This is my new favourite Thomas Hardy novel. It's just magnificent. So incredibly beautifully written, so full of amusing dialogue and wit. It's not at all depressive lonely rural wessex but rather a mixture of town and London, Society and servants. Without giving anything away I think it has the best ending of any Victorian novel I've ever read. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, it did.
The plot was lovely, a young widow of 21 (or so) is living in society with her mother-in-law while hiding the fact that her family are actually servants and builders. It's an interesting look at the illusion of class and how people are shaped by how they are perceived. It's quite telling that most of the book her brothers refuse to see her as their equal but rather as a great lady.
The characterisation in this book was very good, especially the women (not something Hardy's usually that good at in my past experience). Ethelberta herself was so great, intelligent, witty, creative, and amusing. She always had a plan and while she did spend a little time moping, she was such a great heroine. Her sister Picotee I felt sorry for a lot of the time, living in her sister's shadow but wanting so much more for herself. I did like Lord Montclere the old scoundrel, I could so easily see him as Christopher Lee.
I'd not heard of this book before I found it and I'm so glad I did for it was absolutely wonderful. I'd definitely recommend it, even to fans of 19th century literature who haven't gotten on well with Hardy in the past....Continua