The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy (+Audiobook review)

Victorian literature, is there anything more thrilling? Actually yes, quite a lot more thrilling in fact. All right, so the eighteenth century may not have been like the modern era, with technology capable of rendering us obese and spellbound, but in it’s own way was just as revolutionary since some of the world’s best literature emerged from this period. Thomas Hardy is one of those authors who wrote stellar novels remembered as historically great; spending most of his life as a poet he only later began writing novels out of a desire to artistically shift his life. This re-direction would turn out to be very fruitful since the novels he would write would go down as some of the greatest in English literature.

The plot revolves around Eustacia Vye and Cylm Yeobright. The former is woman trapped in a small town reaching for the stars, searching for her escape. The latter is a cosmopolitanism trader eager to return to a simpler life then what he has been exposed to in the European capitals. Naturally Eustacia sees in Clym her opportunity to surmount her rural unhappiness and live the life she always imagined: moderate wealth, city slicker status, and to be the center of a whirlwind of contemporary events.

However, events do not pan out as planned. While he does marry Clym shortly after the wedding her dreams of worldly advancement shatter. Clym’s dream of settling down for a simple life in the countryside overwhelm her desire for them to settle in the urban metropolis. Clym sees the city as offering nothing but corruption and sin. He views the healthy alternative as to undertake manual labor and support his burgeoning family as a wood cutter. Eustacia falls into a deep depression and eventually commits suicide. Clym learns to live without his beloved and learn from his mistakes.

For its time this novel was quite shocking. Many saw it as subversive and the protagonist (Eustacia) was a sinful witch. The topics involved, ranging from gambling to the defects of marriage and even suicide, proved controversial to a Victorian audience. This was not unusual about Hardy’s works: all of his books provoked some kind of negative response considering he was so ahead of his time. This would certainly not be the last time his work received such a negative response.

Even so Return of the Native, in our contemporary society, has received the proper attention it deserved. It has preserved throughout the years for a reason and this reason is because it, like many novels of this era, spoke of an intersection between reality, fiction, and the future, as well as on the ways to express society representation and change. Hardy’s novels may not be the adrenaline rush you are searching for when reading but it will certainly provide you with a tale worthy of digging down deeper into.

Audiobook Review

Reading through this novel with the aid of an audiobook, I thought it only prudent to briefly talk about said audiobook. Read by Alan Rickman, a voice which you should remember as belonging to the actor who is well-known for his role in the Harry Potter movie as professor Snape. Rickman’s unique voice truly captures the essence and depressive state of the novel, the decision of “Cover and Cover” to utilize Rickman was in my eyes a fantastic choice. So if you enjoy audiobooks, want to read the Return of the Native, and desire to hear Snape narrate a Victorian novel, then look no further!

Recommendation: Buy. Amazon sells both for cheaply on the Kindle so if you have a fire tablet or the computer app you should be able to start exploring for yourself in a matter of moments.

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