Durdles's Reviews > A Pair of Blue Eyes

A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy
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's review
Mar 24, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics
Read from October 14 to 22, 2010

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 architecture immerse one in a mid 19th century landscape that is little changed today. Here is the scene of, literally, the first cliffhanger (as one monthly installment of the story ends) during which Knight confronts a trilobite as well as his own relative insignificance. (Colin Firth would be great, Andrew).
The central characters alternately delight and infuriate with their bright intelligence and stubborness. I wanted, at times, to shake Elfride for her careless coquetishness - yet she is cruelly done by, Smith for his youthful naivity and Knight for being such a prudish prig. My loyalties were continually being challenged depending upon from whose point of view we were observing the action. This novel has been decribed as being poetical in the way that images are conjured. I have seen people describing this as a quick read, but it is really better read slowly, or, ideally, aloud. It makes an excellent audiobook. I recommend the one on iTunes by the RNIB.
Any thought that the idea of marrying beneath one's station has been banished in these, more enlightened times need only consider the relish with which we criticise potential in-laws today; witness the "doors to manual" epiphet visited upon Prince William's girlfriend (fortunately they, at least, are set to actually marry).
Update March 2011: I've slept in Thomas Hardy's (Stephen Smith's) bedroom at the rectory - now a 5* bed and breakfast - and vitually unchanged in 130 years, so I had the strange temptation in the night to barge my way into Elfride's bedroom and show her what's what! But instead I packed my case and hat-box and stole away before first light (but not before a delicious breakfast).
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