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A Pair of Blue Eyes

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  6,470 ratings  ·  327 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, Oxford World's Classics, 374 pages
Published November 3rd 2005 by Oxford University Press (first published 1873)
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3.76  · 
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 ·  6,470 ratings  ·  327 reviews

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Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, british
“Men may love strongest for a while, but women love longest.”

This is the story of Elfride Swancourt, our blue-eyed heroine.
Elfride is torn between two lovers, the young, kind-hearted, socially inferior Stephen Smith, an architect; and much older and scrupulous Londoner, Henry Knight, a literary man and Stephen’s mentor. She also has to satisfy the expectations of her father, the Rector of Endelstow.

A Pair of Blue Eyes is a moving and poignant story about love, social conventions, limitations w
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
Giss Golabetoon
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another story of love and life by Hardy, he advocates for women and understands them in ways i don't know how but he does, and he is a wizard with words and he knows the sunset and the moonlight and everything in between as passionately as humanly possible.
"A lady would have said there was a smell of tobacco in the room, a man that there was not."
MJ Nicholls
[Spoilers!] Thom’s third novel is a classic Victorian tale of a scatterbrained ingenue who falls for a working class upstart and changes her mind about eloping with him in London while eloping with him in London who then starts seeing the working class upstart’s posher middle-class mentor who over a number of pages learns about her time with the working class upstart (not his name) and the botched elopement and turns against her for social embarrassment and Victorian deportment reasons and who t ...more
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: england, classics
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
What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

Elfride Swancourt is a vicar’s daughter, unschooled in the world, who falls in love with two men. Her first is a young impressionable boy himself and her second a more worldly, but dare I say no more emotionally developed, man of letters. At a number of junctions in the novel, Elfride might save herself a bad experience by being honest, but she elects to withhold the truth, for easily understandable reasons, and it is her undoing. Li
Feb 21, 2014 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.
Mar 19, 2013 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
Apr 06, 2014 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
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
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
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!!!
Easily the best book I've read so far in 2017.

Ahh, Thomas Hardy, how I love thee. And how I always forget how much I love thee until I read another of thy books. You bring me so much melodrama, so much angst, so much romance, and so many men that I can curse for their stupidity and/or misogyny. These are the kind of books that I shake in anger and whisper 'no' at when it's 1am and I should have stopped reading hours ago. These are the kind of books that I want to talk about for hours on end beca
May 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
"How shall I answer without being ashamed? What fickle beings we men are, Stephen! Men may love strongest for a while, but women love longest. I used to love her--in my way, you know."

" A fancy some people hold, when in a bitter mood, is that inexorable circumstance only tries to prevent what intelligence attempts. Renounce a desire for a long-contested position, and go on another tack, and after a while the prize is thrown at you, seemingly in disappointment that no more tantalizing is possible
Mar 18, 2008 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
Katie Lumsden
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Perhaps 3.5. An interesting Hardy read - not my favourite but one that certainly has given me a lot to think about. In general I found the characters engaging and the plotting well done, with some stunning scenes, although the ending was a little disappointing.
Feb 12, 2014 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
Daniel Villines
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my experience with 19th Century writing, I’ve noticed a fair amount of heavy handedness by writers that seemingly push their characters through plots. There always appears to be something forced about the tragedies and the characters seem to be easily trapped by emotions spawned by narrow perceptions of life. I find these manipulations to be distracting form the reality that these writers strive to create.

The element of Blue Eyes that is refreshing is that the plot feels organic to the hearts
Feb 13, 2014 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.
Nov 02, 2011 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
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
At last I've read a book by Hardy that I enjoyed. It was much less gloomy than I remember his other books to be. (view spoiler) The description of the countryside etc was very evocative. I very much enjoyed the story, and the characterisation of the people in the book.
May 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Tragic love triangle of a young woman torn between a younger and older man.
Oct 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: BBC7 listeners
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the fifth Hardy book that I read, and it was undoubtedly my favourite! This is probably due to that (i) Hardy’s writing is as beautiful as ever, (ii) this book is a little less ‘bleak’ and maybe more ‘tragic’(?) compared to what I’ve read before (Tess, Jude, Mayor of Casterbridge and Under the Greenwood Tree) and (iii) the way the plot unfolds at the end is amazing.

As to Hardy’s writing, he starts his book off with a description of Elfride, who is supposedly modelled on his first wife,
May 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I enjoy Hardy's writing style, and this was an easy read. There were however several passages in which the descriptions got a bit muddled and lengthy causing me to just move on instead of being able to develop a fuller picture. I'm feeling sad after finishing it, although while reading I almost felt like it could have been a comedy. I've been thinking that Hardy didn't have a great respect for women, particularly his heroines. While I enjoyed the book I'm not sure what the moral is.
David Evans
Oct 14, 2010 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
May 27, 2010 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
Jul 16, 2012 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
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio-book, 2016, classic
I would like to excuse Hardy by saying this is his first novel, but I can't. He wrote 2 or 3 before, and good ones. (They say it is based on his courtship of his first wife - if so, I pity them both.) This is probably a perfectly fine book, but in comparison to his others, it falls far short. The idealization of love and the loved one was a big theme, and one I happen to dislike. So not a book for me.
Jan 13, 2008 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.
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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 fascination 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 cha ...more
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