Review of The Return of the Native

I finally finished The Return of the Native.  Actually, I should say that I am finally getting around to writing the review.  This is the 24th book I’ve completed out of the 1001 novels and the 4th novel I’ve completed for the Victorian Reading Challenge.  I have one more book for the Victorian challenge and quite a few for my own challenge.  I’m trying not to focus on that number and just enjoy the way to the finish line.

This novel is by Thomas Hardy.  He was born in 1840 and died in 1928.  Hardy entered the professional world as an architect at the age of 16.  In his spare time, he would write poems.  Then he wrote his first novel.  However, it was rejected and he got rid of the manuscript, which is a great loss for us.  In 1874, he published his first book at his own expense and it didn’t do that well financially.  He was not daunted and in 1874 he decided he could live off of his writing and he gave up architecture.  He married and concentrated on writing.  And he was right.  He became an influential English author who published a book every year or two.  That is until the public didn’t like two of his novels, Jude and Tess of the D’Urbervilles.   After the publication of these novels and the reaction by the public, he never wrote fiction again.  Instead, he only wrote poems and he wanted to be remembered as a poet.  But critics today think that his novels are a greater gift to literature.  And after learning a little of his history I am quite curious about the two novels that the public didn’t like.

The Return of the Native takes place in a rural English countryside.  This novel follows two families that are on a destructive path in search of happiness.  Clym Yeobright, who had been living in Paris returns to his mother’s home to find that his cousin, Thomasin has been humiliated at the altar. Her fiancée, Wildeve, conveniently acquired the wrong license.  Wildeve claims that it was a simple mistake and that it can be remedied.  However, Thomasin is unaware that Wildeve is in love with another woman, Eustacia Vye, who is above his station.

Clym wanders home during this mess.  And he is going through his own turmoil since he works in the diamond business in Paris and he is unsatisfied in his work.  He wants to move back home to become a teacher to the poor and to make a difference in the world.  His mother does not approve.  She doesn’t understand why Clym would want to throw away his future.

All this sounds complicated, yet Hardy is only beginning.  Eustacia is tired of living in the countryside and dreams of living in a city, like Paris.  She hears of Clym and she convinces herself that she is in love with him and that she can talk him into returning to Paris.  Clym falls in love with her.  Wildeve and Thomasin marry even though Wildeve still has feelings for Eustacia.  Eustacia and Clym marry even though she is intent on living in Paris and Clym never wants to return to Paris.  Also, Clym’s mother disapproves of the marriage.  I won’t tell you how it all works out, but I will tell you that it is worth finding out.

As you can see, a lot happens in this book.   Before starting this novel I didn’t think that it would be an edge of my seat read.  But I couldn’t put the book down.  I was fascinated by all the twists and turns.  I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.  This is my first Hardy novel and I can’t wait to read his other books to see if they are just as exciting.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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20 Responses to Review of The Return of the Native

  1. lifewith4cats says:

    well you know I can’t stay silent on this one! As he is my favorite author. I’m glad you liked it. I must warn you though… Return of the Native is his most ‘mellow’ book. But I can’t say why I think so, not without spoiling the plot line for your other readers.
    Jude and Tess would make a good read on a plane ride. They will rock your world! at least they did for me anyway.

    • TBM says:

      LOL…if this was a mellow read I can’t wait to read the others. Too bad they are packed up right now or I would break right into them.

      I am surprised by how much I loved his writing style. I hadn’t heard too much about him and I wish I had. But now I still can look forward to more of his books.

      Can’t wait to read the others so we can discuss his work more!

      • lifewith4cats says:

        He actualy has his own fan club of over in england. I wanna say… Oxford University? He’s buried over in poets corner. But his heart is buried seperatly beside his first wife. Don’t forget to visit poets corner when you get there. Lots of great masters lie there.

