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A Pair of Blue Eyes

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,419 Ratings  ·  220 Reviews
Elfride Swancourt is the daughter of the Rector of Endelstow, a remote sea-swept parish in Corwall based on St Juliot, where Hardy began A Pair of Blue Eyes during the beginning of his courtship of his first wife, Emma. Blue-eyed and high-spirited, Elfride has little experience of the world beyond, and becomes entangled with two men: the boyish architect, Stephen Smith, an ...more
Paperback, 374 pages
Published November 3rd 2005 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1873)
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Victorian novels
56th out of 207 books — 348 voters
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Best Books of the 19th Century
236th out of 887 books — 4,856 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
This was a fast read, and I very much enjoyed it! If you are already a Hardy fan, I heartily recommend reading A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873); if you aren't, this just might make you one. A Pair of Blues Eyes was the third novel published by Hardy, and the first published under his own name. In his later years, Hardy created three categories in which he placed all of his fiction. The largest category, "Novels of Character and Environment," includes the well known core of his oeuvre also known as the ...more
Oct 20, 2012 Leslie rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, england
Curse you Thomas Hardy! Curse you for tearing my heart out and making me cry like a dummie over fictional characters. I thought I was so smart and knew what was going to happen and you ripped the rug out from under me. You left me without my happy ending. Curse you! And the saddest thing is that I am no newcomer to Hardy. I've read your work before. As I cracked this one open I thought of my teenage favorite, Return of the Native. I should have thought of Tess! Yeah, you heard me. Poor TEss and ...more
Jun 09, 2015 Duane rated it really liked it
I love this Thomas Hardy novel almost as much as Tess of the D'Urbervilles. It is partly autobiographical, with the heroine Elfride based on his first wife Emma Gifford. It is a short, romantic novel with interesting characters and many twists and turns that are unexpected, especially the ending. Well written as are all of Hardy's novels.
Apr 06, 2014 Bruce rated it really liked it
Before he turned to the exclusive writing of poetry late in his life, Thomas Hardy wrote a series of marvelous novels, some of which many of us were introduced to early in our lives. His novels were written during the Victorian period, a period in which his views were profoundly at odds with the progressive optimism so prevalent within the general public. Rather he focused primarily on rural life in the south of England (“Wessex”), emphasizing the implacability of fate, decline of rural life and ...more
Sarah Anne
I enjoyed every minute of this book, start to finish. That doesn't mean that I liked all of the characters all of the time or that it was a perfect book, it was merely a pleasurable read all the way through.

The main reason I wanted to read this particular book is that it's the origin of the term "cliffhanger." Apparently it was originally published in serial form and it does, indeed, leave a character clinging to the side of a cliff at one point. I can see where this was incredibly suspenseful i
Mar 19, 2013 Dolors rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
This is a novel I would highly recommend to everybody, not only to Hardy's fans. The story is so nicely unfolded and detailed that you can almost feel the wind in that spellbinding cliff scene.
This is a simple story, don't expect great literary references or witty remarks. But it is told with so much gentleness and the characters are very well portrayed and developed.
Elfride, though, is not as the other Hardy's heroines, she is young, gullible and has grown up protected by her father. I though
May 28, 2016 Nathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This was my second Hardy novel. Both of them were a bit of a slow start, though this one hooked me much faster than The Return of the Native. I never thought I'd be the kind of guy who's a fan of 19th century British romances, but when they're this well-written, I can't help myself. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Elfride and the men in her life.

I have so much more to read, but I won't be surprised if I end up liking Thomas Hardy more the Collins, Dickens, any of the Brontes, or eve
From BBC radio 4 Extra:
Thomas Hardy's partly autobiographical story about the love triangle between a young woman, Elfride Swancourt, and her two suitors from very different backgrounds

Jeremy Irons is splendid!!!
Apr 09, 2008 minnie rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
A Pair of Blue Eyes was Thomas Hardy’s third published novel, written in 1873 it was autobiographical, as the heroine Elfride Swancourt is based on Hardy’s first wife Emma Gifford. The novel is set in Cornwall where Hardy met Emma in 1870.Elfride Swancourt is a sheltered rectors daughter, with romantic notions(in the book she’s writing a romantic novel) when Stephen Smith a handsome young architect arrives to do some business with her father he falls in love with Elfride, and from this point on ...more
Aug 12, 2014 Lada rated it liked it
A dream novel. A novel of an eighteen year old dream. Of impossibility to come to terms to life and what it offers. A dream shattered. I compare it to Zola's Reve, le reve de son heroine Angelique, dreaming away under the medieval cathedral'S shadow, embroidering her destiny in.
Elfride Swancourt was a girl whose emotions lay very near the surface. Their nature more precisely, and as modified by the creeping hours of time, was known only to those who watched the circumstances of herhistory.
Of cou
Feb 20, 2014 Trina rated it liked it
This book was strange for me to read. I didn't really like it, but at the same time, I wanted to know what was going to happen. I know it's very much a product of it's time, but still.

