Today Thomas Hardy is best known for creating the employing the great Wessex landscape as the backdrop to his rural novels, beginning 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 the lower classes and women took center stage, while the higher classes were damned. Ironically, though, Hardy remained safe in the arms of this same 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 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 while promoting revolution in his writing. Hardy's work consistently challenged sexual and religious conventions in a way that few other authors of the time dared. 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.More
"A richly introspective biography sure to rekindle interest in Hardy's writing." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A feat of distillation and mature judgment, Tomalin's biography artfully presents Hardy in his intimate and social world, offering succinct and insightful readings of his work along the way." (Publishers Weekly)
"This is the triumph of the biographer's art, of which Tomalin is a master: to be absolutely true to the last scrap of fact-that is, never to embellish or contort those facts-yet to create something utterly new and undreamt of, something more than the mere sum of those facts." (Chicago Tribune)
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A Sensitive Portrait