  2. Caroline says:

    It was interesting to read your review and also to read Sarah’s comment. I haven’t read any Thomas hardy. I don’t know why but I always thoughtI will not like him although I met a few bloggers now who are absolutely enthusiastic. I got the Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the D’Urbervilles…I can’t imagine if you and Sarah like him that I wouldn’t.
    I’m tempted now… Which one to read first though?
    Soon you will be able to visit all the places he describes.

    • TBM says:

      I was in the same boat. I thought he would be boring and I would find his novels a chore to read. If this book is any indication, he is not boring! I won’t jump on the absolutely enthusiastic bus yet until I read another work. But it is as good as this one, I will add him to my faves.

      I’m not sure which one you should start with since I haven’t read them. Maybe Sarah can chime in and help.

      And yes I can’t wait to visit these areas. He described the land in a way that I felt like I was there. And hopefully I will be able to see it soon.

      • lifewith4cats says:

        LoL, Jude= innocent guy ruined by the manipulations of others. Tess= a dreamer trapped in a dream.
        Jude- will always be my favorite, he was my first read and I relate to him. Tess- mentions stone-henge in it.
        I think those who don’t like Hardy do so because he tends to be brutaly honest with his words and his issues. His tragedy is very tragic indeed.
        @TBM I love that you fell in love with the land descriptions. Me too!
        Hardy’s poems are very bad.. even I couldnt bring myself to read them. I tried.

  3. Shelley says:

    I love Thomas Hardy! I’ve read Jude and Tess, and liked them, but Far from the Madding Crowd is my favorite. Return of the Native is probably a close second. I love to hear when someone loves his work. We did one of his books for a local book club,and everyone else hated it. I know everyone has their own taste, but it made me sad.

    • TBM says:

      What book did they hate? I haven’t heard of Far from the Madding Crowd. I’ll have to pick it up. I’m quickly becoming a fan of his! I loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

      • Shelley says:

        They hated Far From the Madding Crowd, my favorite :-(. They said it was too hard to read and that it was boring. Most didn’t even finish the book.

  4. TBM says:

    They actually removed his heart to bury it with his wife? I didn’t know people did that. I hope to see Poets Corner! Thanks for the tip.

  5. I believe I’ve read Tess of D’Urbervilles when I was in the university – I was in a Judith Wharton/Oscar Wilde phase then and inserted one Thomas Hardy in the mix. I might have to review the classics soon. But for now, I’m happy with picture books. Hahaha. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t read much Wharton or Wilde, but they are on my list. I love your picture book reviews. I’m always amazed by how many you track down. It is fun to follow your progress.

  6. Novroz says:

    I have often heard of Thomas Hardy and yet I haven’t read his books yet. There are so many authors need to be explored…one can’t read them all in a lifetime.

    When I click your post I thought I was going to find a review of a man in some African tribe, the title deceived me 😉

    It sounds like a book with a lot of ups and downs. I should give it a chance one day

    • TBM says:

      There are so many authors. That is why I like to join different reading challenges to break out of my norm and to discover books I probably wouldn’t have read on my own. It has been fun so far.

      The title is deceiving. I had no clue what it was about until I started reading it. I hope you read it sometime. It really is beautiful and exciting.

  7. The Hook says:

    Who says books are boring, right?

  8. Skye says:

    I’ve only read Tess of D’Urbervilles from Hardy. It’s definitely memorable, and it will make you angry at some of the characters.
    Hey, maybe you can visit Stonehenge when you get to England.

    • TBM says:

      Stonehenge would be awesome to see. Tess of D’Urbervilles is on my list. I’m excited to read it now after reading this novel. I’m becoming a Hardy fan!

  9. carlaat says:

    My favorite is also Far from the Madding Crowd. I had an English teacher in high school who was a huge Thomas Hardy fan. We read Jude the Obscure in that class. In my copy, someone had crossed out “Obscure” on the title page inside and written “Loser”. Remembering that always makes me laugh!

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