If you’re a fan of classical English literature, then Thomas Hardy is one author you should definitely read. His novels are beautifully written and rich in detail. However, if you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry – we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll discuss Hardy’s life and work and then give you a list of his best books that you should read right now.
Who is Thomas Hardy?
Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England. He is one of the most well-known Victorian authors, and his novels often deal with rural life and love. Hardy’s work was initially published anonymously, as he was worried about how the public would receive it. However, after the success of his novel, “Far from the Madding Crowd,” he decided to publish under his own name.
Hardy’s novels often end tragically, which led some critics to label him a pessimist. However, Hardy said that he saw himself as a realist rather than a pessimist, as he believed that life was full of good and bad experiences. Regardless of how you label him, there’s no denying that Hardy is a master of the English language, and his novels are definitely worth reading.
The 5 Must-Read Books by Thomas Hardy
Now that you know a bit about Thomas Hardy and his work, let’s take a look at some of his must-read books.
“Far from the Madding Crowd” is Hardy’s fourth novel and his first major literary success. It was first published anonymously and serially in 1874 and published in book form under Hardy’s name the same year. The story follows the life of Bathsheba Everdene, a beautiful and independent woman who inherits a farm in rural England. We also meet her three suitors and see her contrasting relationship with each of them. The novel follows her as she tries to make the farm a success and also deals with themes of love, betrayal, and morality. “Far from the Madding Crowd” is considered one of Hardy’s best novels, and it’s definitely a great place to start if you’re new to his work.
“The Return of the Native” was first published in 1878, and it’s set in Egdon Heath, a fictional area in England. The story follows the life of Clym Yeobright, who returns to his native village after living in Paris for several years. Clym finds that his village has changed a lot since he left, and he also struggles to find his place in the community. In addition, the novel follows other characters who all live on or near the heath and deals with themes of love, isolation, fate, and morality. “The Return of the Native” is considered one of Hardy’s dark and pessimistic novels, but it’s definitely worth reading.
“Tess of the d’Urbervilles” was first published in 1891 and is one of Hardy’s best-known works. It tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a poor girl from a rural village who is sent to live with her wealthy relatives, the d’Urbervilles. However, Tess’s life is turned upside down when she meets Alec d’Urberville, a man who will profoundly impact her life. The novel follows Tess as she tries to make a new life for herself and deals with themes of love, betrayal, morality, social class, sexuality, and religion. “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” is considered Hardy’s masterwork, and it’s definitely worth reading.
“Jude the Obscure” was first published in 1895, and it’s Hardy’s last work of fiction and one of his most controversial works. It tells the story of Jude Fawley, a working-class man from a rural village who dreams of becoming a scholar at Oxford University. However, Jude’s plans are derailed when he meets Arabella Donn. Jude tries to make something of himself and falls in love with Sue Bridehead. Sue is unable to bear living with her husband Phillotson and moves in with Jude. Society’s disapproval and poverty take weight on them, and tragedy strikes. The novel deals with themes of love, morality, religion, social class, and education. “Jude the Obscure” was poorly received and heavily criticized when it was first published, and while dark and pessimistic, it’s now considered one of Hardy’s best novels.
“The Mayor of Casterbridge” was first published in 1886, and it’s set in the fictional town of Casterbridge. The story follows the life of Michael Henchard, a man who sells his wife and daughter at a fair. Henchard regrets his decision and tries to find them, but he is unsuccessful. He later becomes the mayor of Casterbridge and tries to make a new life for himself. However, his past catches up with him, and he must face the consequences of his actions. The novel deals with themes of love, morality, fate, and redemption. “The Mayor of Casterbridge” is considered one of Hardy’s best novels, and it’s definitely worth reading.
So there you have it – our list of Thomas Hardy’s best books you should read right now. If you’re a fan of classical English literature, then these are definitely some novels that you should add to your reading list.
We hope you find these recommendations helpful and that they help you get started on your journey into the world of Thomas Hardy. Happy reading!
What do you think about the books on this list?
Have you read any books by Thomas Hardy? Are any of these books or his other works on your TBR? What book by Thomas Hardy is your favorite? What books would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.