Synopses & Reviews
Whitbread Award winner Claire Tomalin's seminal biography of the enigmatic novelist and poet Thomas Hardy. Today Thomas Hardy is best known for creating the great Wessex landscape as the backdrop to his rural stories, starting with Far from the Madding Crowd
, and making them classics. But his true legacy is that of a progressive thinker. When he published Tess of the d'Urbervilles
and Jude the Obscure
late in his career, Hardy explored a very different world than that of his rural tales, one in which the plight of lower classes and women take center stage while the higher classes are damned. Ironically, though, Hardy remained cloaked in the arms of this very upper class during the publication of these books, acting at all times in complete convention with the rules of society. Was he using his books to express himself in a way he felt unable to do in the company he kept, or did he know sensationalism would sell?
Award-winning author Claire Tomalin expertly reconstructs the life that led Hardy to maintain conventionality and write revolution. Born in Dorset in 1840, Hardy came of age in rather meager circumstances. At sixteen, he left home for London and slowly worked his way through many rejections to become a published writer. Despite his mother's admonitions to never marry, he wed Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1874 and, even though he fell easily in love, stayed true to her till her death in 1912. He frequently toured London society, but few felt they knew the true Hardy, and it is this very core of self that Tomalin elegantly brings us to know so completely. Hardy's work consistently challenged sexual and religious conventions in a way that few other books of his time did. Though his personal modesty and kindness allowed some to underestimate him or even to pity him, they did not prevent him from taking on the central themes of human experience time, memory, loss, love, fear, grief, anger, uncertainty, death. And it was exactly his quiet life, full of the small, personal dramas of family quarrels, rivalries, and at times, despair, that infuses his works with the rich detail that sets them apart as masterpieces.
In this engrossing biography, Tomalin skillfully identifies the inner demons and the outer mores that drove Hardy and presents a rich and complex portrait of one of the greatest figures in English literature.
"[An] original, compelling interpretation of this constantly surprising writer." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"This is the triumph of the biographer's art, of which Tomalin is a master." Chicago Tribune
"Full of empathy and clear thought, Tomalin has written a compelling, riveting story as well as a thoroughly researched biography." Boston Globe
"Tomalin's treatment throughout is well informed but popular in focus; she has no political or theoretical ax to grind....[H]ighly recommended." Library Journal
"Do we want or need yet another biography of Thomas Hardy? Does anything important remain to be discussed? The answer, according to Tomalin, is an emphatic yes. Her calm and knowing book proves worthy of its subject." Los Angeles Times
"A richly introspective biography sure to rekindle interest in Hardy's writing." Kirkus Reviews
"This new biography makes its subject a fascinating case study in mid-Victorian literary sociology." New York Times
"A fascinating case study in mid-Victorian literary sociology."
-The New York Times
"Admirable . . . One returns to Thomas Hardy with renewed pleasure and surprise."
-The New York Review of Books
"Tomalin brings . . . the skills of an experienced and accomplished biographer . . . and the confidence of a deeply informed literary critic."
-Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"A masterful portrait" (The Philadelphia Inquirer) from a Whitbread Award-winning biographer
The novels of Thomas Hardy have a permanent place on every booklover's shelf, yet little is known about the interior life of the man who wrote them. A believer and an unbeliever, a socialist and a snob, an unhappy husband and a desolate widower, Hardy challenged the sexual and religious conventions of his time in his novels and then abandoned fiction to reestablish himself as a great twentieth-century lyric poet. In this acclaimed new biography, Claire Tomalin, one of today's preeminent literary biographers, investigates this beloved writer and reveals a figure as rich and complex as his tremendous legacy.
About the Author
Claire Tomalin is the author of seven highly acclaimed biographies, including the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self.