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Jude The Obscure
by Thomas Hardy
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From Library Journal
Jude the Obscure created storms of scandal and protest for the author upon its publication. Hardy, disgusted and disappointed, devoted the remainder of his life to poetry and never wrote another novel. Today, the material is far less shocking. Jude Fawley, a poor stone carver with aspirations toward an academic career, is thwarted at every turn and is finally forced to give up his dreams of a university education. He is tricked into an unwise marriage, and when his wife deserts him, he begins a relationship with a free-spirited cousin. With this begins the descent into bleak tragedy as the couple alternately defy and succumb to the pressures of a deeply disapproving society. Hardy's characters have a fascinating ambiguity: they are victimized by a stern moral code, but they are also selfish and weak-willed creatures who bring on much of their own difficulties through their own vacillations and submissions to impulse. The abridgment speeds Jude's fall to considerable dramatic effect, but it also deletes the author's agonizing logic. Instead of the meticulous weaving of Jude's destiny, we get a somewhat incoherent summary that preserves the major plot points but fails to draw us into the tragedy. Michael Pennington reads resonantly and skillfully, his voice perfectly matching the grim music of Hardy's prose, but this recording can only be recommended for larger public libraries.
-John Owen, Advanced Micro Devices, Sunnyvale, CA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Author Thomas Hardy espoused Shakespeare's dictum (from King Lear): "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport." He particularly exhibits this pessimism in Jude the Obscure, his tragedy about Jude Fawley, a stonemason torn by ambitions both intellectual and carnal, and Sue Whitehead, an early feminist whom Jude loves and who sometimes loves Jude. A compelling novel is made more so in this audio version by the outstanding work of Frederick Davidson. Always dependable, Davidson here excels in his use of measured dramatics; his consistent differentiation of a large cast of characters from varying social, educational and, therefore, dialectal groups; and his obvious personal involvement in the miseries of the two main characters. T.H. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
Dale Kramer, University of Oregon
Cedric Watts's edition of Jude the Obscure is one of an extremely interesting set of literary works...
T.R. Wright, University of Newcastle
This is an informative and scholarly edition of the novel which brings out its explosive nature...
English Literature in Transition
Broadview Press and editor Cedric Watts have done a splendid job.
"The greatest tragic writer among English novelists."
Hardy's masterpiece traces a poor stonemason's ill-fated romance with his free-spirited cousin. No Victorian institution is spared — marriage, religion, education — and the outrage following publication led the embittered author to renounce fiction. Modern critics hail this novel as a pioneering work of feminism and socialist thought.
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