Elfride I found fickle, vapid, and honestly rather boring. Stephen was the sappy lover without much personality. Knight was condescending and cruel to her.

Basically, the story is thus:

Girl falls in love with dude #1, dad says no because he is below them. #1 goes to India to make his fortune so he can marry her.
May 25, 2015 Roberta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classici, uk, 2015
'Because I utter commonplace words, you must not suppose I think only commonplace thoughts. My poor stock of words are like a limited number of rough moulds I have to cast all my materials in, good and bad; and the novelty or delicacy of the substance is often lost in the coarse triteness of the form.'

Romanzo accessibilissimo di Hardy, che pur mantenendo i suoi temi fondamentali (la natura, il pessimismo, la vita rurale, le restrizioni sociali, il fatalismo) risulta più leggero di altri e per qu
Nov 02, 2011 Ali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this as part of the Thomas Hardy reading challenge. The second time I have read this novel, and yet I found I had remembered nothing of the story at all. I was puzzled by this as I found it hugely readable, and really very gripping in parts, which I must surely have done the first time I read it. The prose is beautiful, the descriptions of landscape, and buildings are lovely. It is a wonderfully accessible Hardy novel, and one I would recommend to people who don't like some of the better kn ...more
May 25, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it
4 stars. What seems at first (and is really) a typical 19th century light romance, with all the attendant silliness, is actually a pretty astute study of innocent deceit, the pitfalls of over-idealization, the social constraints of being a woman, the sometimes minute differences between love and possession, and the destructive nature of jealousy, especially when it’s based on assumption and mere suspicion. None of this is particularly exceptional, but Hardy’s prose is—-I love it, and so althoug ...more
Mar 05, 2008 Alyson rated it liked it
Elfride is the heroine of this story, who at first appears a little dim-witted for me to indentify with. She seemed rather to be in love with love than the men who admire her. Expect the unexpected in this book. All of the twists and turns make you think you know the road to be traveled, but the surprises around every corner keep you coming back.
Jun 13, 2015 Steven rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, british
Tragic love triangle of a young woman torn between a younger and older man.
Mar 31, 2016 JK rated it really liked it
I love Thomas Hardy with all my heart. Those who have never picked up one of his novels will view this one, before reading, as a tale of blossoming romance in an idyllic historical setting. Although it's, admittedly, partly this, having read many of Hardy's works before, I knew this would be a turbulent, devastating, and heartbreaking affair, with no doubt some sort of tragic ending. I was not wrong, and I love him all the more for it.

Elfride is the Endelstow vicar's daughter, and she's a feisty
Jul 25, 2014 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-books-read
A Pair of Blue Eyes' claim to fame is that it is the book that brought us the term "cliffhanger". It was first published as a serialized novel, and one of the chapters ends with a man literally dangling off the edge of a remote cliff with no trees or rope in sight as a rescue aid and his only hope the brawn of his young woman companion.

