Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy


According to my Goodreads account, I joined on March 3, 2008, and started making a list of books (mostly classics) that I wanted to read. Some of those book are still on my TBR shelves and have been haunting me for more than ten years. Two of them are less-famous works by Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree and A Pair of Blue Eyes -- which I recently discovered were available on audiobook download from the library. After ten years, I was finally inspired to take a crack at Under the Greenwood Tree, which sounded like just thing to listen to while walking the dog in my pastoral neighborhood.



Hill near my house.




Some of the neighbors.





The book begins with a group of local musicians in the rural village of Mellstock. They're out making the rounds on Christmas Day, as one does. There are fiddlers and singers from the choir, and as they're out and about, one of the members named Dick Dewy sees the young schoolmistress and is instantly smitten. Fancy Day (her real name) is beautiful and educated, and the local vicar is planning on replacing the traditional choir with Miss Day as the new organist. The vicar is also very attracted to Fancy, as is Frederic Shiner, a local farmer. It seems like the odds are against Dick and Fancy's match, especially because Fancy herself is rather flirtatious with other men, and seems to take Dick's love for granted.

This is Hardy's second published novel, and though I enjoyed it, there's not that much to it. The writing was good (despite my dislike of dialect) but the plot isn't terribly complex and I didn't think the characters were particularly well-developed -- it almost felt like this could have been part of a longer novel with more back story or plot complications. This book had some good points but I really expected more drama given the circumstances. It's a very quick read, under 200 pages, and it wouldn't be a bad place to start with Thomas Hardy if you're a little intimidated by Tess of the D'Urbervilles or Jude the Obscure.

I still have Jude on the TBR shelves and I've just started A Pair of Blue Eyes so I plan on making lots of progress with my Hardy reading list. I'm also intrigued by Desperate Remedies which is apparently more of a Victorian Sensation novel, which sounds like fun. 

Anyone else read Under the Greenwood Tree? How do you think it compares to other books by Hardy? 

16 comments:

  1. Good suggestion that this might be the place to start with Hardy. I've not read anything by him and this is mostly out of fear!

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    1. He's not that bad. Different than Trollope and Dickens, definitely different than Wilkie Collins! He's more about pastoral settings and country people, mostly working-class. There's a lot of description but his writing is very good. So far I've really liked Far From the Madding Crowd and The Return of the Native. Tess of the D'Urbervilles and The Mayor of Casterbridge, not as much. This one was good on audio but some of it was in dialect. I've started A Pair of Blue Eyes and I do like it so far though the heroine is coming off as a little spoiled. We'll see.

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  2. Love the look of your neighbourhood! I went through a Hardy phase when I was much younger reading one novel after another but curiously not this one. I loved Tess of course and Jude, too although our English lecturer wouldn't teach it because she said it was too depressing.

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    1. Thanks! I'm right on the edge of farmland and in a single day I sometimes see cows, horses, sheep, chickens, and deer. I've also seen hawks or falcons (not sure which), and there's a stork's nest nearby. It's quite hilly in parts so we have nice views of the village as well.

      I still haven't read Jude but it does sound rather dire, I suspect it doesn't end well! There's also an audio download so I may give it a try later this year or next year.

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  3. I've always eyed this one and Blue Eyes at Half Price Books but I never knew if they'd be as good as his major works. I'm glad to hear I can get them via audio from the library! I prefer Hardy on audio, which is odd because I usually don't like audio classics on first read (rereads are good that way).

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    1. I agree about rereads on audio (I have another post in the works about audio v. print). There are several by Hardy on audio at SAPL, including Jude and I think Far From the Madding Crowd. I'm also really enjoying A Pair of Blue Eyes.

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  4. This is my least favourite of the Hardy novels I've read - as you say, there's not much to the story and the characters don't have a lot of depth. I do remember loving A Pair of Blue Eyes, though. Desperate Remedies was actually my last Classics Spin book but I never got round to reading it - I'm hoping to start it in the next few weeks and as I enjoy Victorian sensation novels I'm really looking forward to it.

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    1. I feel like Hardy is just getting started. I also looked on Goodreads and there are several other novels about which I know nothing, like Two on a Tower, The Woodlanders, and A Laodicean. I'm really starting to appreciate Hardy and I may go back someday and reread Tess.

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  5. I've never read the book, but I enjoyed the 2005 BBC movie (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0465653/?ref_=nv_sr_1). I can see how Fancy Day (what a name!) could be less interesting, but Keeley Hawes makes her a little more charming I think.

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    1. This is on my to-watch list as well. It might make for a good movie because it's so short, and I've liked Keeley Hawes in nearly everything so far.

      The heroine in A Pair of Blue Eyes is named Elfride Swancourt. Hardy seems a little fanciful when naming his heroines!

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  6. Love the photos of your daily walk.

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    1. Thanks! I'm really enjoying living near farmland. I'll be sad when it's time to move back to suburbia.

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  7. I haven't read this one, but I did really like Jude the Obscure and A Pair of Blue Eyes. Desperate Remedies is one on my list to read as well. :)

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    1. I'm about halfway through A Pair of Blue Eyes and I really like it, though Elfride is really frustrating! I'm beginning to notice a pattern with Hardy's heroines.

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  8. I binged on Hardy when I was a teenager and read Under the Greenwood Tree then, but so long ago I can't remember the details except that I think I preferred The Woodlanders. Jude is a great read but should be avoided by anyone prone to depression I think - like many of his books!

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  9. I've heard this is the one non-depressing Hardy novel--I've thought about reading it, but haven't felt compelled to do so. I'm more curious than anything, and it does sound pretty superficial.

    Love the pictures of your rural walks--my kind of walk, for sure!

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