jude the Obscure (Thrift Edition) Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you've learned that I've been slowly but surely reading down the list of Books I Should Have Read When I Was in School (but for some reason didn't). This is one of them.

"Jude the Obscure" is a book way ahead of its time. It questions divorce, marriage, living in "sin", social stature -- it takes it all on. Yet, it's interesting and poignant and at many times funny (perhaps without meaning to be).

The episode with the children (which I won't give away) I saw coming only a page away and the entire time I was thinking, crying out in my head, "Don't! Don't!". I can imagine what the readers of 1895 thought -- they were already scandalized about what Thomas Hardy wrote, what is today normal, if not trite, so his bit about the children had to have had mothers everywhere firing off angry letters.

In fact, so many reviewers DID fire off angry letters that Thomas Hardy never wrote another book, and resorted instead to poetry. That's such a shame, but after reading "Jude", and understanding what time frame this all occured, I can certainly see why he felt that way.

One of the things that I'm discovering as I journey through the classics is how important it is, before reading the book, to understand the state of the country during the timeframe of the novel. Without that knowledge, I fear the classics are getting tossed aside as "boring".

This book is certainly a tragedy, and often was painful to read, and I'm going to have to take a quick break from this genre for a bit before delving back into them again. But I certainly, absolutely, recommend it.

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