Thomas Hardy
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Thomas Hardy

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  634 ratings  ·  53 reviews
"A masterful portrait" ("The Philadelphia Inquirer") from a Whitbread Award-winning biographer
The novels of Thomas Hardy have a permanent place on every booklover's shelf, yet little is known about the interior life of the man who wrote them. A believer and an unbeliever, a socialist and a snob, an unhappy husband and a desolate widower, Hardy challenged the sexual and r...more
ebook, 512 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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karen
when thomas hardy died, he wanted to be buried in stinsford. pretty much everyone else wanted him to be buried in westminster abbey. so a compromise - they take out his heart and put it in a tin and bury that in stinsford and the rest of him is to be cremated and buried in westminster abbey. but then a cat comes along and eats the heart so they have to kill the cat and bury that instead.

that, my friends, is a 'pastoral legend' that i grew up believing and this book killed for me. the whole cat...more
·Karen·
You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
-I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me.


In one of the BBC's Book Club programmes Claire Tomalin disarmingly tells how she was more or less forced by her publisher to come up with a decent by-line to her biography of Thomas Hardy, which she had hoped to call, in all simpl...more
Lloyd
Being a Hardy enthusiast, it maddens me to hear people turn their noses up when he's mentioned before churning out the cheap and hackneyed 'well, he's depressing' line. It was refreshing, then, to finally get around to reading Claire Tomalin's well-reviewed biography which, in part, discusses why Hardy was so often at pains to deny the characters of his Great Novels a certain happily-ever-afterness.

Many of Hardy's denigrators would, though, concede that he writes beautifully, and his oft-neglect...more
Lucy
Let's get the niggles out of the way....there is a little too much speculation: whether Hardy's mother could write, assuming he was disappointed at not visiting the Great Exhibition when there is no evidence, discoursing on what sort of parents Tom and Emma would have been, describing the wedding despite admitting there is no record, and then straying too far into marriage guidance.
There are a few horrible infelicities of language which suggest that maybe her editor is a little in awe of her rep...more
Peter
Thomas Hardy commented that what keep him writing was the simple daily habit of picking up his pen. He is recorded as saying "I never let a day go without using a pen. Just holding it sets me off." These words must be true of Claire Tomalin, author of Thomas Hardy The Time-Torn Man as well. Tomalin is one of the most productive and successful of biographers. In this biography she chronicles the life, times, loves and words of Hardy's life, and manages to do so with perception, energy and appropr...more
Ali
I loved this biography of one of my favourite writers. Claire Tomalin has done a marvelous job of showing us both Hardy the man and Hardy the writer. It appears she appreciates him slightly more as a poet than a novelist - but her insight into both his novels and his poetry is affectionate and fascinating and may help me better understand his work from now on.
I found the story of the young Hardy growing up in quite poor and difficult circumstances in Bockhampton really fascinating - I suppose I...more
Pat
I never liked much of anything that Thomas Hardy wrote. I thought that maybe if I read a biography of him, I might understand him better. Besides, I heard Claire Tomalin interviewed on NPR and she made his life sound so interesting - at least the end of it. However, I never go beyond his early adulthood. Could not find the interest to complete the book.
Aileen
claire tomalin has managed another masterpiece.
SHe has researched her sudject very well and has produced a book one cannot put down
hardy lived in repressive time yet wrote sucessfully despite his socialistic principles
I had a falltering attempt at trumpetmajor many years ago but now have an appetriite to revisit this victorian litary master
Ed
Tomalin (and everyone else who writes about Hardy, it seems) praises "Thomas Hardy, A Biography Revisited" by Michael Millgate which is 625 pages of pretty densely typeset pages but I think I will hold off on that one. Tomalin concentrates on Hardy's poetry which I am beginning to "get" or at least enjoy. Hardy had quite a life--began as the son of a domestic servant, toward the end was the host to the Prince of Wales and his retinue for a luncheon. He lived to his eighty-seventh year but what w...more
Dara Salley
Another fantastic book by Claire Tomalin! I wish I could send her a list of my favorite authors and have her write biographies of all of them. She is able to bring together a huge amount of research and minutiae and turn it into a fascinating narrative. She skips the proselytizing and genuflecting that other biographers indulge in and presents an authentic portrait of her subject. She is unflinching about discussing personal failings and career lulls, but she manages to elevate her subject by sh...more
Christopher H.
Claire Tomalin's biography of Thomas Hardy is simply superb! I believe that I enjoyed the book even more because I recently read (or re-read) all of his major novels, many of his short stories, and much of his poetry. It was simply delightful to be able to immediately relate to the points she made. It was also fascinating to see how much of Hardy's own personal life, as well as that of his Dorset family and friends, influenced his fiction and poetry.

