Frank's Reviews > The Return of the Native

The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
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Jul 04, 08

Read in July, 2008

I kept falling asleep at the beginning of this book. Finally I gave up. I mentioned to my friend Rich that I'd stalled out, and he quoted his high school English teacher, whose words predicted Rich's own experience of the novel: "For the first fifty pages, we would think Return of the N the worst book we had ever read and after that it would seem the best book we had ever read." So I pressed on, and sure enough, around page fifty the book grabbed me and didn't let go till I finished.

One of the main characters in this novel is named Diggory Venn, and I thought of Venn diagrams while reading this book, which is about intersecting circles of romantic desire. (It turns out, though, that the novel was published in 1878, and John Venn didn't introduce his diagram until 1881.) Still, the diagram seems to evoke the complicated connections among the five major characters, whose very names are wonderful: Diggory Venn, Clement (Clym) Yeobright, Eustacia Vye, Thomasin Yeobright, and Damon Wildeve.

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield mentions that he likes Eustacia Vye. I still can't figure out why. She is a great character, though--proud, imperious, impetuous. Hardy describes her as "the raw material of a divinity. On Olympus she would have done well," he writes, for "She had the passions and instincts which make a model goddess, that is, those which make not quite a model woman." Indeed, this character who might have been at home as a goddess on Olympus meets a tragic end amid the mortal constraints of the desolate Egdon Heath.

I like reading Hardy during the summers (I read Tess of the D'Urbervilles over the summer nine years ago, and tried and failed to read Jude the Obscure the following summer. (Maybe I should go back and give it another try, too.) The bleakness of his vision is easier to take when the world is green and sweet leisure is plentiful. This one's somewhat less bleak than Tess, though, given its ending which, according to a footnote from Hardy, was made sunnier because of "certain circumstances of serial publication."
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Gary the Bookworm I couldn't agree more. The first 50 pages is an ordeal but so sweet the reward. This summer I've only read Hardy and it has been sublime. Take another look at Jude and don't neglect Far from the Madding Crowd. That said, Return ...is my favorite-but they're all magnificent!


message 2: by josey (new)

josey glad you said this because i started reading it and needed a push. if i don't like a book in 25 pages i put it down. i will now struggle through the first 50. thanks.


Cosmic Arcata I wondered why Holden liked Eustacia Vye best too. Certainly the antagonist. But if you believe that he did like Eustacia Vye and you are open minded enough to look at a different interpretation of The Catcher In The Rye, one that I think only Salinger could have written. Then I invite you to check out my discussion here:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

I hope you will tell me what you think.


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