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I read a review of this one in The Guardian when it was released earlier this year and fancied it immediately as a holiday alternative to Claire Tomalin’s biography of Thomas Hardy. Hardy has been a favourite since I was given a copy of Jude as an eighteen year old at Pyle Garden Centre and initially struggled but then lived the story over that summer.
Whilst I haven’t recently gone back to my Hardy root, I’ve re-read all of the novels and substantially dipped into the poems - finding in the early years that Hardy’s poetry was a key to my reading backward and forward other poets. Good biographical material and easy access to reference material is now a world away from my academic times, there was a lot about Hardy that I knew and a lot that surprised me woven into the easy narrative of this novel.
The close friendship with T.E. Lawrence, the day to day encounters with his own Tess.
The central character of Nicholson’s story is one that whilst I recognise and remember I crucially also was able to empathise with - the alternate chapters in the voices and character of Florence and Augusta initially jarring but quickly assimilated into the pleasing broadening texture of the book to the overall benefit of the picture.
An easy identification an easy style - at all times a good read. A welcome addition to the Hardy bookshelf - enjoyed all the more in the sunshine of a Mallorcan August. If you love Hardy you'll like this.
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Where does Winter rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
'Winter' is not as compelling as many of the audiobooks I've listened to, but it quietly and gently involves you in the story. Particularly if you've read Hardy's books and/or poems or his biography, it adds an interesting perspective to a story I thought I already knew.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Winter?
I really liked the scenes around the amateur production of 'Tess', and would have liked much more detail around this - lost opportunity. The scenes of the aging author in the cold, isolated house (particularly the fireside scenes where he is being read to by his second wife) were beautifully written and gave a really elegaic feel.
Would you listen to another book narrated by the narrators?
I wasn't keen on the narrators who voiced Hardy's third party narrative or Florence's first person one: the latter, in particular, was right for the character but so very, very irritating: if I'd been married to her, I'd have contemplated eloping with Gertie just to get away from that haranguing tone! Gertie's lovely Wessex burr was a joy to listen to, though.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No - this is better listened to small sections. I interspersed listening to the audio book with reading 'Return of the Native' again, and being able to savour and compare Nicolson's lovely descriptive writing with Hardy's own really added to my enjoyment of the audiobook.
Any additional comments?
Well worth a listen if you like Hardy's work, but maybe a bit unengaging if you're not familiar with the author.