As Tomalin points out and discusses in some de...more
Nicki
**This is an excerpt. To read the entire review, go to Every Book and Cranny.**

In this biography Tomalin manages to be detailed but not tedious – which in my view is no small feat. Her writing is fluid, simple, and unpretentious. She does not make too many assumptions. I imagine that when compiling a biography, particularly for an enigmatic character like Hardy, it would be easy to infer too much. Tomalin mostly sticks to what she can corroborate with journals, letters, news articles and the lik...more
Joanna
I always can tell what makes a good biography, at least in my eyes. It’s after having read the final page, when I close the book and try to go about my daily life only to discover that I haven’t quite got the life I’ve just read out of my head, that I know that what I finished was particularly good. Tomalin's biography on one of the most well-respected and widely-read English authors is one such book. Hardy grew up in a poor country family, but even at a young age showed great promise for learni...more
Julie
I was a bit disappointed by this book , i didnt feel that at the end of the book i knew any more about Hardy the man and what made him tick, it was interesting the relationship between him and his first wife and how he was trapped in a loveless marriage,and how his 2nd wife set out to capture him ! It is sad that more documents have not survived as his first wife destroyed all the letters he had sent her, it is also a shame more pictures or photos of the houses that he lived in were not included...more
Chris Laskey
This is a very engaging work that reads with strong clarity. I do find that it doesn't set its teeth too deep and I would say that it floats a little on that top where you wish it could be deeper into Hardy. Of course that can be make for a difficult work as the subject must have a clear and detailed record available, such as the case was for H.G. Wells ,whose biography from several years ago was quite thorough. Hardy at turns was a controller of his image (and his life too it seems) pursuing t...more
Stewart
When I was in high school, I read Thomas Hardy's "The Return of the Native." That was about 45 years ago, and I don't remember a thing about the novel. Much more recently, I read several favorable reviews of Claire Tomalin's 2007 biography of Thomas, so I decided to revisit the English author by way of this biography and read several of his novels later.
Hardy (1840-1928) grew up and spent most of his adult life in the Dorset area of southwest England. Almost all his fiction takes place in this...more
Mark
Claire Tomalin is fast becoming the epitome of the biographer. Her books are praised far and wide and this one regarding the wonderful Thomas Hardy is no exception. She separates the man from his writing very well but also emphasises the deep connection Hardy has to his creations and the biographical nature of some of the characters and plots surrounding them.

Hardy did not have the fortunate birth of some of his literary contemporaries and was always something of an outsider by nature. Slightly...more
Tim
This is a readable and informative biography of an author of some of the most intense novels in the English language. I learnt lots from it about the facts of Hardy's life, and about how he went about writing the novels he's most famous for (and the poems he regarded as his true calling).

However, I didn't enjoy it as much as Claire Tomalin's previous biography of Samual Pepys. Partly that's because Hardy led a less interesting life than Pepys; he spent most of his time writing, he travelled to L...more
Malvina Yock
Although I've read a few of Thomas Hardy's novels, I confess I knew little to nothing of his life or his poetry. This book is a good introduction to all of that. At times Tomalin speculates a little too easily on the what-he/she-must-have-thought(s), but to be given a good, general outline of Thomas Hardy's life as well some insight into his novels and poetry is terrific. It is easy to read and accompanied by good photographs and sketches. Above all, I am sure it will send people back to Hardy's...more
Lizzie
I read this now because at the end of Streets of Laredo, one of the characters picks up a copy of Tess of the D'Urbervilles at a railway station bookstore because of her adopted daughter Tess. I've read a lot of Hardy, though not recently, and like him a lot - his descriptions of rural life are so striking and his characters so compelling. This book is quite interesting, with a lot about his first marriage, which started out happily. Emma Hardy was an aspiring writer and helped him with copying...more
Nancy
Tom and I listened to this while on a trip to Jackson Hole Wyoming. If we'd been able to get NPR in more places I'd never have finished it. Ms. Tomalin was overly thorough with details about the births and deaths of relatives, speculations about when Hardy might have discovered he was conceived before his parents married and how that might have affected his work. Perhaps it is better read than listened to. I'm sure I would have skimmed through many parts of this book if I had been reading it rat...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Besides viewing Hardy's life from a 21st-century perspective, Claire Tomalin emphasizes his poetry as much as his novels. Her decision to do so may have stemmed from a newly found fondness for his poetry, or it may have been her rationale for writing a new Hardy biography among so many already available. Tomalin is a biographer so confident in her own voice that she can make any subject seem fresh and memorable. As in her biographies of Jane Austen, Samuel Pepys, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Katheri

