My review #37 of: A Pair of Blue Eyes

A Pair of Blue Eyes


Thomas HARDY

464 pages


This book counts for the

Victorian Literature Challenge


Elfride Swancourt is the daughter of the Rector of Endelstow, a remote sea-swept parish in Corwall based on St Juliot, where Hardy began A Pair of Blue Eyes during the beginning of his courtship of his first wife, Emma. Blue-eyed and high-spirited, Elfride has little experience of the world beyond, and becomes entangled with two men: the boyish architect, Stephen Smith, and the older literary man, Henry Knight. The former friends become rivals, and Elfride faces an agonizing choice.
Written at a crucial time in Hardy’s life, A Pair of Blue Eyes expresses more directly than any of his novels the events and social forces that made him the writer he was. Elfride’s dilemma mirrors the difficult decision Hardy himself had to make with this novel: to pursue the profession of architecture, where he was established, or literature, where he had yet to make his name. This updated edition contains a new introduction, bibliography, and chronology. [amazon]
This novel is of special interest because of the strong autobiographical parallels between the characters and circumstances of Stephen Smith and Elfride Swancourt and those of Hardy and his first wife Emma Gifford. This was the third of Hardy’s novels to be published and the first to bear his name. [Goodreads]


Thomas Hardy, OM, was an English author of the naturalist movement, although in several poems he displays elements of the previous romantic and enlightenment periods of literature, such as his facination with the supernatural. Though he regarded himself primarily as a poet and composed novels mainly for financial gain. The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-fictional land of Wessex, delineates characters struggling against their passions and circumstances. Hardy’s poetry, first published in his 50s, has come to be as well regarded as his novels, especially after The Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The term cliffhanger is considered to have originated with Thomas Hardy’s serial novel A Pair of Blue Eyes in 1873. In the previously mentioned novel Hardy chose to leave one of his protagonists, Knight, literally hanging off a cliff staring into the stony eyes of a trilobite embedded in the rock that has been dead for millions of years. This became the archetypal — and literal — cliff-hanger of Victorian prose. [Goodreads]


A couple of introductory points:

  • believe it or not, this is the first ebook I completely read from A-Z . I use the Kindle app mostly to read excerpts of books, to decide if I’m really going to check them out at the library or not. Very convenient! I enjoyed this first ebook experience, it works very well in bed or even under the covers! By day, I still prefer hard copies and/or audiobooks
  • I had a hard time finding an exciting title for this Victorian Challenge, and suddenly I remembered Hardy fit, and Amazon offered it for free on the Kindle app!

I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles decades ago; I enjoyed it a lot, I was about 14 I guess, but for whatever reason, my mom and sister ridiculed me for reading Thomas Hardy, so I stupidly stopped; too bad, because it was great for my enjoyment then, but now Hardy falls kind of flat for me, and I had a hard time appreciating the stye of his time and genre. I hated Elfride and her worldly concerns; some descriptions made me laugh aloud, not that they were comical in nature or designed to make you laugh, but because it was romanticism pushed to its extreme. I guess I’m done with Hardy.



1 thought on “My review #37 of: A Pair of Blue Eyes

  1. Pingback: Read in May 2011 « Words And Peace

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