The book features a love triangle between the wishy-washy Elfride, the douchebag Mr. Knight, and the doe-eyed Stephen. I'm not sure any reader would hope Elfride
Sep 22, 2010 Nicki rated it really liked it
A Pair of Blue Eyes tells the story of Elfride Swancourt, relating her struggles in love as she juggles two very contrasting love interests. The first is Stephen Smith, an architect who visits the remote village where Elfride lives to develop plans for a church restoration. After he’s won her heart, he reveals that he has a burdensome secret. The essence of his secret uncovers that he is socially inferior to Elfride, a fact that Elfride is not concerned with but her father cannot be convinced th ...more
May 01, 2009 Jeana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beloved-classics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 08, 2011 Jane rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
One of Hardy's earlier works and, if you're familiar with his style and themes, you'll see that it definitely reads like it. This was written before he'd really hit his stride in terms of writing tragic romances which later culminated in one of his most famous novels and also the least well-received, "Jude the Obscure." There are little touches of tragedy and disappointments here and there, and, if you know how Hardy novels tend to end, skillfully done pieces of foreshadowing that, far from comi ...more
Ruthie Jones
Apr 04, 2011 Ruthie Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Hardy never disappoints! A Pair of Blue Eyes is his third novel, and it’s quite a lovely book. While the central scene shocked Victorian readers, that dramatic scene is very mild for today’s readers. That doesn’t mean this short book doesn’t have anything to offer. Hardy does a magnificent job twisting the plot and giving the reader a well-developed and unpredictable story. Some may call Elfride Swancourt a weak and watery girl, and she is! But she also has her moments of bravery, and she ...more
Mar 24, 2011 Durdles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Every Thomas Hardy novel becomes my favourite while it is being read, but it is difficult to understand why this early gem is not even more lauded. Perhaps it just hasn't yet been made into a memorable TV series. A challenge for you Andrew Davies. My familiarity with the location - around Boscastle in Cornwall - which has been the scene of a more recent natural disaster, makes it an even more enjoyable read. The description of the natural landscape, viscissitudes of weather and local architectur ...more
Jul 09, 2014 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was OK. Better than Under the Greenwood Tree--and limited to only a few "humorous" chapters featuring rustics (gawd). Mostly it's just not consistent: parts are boring (the opening chapters are very slow), there are far too many literary allusions clogging up the works (especially early on), and the ending is stupid. But isolated scenes (the whole cliff scene, Knight trying to buy the earrings, Knight seeing Elfride looking in the mirror) are brilliant, and the awkward lovers' debates are c ...more
Nov 03, 2014 Cecilia rated it it was ok
Aunque Thomas Hardy es uno de esos autores a los que hay que aproximarse, A Pair of Blue Eyes, considerada la novela favorita de Proust, ha envejecido muy mal. Estilísticamente Hardy consigue unos pasajes hermosos y sugerentes, y unos diálogos creíbles y divertidos. Sin embargo, la historia de amor entre los dos jóvenes es un poco cursi y pueril, y la lectura se hace tediosa. Esperaba mucho más de este autor.
A.K. Klemm
Sep 23, 2015 A.K. Klemm rated it it was amazing
September 23, 2010 at 5:17pm ·
I Finally Finished A Pair of Blue Eyes
Thomas Hardy does it again, playing with all your emotions! This is yet another brilliant piece of work that takes you from loving to hating, adoring to judging, and then back to a calm "as it should be" state. Elfride Swancourt, Stephen Smith, and Mr. Knight are all so very real as each one demonstrates the ability for a human being to be wonderful and loving, hateful and horrible, and yet endearing all at once.

September 23, 2
May 27, 2010 Sue rated it it was ok
Well, this is the last Thomas Hardy book I'm going to read. I've decided that he never will allow a character in his story to be happy, never find mercy or forgiveness for any perceived misdeed. And so it is in A Pair of Blue Eyes. In the cronological biography of Hardy I noted that he became an agnostic sometime in his twenties. Perhaps his dissatisfaction with God is the reason he can ill-afford any kindness to a sufferer. Of his books I've read Far from the Madding Crowd, A Pair of Blue Eyes, ...more
Diana Long
Apr 18, 2015 Diana Long rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive" might fit this novel by author Thomas Hardy. There are three protagonists in this story and as I have noticed in his other works,Hardy emphasizes the social order of the time and making matches with in ones own class. This work is brilliant and keeps you drawn into this tale never knowing where he will lead. I did find more than a bit of humor and some thought-provoking moments. Hardy novels have a lot to offer and even though most were ...more
Isca Silurum
Dec 31, 2014 Isca Silurum rated it really liked it
Always a happy ending with TH?
Sierra Samone
Apr 25, 2016 Sierra Samone rated it really liked it
A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy is a romantic novel about relationships that definitely keeps you on your toes. This story can have an emotional toll on someone, taking you from happy to sad and vice versa with the snap of a finger. Thomas Hardy did a good job with the development of everything including the plot and the characters. He paces the story very well not going too fast. He seems to have so much passion in writing about his characters, especially Elfride. The way he wrote about her ...more
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A Pair of Blue Eyes, 2 20 Oct 28, 2014 11:23AM  
Works of Thomas H...: * A Pair of Blue Eyes: General Discussion 34 31 Jul 24, 2014 09:55PM  
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Thomas Hardy, OM, was an English author of the naturalist movement, although in several poems he displays elements of the previous romantic and enlightenment periods of literature, such as his facination with the supernatural. He regarded himself primarily as a poet and composed novels mainly for financial gain. The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-fictional land of Wessex, delineates char ...more
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“There are disappointments which wring us, and there are those which inflict a wound whose mark we bear to our graves. Such are so keen that no future gratification of the same desire can ever obliterate them: they become registered as a permanent loss of happiness.” 61 likes
“You ride well, but you don't kiss nicely at all.” 31 likes
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