A Pair of Blue Eyes:
Published in 1873, "A Pair of Blue eyes" describes the love triangle between a young woman, Elfride Swancourt, and her two suitors from very different backgrounds. Stephen Smith is a socially inferior but ambitious young man who adores her and with whom she shares a country background. Henry Knight is the respectable, established, older man who represents London society.
Reflecting Hardy's meeting and romance with his wife Emma he spoke of it as one of his favourite books.
Jude the Obscure:
Eleven-year-old Jude Fawley, inspired by his teacher Mr. Phillotson, who leaves Marygreen for Christminster to take a university degree, decides to adopt the same course for himself. Raised by his great-aunt, he studies hard with the aid of some old Latin and Greek books sent to him by Phillotson. He trains as a stonemason in order to enable him to support himself when at the university. However when he finally arrives in Christminster he soon finds that a university education is not easily come by for one of his social standing. Meeting and falling in love with his cousin Sue Bridehead his future becomes a series of challenges to his moral, religious and social beliefs.
The novel caused quite a stir in late Victorian England due in part to it's depiction of marriage and the role religion played in it. Savagely criticised on publication it led to Hardy turning from novel writing and concentrating for the rest of his career on poetry alone. It's now considered one of Hardy's finest works and is held up as an example of English novel writing at it's best.
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Double the pleasure
What a great idea, to pair one of Hardy's earliest books with his last one. While there are huge differences in both his unmistakeable style shines through.
A Pair of Blue Eyes is a delightful tale of innocence and love set against the cliffs and seaside of Wessex. Elfride has to be one of my favourite Hardy characters.
Jude the Obscure is renowned as the book which finished Hardy's novel writing. A hard hitting book that caused a storm in it's day. I really enjoyed both readings and would recommend this pairing to all Hardy fans.