Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Return of the Native

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

Thomas Hardy, old reliable. Some pastoral England, a good love story, a realistic look at relationships and sex free of Victorian restraints and you've got a Hardy novel. All these are present in Native but it can't overcome one thing, this novel is frightfully boring. I'm talking stultifyingly, Math for Liberal Arts 101 at eight AM boring.

We're in Egdon Heath, a small town located in the desolate rolling hills of mythical Wessex. Sounds like a cool setting, right? Bonfires on hills, rolling fog, crazy storms, yeah, I can get down with that. The problem is nothing happens for the entire first half of the book. We meet some characters: the feckless Thomasin, conniving wishy washy Damon Wildeve, the nosy Diggory Vann, and the scheming Eustacia Vie. Eustacia is sort of intriguing, she wants out of Egdon, and is desperate for the bright lights of Paris. That's why when Clym, the Native of the title, returns from a lucrative job in France, she's all about meeting him and hitching her star to his ascending wagon. Keep in mind this is 200 pages into the book and we haven't even met Clym.

So we end up with Thomasin and Wildeve as a couple and Eustacia and Clym as a couple. It's obvious from the start of these relationships that Thomasin/Clym and Wildeve/Eustacia should be the matches. What follows is a series of farcical misunderstandings so ridiculous Georges Feydeau rejected them. Simple details are left out of conversations, meetings are missed by minutes, people infer things that are patently wrong, and then a bunch of people die. In a door slamming farcical comedy these misunderstandings are funny, in a tragedy it just seems kind of dumb and pointless.

Rating 3/10: Shouldn't be a classic. Too boring, not one likable, or really even interesting character.

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