Do not ridicule me if you have read him and hated him, for I have to confess that I used to enjoy reading Thomas Hardy’s novels. Even if sometimes it would get so tedious and depressing that I would want to smash my head against the book and die (this has only happened while reading Tess of D’Urbervilles though). But I have never put a Hardy book down till I reached the last page. Neither have I skipped a page ever.

An illustration of Tess of D'Urbervilles. Source - Wikipedia
An illustration based on Hardy’s work Tess of D’Urbervilles. Source – Wikipedia

A lot of students of literature dislike him fervently, for his sluggish pace, unexciting plots and the overdose of landscape description. And this indeed is true of Hardy, that he would write 500 words about the room and then wrap up real time action in 100 words. However, it is admirable how he could write so much in detail about something as mundane as a beaten country road. Lot of writers cannot describe objects to save their lives. I for one try steering clear of having to describe anything inanimate. Because it looks forced and is usually the dictionary definition of the object.

So if you are someone who skips descriptions, perhaps Thomas Hardy is not your writer, because you will end up skipping a good forty percent of the book! But I would still ask you to read “Mayor of Casterbridge”, it is not as acclaimed as his other works, but it is easily one of my favorites. Hardy sets the pace of the book right in the start, where a drunk man tries to auction his wife and a sailor actually buys her!

Some of Hardy’s works are counted as masterpieces in the literary world, so when I see some of the hatred literature students spew about his style of writing, I obviously tend to disagree. And he is a nineteenth century writer for god’s sake! One cannot expect whips and chains. While today most of his stuff might seem pretty average and painstakingly boring, a book like Tess of D’Urbervilles actually caused quite a scandal back then and was censored and sanitized for the prudish Victorian society Hardy lived in.

The bottom line is – If you are looking for a quick read, Thomas Hardy will be hard reading. Perhaps you could go through his poetry, they are short and actually quite good. I will put one here for your benefit:

Between us now and here –
Two thrown together
Who are not wont to wear
Life’s flushest feather –
Who see the scenes slide past,
The daytimes dimming fast,
Let there be truth at last,
Even if despair.

So thoroughly and long
Have you now known me,
So real in faith and strong
Have I now shown me,
That nothing needs disguise
Further in any wise,
Or asks or justifies
A guarded tongue.

Face unto face, then, say,
Eyes mine own meeting,
Is your heart far away,
Or with mine beating?
When false things are brought low,
And swift things have grown slow,
Feigning like froth shall go,
Faith be for aye.

– Thomas Hardy

(“Between Us Now”)