Thursday, March 19, 2015

Jude the Obscure

I'm SO glad that I read this novel! It's not Middlemarch, but it's right up there in my affections. But why? Why did Thomas Hardy stop writing novels after Jude? He'd finally hit his stride. He lived another 30 years. I mourn to think of all the great novels stoppered up inside him. Sadly, I know why he quit and went to poetry. Couldn't he have just blown cigar smoke in his critics' faces and told them to shove it?

I'm trying to pull myself together enough to write about this novel. Sue Bridehead was hard work. My friend Mike commented that she was the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I understood her impulse to question everything and go with her gut, but after a while I wanted to shake her. It was a relief when she was out of the novel for a bit and Arabella would come clomping back in.

 And poor Jude! It's interesting that Hardy made him a stonemason, for he was always butting his head against stone walls, especially the academic ones that he longed to pass through. Even though he couldn't have what he wanted, he was continually willing to make the necessary adjustments to go on. Jude the Obscure reminded me of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, with doors endlessly slamming shut. Heartbreaking. Depressing. I was a wreck; I love this book so much. Why did I think I didn't like Hardy? Now I have to go back and read all his novels. Where should I begin?

I started out reading Jude on my Kindle, but switched to listening sometime after Sue ran away from the teachers' college. The audiobook is on YouTube and it's wonderful. It's even better than Hugh Laurie's brilliant reading of Great Expectations. I wish I knew who the reader is; his voice is gorgeous. I'd listen to him read the Kansas City phone book while washing out his sweaty socks by hand.


Teresa said...

I'm so pleased that you enjoyed this so much! It's an amazing book, and I have to admit that I rather like Sue. If I'd lived back then, I think I might have been like her because the rules were just too unbearable.

As for what to read next, The Return of the Native has some similar themes to Jude. Tess of the D'Urbervilles is my other favorite--I can't choose between it and Jude. And then there's Mayor of Casterbridge and Far from the Madding Crowd and The Woodlanders. All wonderful!

Beth said...

I read it in high school and was traumatized for life. It's now my bench mark for an unhappy ending.

Maybe I should try it again as an adult. All I remember is the death of all the kids.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Yes! This was my very first Hardy novel and it hit me hard. It's so beautiful and heartbreaking. I'm reading Tess of the Dubervilles right now and I'm reminded all over again of why I love his work.