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Well, that were a grim'un, to be sure. Jude, a decent man with ambitions to become a scholar, doesn't stand a chance in Hardy's cold universe. Let down by everyone he chooses as a mentor (one of them doesn't last long enough for a round trip from one village to the next); spurned by the university he longs to enter; and used and confused by the women in his life, he keeps trying to draw a smaller circle in the sand after each fresh assault, but ultimately he loses, and by then he doesn't care, and then he dies.
The women in his life are used and confused in turn, not so much by Jude as by the terrible straitjacket women were forced into. The love of his life, Sue, is particularly confused: she combines an open, somewhat flirtatious manner with a pathological aversion to sex that left me wondering if she'd been abused as a child. (Or better to say, since she's not real: wondering if Hardy intentionally set her character up to convey that.) She does finally overcome her aversion, to the extent of having children with Jude, but it's a fragile adjustment. And even the best-adjusted person would have trouble keeping their sanity when confronted by the major tragedy in this book of tragedies: an event that strikes suddenly and brutally in a few swift paragraphs and leaves the characters - and the reader - reeling.
Neville Jason has not been one of my favorite narrators in the past, but I'm warming up to him. Part of the pleasure of his performance here is the skill he shows in voicing the many characters, with their many accents and moods. There is humor here at times, and Jason brings it out in the voices of Arabella and other "country folk," who have no intellectual ambitions and are more willing to go with the flow. His characterization of Sue, to me, was somewhat less successful than his Jude; but his Jude is so brilliantly done, so exceptional in the way it conveys Jude's gentleness, rage, and despair, that I'm willing to give him five stars for the whole thing. I'll definitely make an effort, in the future, to listen to more of his readings.
Listen to it, by all means, but don't listen to it if you're depressed or even just having a bad day. It will exercise your compassion to the breaking point.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
Personally, Thomas Hardy is one of my favorite authors, and I believe this to be one of his best works. If you've read Tess, Mayor of Casterbridge, or any of his other novels, you know what to expect. A tragic novel. A masterpiece of one at that. But, if you haven't read him before, and are not use to that type of novel, maybe you should start somewhere else with Hardy. This is by far the bleakest, most depressing, and possibly most tragic novel I've read from him. Beautiful, but tragic
Would you listen to Jude the Obscure again? Why?
Great story but more importantly, brilliantly performed.
What did you like best about this story?
How well the author brought all the points he wanted to make about society and the modern and traditional thought of the time, through a combination of a good plot and crafted and sometimes incredibly explanatory dialog.
And it is a good story.
Which character – as performed by Neville Jason – was your favourite?
Richard Phillotson. Beautifully voiced. I liked this character. For much of the book Phillotson represents convention in progress. Unlike the main characters, when a difficult decision has to be made he does not prevaricate. He acts wisely. His decision is not based on tradition or on modern philosophies but on what he feels to be the human truth of the matter. The decision is greatly to his personal disadvantage but he accepts this because it was the right thing to do.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Yes. Reminded me of growing up. (up to a point. I still have all my kids)
Any additional comments?
I only tried this book by chance and I'm really glad I did.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed the story despite the repeated errors made by the main characters. Can't help feeling that Sue needed to take some personal responsibility but I guess that's how things were at this time, so more a commentary on the social pressures of the age, just when you think things can't get any worse Hardy deals yet another blow to the hopes of the fragile characters, who by the end you really want to find a little peace in their grim existences. Not a happy tale, but glad I read it nonetheless. Might give Hardy a break for a bit though...