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.