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Two on a Tower

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3.71  ·  Rating details ·  3,091 ratings  ·  219 reviews
All night the astronomer's mind was on the stretch with curiosity as to what the Bishop could wish to say to him. A dozen conjectures entered his brain, to be abandoned in turn as unlikely. That which finally seemed the most plausible was that the Bishop, having become interested in his pursuits, and entertaining friendly recollections of his father, was going to ask if he ...more
Paperback, 318 pages
Published August 1st 1977 by St. Martin's Press (first published 1882)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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Violet wells
Dec 25, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I haven’t read a Thomas Hardy novel since I was nineteen. I have good memories of The Return of the Native, Jude the Obscure and especially Tess. This one has sat unread since those distant halcyon days.

I suspect this novel might highlight the problems of applying all mental energy to the construction of plot and leaving the characters as a secondary consideration – a cheap trick which characterizes lots of modern commercial fiction. Everyone in this novel is shackled to the dogmatic plot. The
...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Well, I am sad to say, but I am slowly winding up my summer of reading the literary works of George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. I recently finished Thomas Hardy's Two on a Tower, one of his more obscure novels. Two on a Tower was first serialized in the Atlantic Monthly and then published in book-form in 1882, and was categorized by Hardy as a novel of "Romance and Fantasies." I had the devil of a time finding a copy of this novel, and short of ordering a brand-new copy from an on-line source, I con ...more
MJ Nicholls
Any TH novel subtitled “a romance” will, inevitably, end in tears, in copious buckets of tears cried for years and years, the buckets turning into wells, and the wells turning into lagoons. This nonromcom concerns Viviette Constantine, a monied woman who takes a liking to Swithin St Cleeve, an unmonied self-trained astronomer, who occupies a tower on Viviette’s inherited land to conduct his stargazing scholarship activities. Over the course of the novel, various pandemoniums, convenient and inco ...more
Amy
Thomas Hardy said that he wrote this novel “to set the emotional history of two infinitesimal lives against the stupendous background of the stellar universe…” To begin the tale, a woman decides to investigate a tower and meets a young astronomer there who introduces her to the wonders of the night sky. As such, the novel is fiction about science rather than science fiction. Hardy uses the book as a social commentary on the Victorian rules of society and religion of the time. He sets our two sta ...more
Paul Christensen
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-and-sagas
Two on a Tower

A haunting juxtaposition
Of heavenly exposition,
Astronomical exhibition,
And tragical perdition,
Rather spoiled in this edition
(a Penguin Classics commission)
By the unfortunate addition
Of some academic’s submission
To classify every position
At the expense of recognition.

Clara (The Bookworm of Notre-Dame)
My favourite Hardy's novel, hands down.
It wasn't as good as Tess of the d'Urbervilles nor Far From the Madding Crowd but this one talked to my soul and I will never ever forget it.
Katie Lumsden
I did enjoy this, but it's not my favourite Hardy. It has some really interesting themes and quite an interesting central relationship, but I don't think the characters were as developed and the ending was quite odd. Hardy's writing is beautiful as always though.
Lesle
When you open my book there are what appears to be pencil sketches that if you touch them it would smear the art work.

When you read the book the first 70 pages or so are very slow and I liked the lesson at first. A glance into the life of Lady Constantine an upperclass social status and 8 years older and very lonely for companionship.
Swithin an astronomer and more in love with the findings than life itself. The Tower at first is his discoveries into the sky, it later becomes their own little wo
...more
Drew Graham
Oct 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: me
(4.5 rounded up, because I just enjoyed it that much.) In Welland is situated a memorial tower in a prehistoric wilderness. The tower stands in between Welland House, where neglected wife Viviette Constantine lives, and Welland Bottom, the dwelling of young, orphaned aspiring astronomer Swithin St. Cleeve. When Lady Constantine offers the tower and other resources for Swithin's astrological observations, she finds herself drawn to him, despite her absent (and unkind) husband, and the difference ...more
Caroline
Nov 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I know that a lot of people have a problem with the way that Hardy enjoys just destroying his characters, that the endings of his books are difficult to read, but I really enjoy his writing. If you're looking for a classic to get into, this book is easy to read and isn't too long, as well as being engaging.
Amanjot
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What intrigued me about this book was Hardy's characterization of the hero as a budding astronomer in the 18--'s. There are some fantastic dialogs between the two main characters about the stars and universe. Their sentiments in describing the experience of studying an infinite abyss of stars ring true even today.

The story centers on the character of Vivette Constatntine, falling in love and ultimately having a relationship with Swithin St. Cleave, a man almost 10 years younger than herself.

I
...more
Lucia
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'You said you would show me the heavens if I could come on a starlight night. I have come.’

But the universe under the celestial vault does not fit the passion of such a woman as the dowager Viviette Constantine for the young astronomer Swithin St. Cleeve, a lover several years her junior. The Victorian values and conventions simply make it impossible.
In a book which at times resembles the sensation novels, Thomas Hardy explores some of his preferred themes. His prose, really beautiful and ri
...more
Jenny Cooke (Bookish Shenanigans)
This felt a little different to the other Hardy novels I'd read but was still very enjoyable.
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
According to Thomas Hardy, he wrote this book “to set the emotional history of two infinitesimal lives against the stupendous background of the stellar universe…” which seems like an Herculean task, but maybe not if your name is Hardy. This is far from my favorite Hardy book and yet it is still enchanting. Hardy's dialogue is real and witty. His settings are tangible and lovely. His characters are flawed. And I always come away feeling a gut punch. As he often (always?) does, Hardy makes a stron ...more
Rocío G.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short yet powerful. This novel presents many elements that I've come to associate with Hardy's work: an impoverished male intellectual lead, a smart and passionate female lead constrained by convention, a focus on nature and most of all a vested interest in stressing the insignificance of human action (this time by contrasting the choices of two young lovers against the vastness of infinite space).

