Briynne's Reviews > Under the Greenwood Tree

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
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Feb 03, 2009

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Read in February, 2009

I've come to accept that I'm the only person of my generation with whom I am personally acquainted that likes Thomas Hardy. It's fine. It's astonishing and amazing to me, but fine. This particular sort of isolation has it's perks, though; I like to think that Tom and I are buddies - you know, sort of us against the world. And through this bizarre, completely imaginary relationship, I had myself pretty well convinced that I knew what to expect from a Hardy novel. Not so, friends.

I picked this up as a part of my "books which have been made into BBC costume dramas featuring Keeley Hawes" reading theme of the moment, which also includes The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen. Since I had watched the movie, I expected this to be a little fluffier than typical Hardy fare, but I loved the movie and expected that to be ok. As it turns out, the BBC version was a virtual angst-fest compared with the original novel. Where was the class conflict? How about the poisonous effects of ambition or the suffocating tension of social censure? All of the themes which pervade Hardy, and make me love him, were palpably missing from this one.

I hate myself for saying this, but the movie was so much better than the book. The heroine in the book was silly and vapid - Keeley's version was sensible and conflicted. The hero, sadly named Dick Dewey, was rather charming in the movie but was a little jealous and irritating in parts of the book. However, Hardy gets points for his descriptions and his sense of place. Also, his scenes with Reuben and the rest of the parish choir are wonderful.

Three stars, and I'm closing this screen before I add another one out of loyalty. It's a sweet, harmless book - I just prefer a little more Hardy in my Hardy novels.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Charlizechat (new)

Charlizechat That's interesting. I've always thought I should like Hardy, but I don't know how to approach him. The poetry is very strong, but I haven't managed to get a handle on his novels the few fleeting times I've tried.

Susanna I absolutely agree, Brlynne, and I am also a huge Hardy fan. i haven't seen the BBC production, so I had no expectations from that direction, but I did hope for more class conflict, exploration of gender issues, and angst. A pleasant, if a bit fluffy, read, but not what I think of as "Hardy."

Rosemary Gelderen You are not alone! I count Hardy as one of my fav authors! His themes and descriptive language are delectable! Although not always pleasant or easy to read!

Nicola Watkinson This is so true! The last Hardy I read before this was Jude the Obscure, so after the drama and angst and conflict and death and general Hardy-brilliance of that, this was rather disconcerting. I remember telling my boyfriend "oh I'm reading Under The Greenwood Tree now, Thomas Hardy, I'm sure that will be cheerful and no-one will die" and then it was and they didn't and I was quite confused.

Mary Yes, the movie is much better, for all the reasons you so eloquently stated.

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