...more
Alberthe
It is an easy and interesting read, so if you just want a quick overview of Hardy's life, it does the job. I became, however, increasingly annoyed with all the speculation on Tomalin's part - 'he must have thought so-and-so', 'if they did this and that, did they react so-and-so?' When there is no possibility of knowing, I'd have preferred no guesses. Tomalin also inserts her own judgements constantly. Instead of letting e.g. Florence or Emma's words speak for themselves, Tomalin must tell us how...more
Kari
Claire Tomalin's biography of Thomas Hardy was disappointing for several reasons. The first of these is that it reads more as an extended bibliography of his work. Tomalin carefully outlines (and organizes each chapter according to) the book by Hardy's various publications. She gives a plot summary of each novel, her evaluation of it, and the circumstances in which Hardy penned the work. One wishes for more of Hardy the man, not Hardy the novelist. Overall, however, she sketches a fine portrait...more
micah
I don't know why I thought Thomas Hardy's life would be exciting and inspiring, but I did, and according to this lady, it sure wasn't. I guess I shouldn't shoot the messenger but if you like Hardy's books, find a balance and symmetry to them that's deeply pleasing and ache at the beauty of his descriptions you will not want to know that he married a woman he grew to hate and ignore, who herself went crazy and died, after which he became consumed with guilt and spent the rest of his life writing...more
Brian Robbins
Wow! Only reached end of chapter 3 - how dare decorating get in the way! Riveting stuff so far. Often find this isn't the case with the subjects early years in biographies, but this is excellent.

Brilliant biography. She was able to present Hardy's complex relationships in a sufficiently detailed and rounded way, and never with those irritatingly manufactured controvesies that so many writers of biography seem to feel the need to manufacture or to add fuel to e.g. the delightful A. N. Wilson.

Her...more
Booksrock
Hardy's realism and capacity for detail have always fascinated me. This bio was extremely interesting. However, I never discovered why he wrote what he did; perhaps, that is too much to ask of any biographer. In a way, though she described him as appearing to others and generally "happy", I found him rather souless. In the end, I think I have lots of details and anecdotes and even, some of his personal writings. Yet, I never really found the man who wrote those wonderful books and magnificent po...more
D.
This was a very nice, thorough biography of Hardy. It made me want to go back and reread some of his books and poetry now that I know a bit more about his influences and the parts of his life that inspired his writing. It took me a long time to read this book--I only had 30-minute snatches of time here and there. I'd recommend reading it if you have more time to devote to it--I didn't like reading it in such a piecemeal fashion.
Jessica Fure
Should a biography make you want to rush out and read more of the subject's work? This one certainly does.

I picked this up thanks to Nick Hornby's glowing review, and found it really was all that. Tomalin's focus on Hardy as a poet actually serves to help a newcomer to Hardy understand the nuances of his work, and proves an interesting unifying theme to his life.
Leigh
I mainly read this to learn more abt Hardy's personal life. Since his characters tend to be so conflicted about which romantic partner to pick and inevitably seem to choose the wrong one, i was curious to see if this also played out in Hardy's own life. At any rate, I found out what I wanted to know but cannot exactly say that the book was riveting.
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Born Claire Delavenay in London, she was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge.

She became literary editor of the 'New Statesman' and also the 'Sunday Times'. She has written several noted biographies and her work has been recognised with the award of the 1990 James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the 1991 Hawthornden Prize for 'The Invisible Woman The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens'.

In...more
More about Claire Tomalin...
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