Here, as in other novels, Hardy takes up a rather deterministic view of human action and fate: we
...more
MoriartyandHerBooks
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wanda
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial:
Dramatisation by Jon Sen of Thomas Hardy's tragic tale of star-crossed lovers in the West Country.


Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

And the audio version is available at LibriVox.
...more
Sarah S
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
WTF just happened??? Oh Mr Hardy, your novels are so tempestuous. You act like you're going to give us a charming little love story and then you pull the rug out from us and we smack into the floor with our faces. At least that's what I seemed to have experienced with this...
Jessie
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had bought a couple of books by Hardy, being enchanted by the mere synopsis of them. Now owning four books by him, it seemed about time to finally read one of them and I WAS NOT DISSAPOINTED. The setting and link to astronomy were very well chosen and written. Nevertheless it does seem like the characters didn’t get to develop too well due to the elaborate plot. This meant that some of the choices they made seemed somewhat out of the blue. The book does give a wonderful social commentary on st ...more
Indah
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Well that ending was dramatic af. But then again it's Hardy, I should be glad no children commit suicide in this one
Ruby Madden
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
DESCRIPTION: In this novel, set in Wessex, the rich Lady Constantine lives a boring existence, also a chaste one, forced on her by an absent husband who may indeed be dead. But then she meets young Swithin, a naively ambitious astronomer, who shares with her his passion for the stars.

MY REVIEW: One of the reasons I love this story is that the characters were incredibly unique for their era. The main female lead (Lady Constantine) is ten years senior to the male lead (Swithin).

The other element
...more
Nancy
What happens when a woman of a certain age, who is married and of the upper classes in England, is attracted to a younger, intelligent man of a family of farmers?
In the hands of Thomas Hardy it is a treat for the eye and ear as well as a good Hardy read. I never would have known this book existed if I had not found it through a friend on Goodreads. For me, there is nothing like the settings, descriptions, symbolism and situations created by this writer.
Two on a Tower has been criticized for
...more
Jane Burger
Jun 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book about the forbidden love between Swithin, the 20 year old astronomer and Viviette, the much older woman of 29. The story is short in length but takes many different twists and turns making it a fun (maybe not quite the right word) and easy read. Although the author's writing could be quite descriptive, and sometimes lost on me, I also found him to be contemporary at the same time with mini cliffhangers drawing you so easily from one chapter to the next.
Natalie (CuriousReader)
Is this a progressive love-story of an older woman in a romantic relationship with a younger man or is it intentionally sensational, when justice gets served for anyone straying from the righteous path? I'm leaning towards the latter, considering the way this star-crossed romance ends. 'Two on a Tower' follows Swithin, a young aspiring astronomer - studying the stars, with his eyes firmly set on scientific pursuits; and Lady Constantine - a married woman some years Swithin's senior and his super ...more
Kate
Oct 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hardy is probably one of the few writer's I would happily read a 'star-crossed lovers' tale, and still enjoy the romance and variation in the trope. The main variation I found curious was the woman being older than her partner, it was often remarked upon as insignificant but slowly gained greater and great influence on the pair. The writing of nature and country persons was beautiful as usual, even the inclusion of astrological science was well managed.

Whilst it didn't have the narrative scope o
...more
Tracey
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this even though it is a minor work by Hardy. I studied Astronomy at High School and my love of it and understanding added to the enjoyment of the book.
My heart was in my mouth the whole time for the star crossed lovers.
Mimi Wolske
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Hardy, astronomy, and romance
Shelves: romance
I want to share just a bit of prose from this novel by Thomas Hardy. It’s a scene late at night at the height of a violent wind storm and Lady Constantine and Swithin (the protagonists) are atop the old tower trying to perform some astronomical observation:

“Under any other circumstances Lady Constantine might have felt a nameless fear in thus sitting aloft on a lonely column, with a forest groaning under her feet, and Paleolithic dead men feeding its rooms; but the passionate decision stirred he
...more
Lobstergirl
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lisa Vanderpump
Shelves: fiction

All of the astronomy just felt like a side story. This is the tale of the condition of the nineteenth century woman.* (Okay, the upper class nineteenth century woman, not that that makes it much better for her, really.)

* (view spoiler)
...more
Perry Whitford
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Her husband missing presumed dead in Africa for a few years, Lady Viviette Constantine revives from her enforced state of ennui when she becomes interested in a dedicated young scientist who she meets on top of a memorial tower belonging to her estate.

When Hardy first introduces his heroine to us, approaching thirty years of age, we learn how her eyes 'were the natural indices of a warm and affectionate, perhaps slightly voluptuous temperament, languishing for want of something to do, cherish or
...more
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4,733 followers
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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Impersonal monsters, namely, Immensities. Until a person has thought out the stars and their inter-spaces, he has hardly learnt that there are things much more terrible than monsters of shape, namely, monsters of magnitude without known shape. Such monsters are the voids and waste places of the sky... In these our sight plunges quite beyond any twinkler we have yet visited. Those deep wells for the human mind to let itself down into, leave alone the human body! and think of the side caverns and secondary abysses to right and left as you pass on!...

There is a size at which dignity begins," he exclaimed; "further on there is a size at which grandeur begins; further on there is a size at which solemnity begins; further on, a size at which awfulness begins; further on, a size at which ghastliness begins. That size faintly approaches the size of the stellar universe. So am I not right in saying that those minds who exert their imaginative powers to bury themselves in the depths of that universe merely strain their faculties to gain a new horror?”
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