Jude, The Obscure

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jude The Obscure
by Thomas Hardy

As a young boy, Jude Fawley reads everything he can get his hands on and dreams of going to college. He’s an orphan living in the English countryside yearning to move to Christminster (based on Oxford). When he finally gets the opportunity to begin to make his way in the world he meets a saucy milkmaid, Arabella, and is lured away from his goals.

Jude’s true love is his cousin Sue Bridehead, who shares his passion for intellectual pursuits. Unfortunately their timing always seems off. When he’s tied to Arabella, Sue is free and when he’s free, Sue is tied to a school teacher named Phillotson.

Jude is such a tragic character. His every effort to attain a happy life seems to be thwarted by things that are out of his control. The tragedy seems unavoidable even when you’re hoping the characters make different decisions. Without Hardy’s beautiful writing this book would be unreadable because it’s so depressing, but he makes it enthralling.


HOLY DARK TWIST BATMAN! Little Father Time, Jude’s son, had some serious issues and obviously he had a rough childhood, but still, I was not expecting him to murder his half siblings and hang himself. I mean geez! That is some dark, dark stuff.


In some ways it reminded me of a more likeable version of Wuthering Heights. The same premise of two souls made of the same stuff, but both ill-matched in marriages and kept apart. Only in Jude there’s no crazy, selfish character and in Wuthering Heights there’s less religion.

One of the novel’s main themes is marriage. The characters are constantly at odds with the union, which surprised me because it was published in 1895. I’m sure the book caused quite a stir when it first came out.

This was my first foray into Thomas Hardy and from what I’ve heard his other books have similar themes. This one was hard to rate, because though I loved the writing, the story leaves you aching for Jude and wishing you could have made his life better. So it’s not a book I feel like I loved. I will definitely read more of his work, (I’ve got Tess of the D’Ubervilles and Far From the Madding Crowd on my TBR list), but I may have to wait a bit before diving into another heartbreaker.

Here’s another wonderful review at Subtle Melodrama.

I read this review for the Victorian Literature Challenge here.


Jessica said...

I dont think that the others are quite as heartbreaking as Jude (well Tess is close) but far from the madding crowd isn't as bad. I'm sure there is a happy hardy out there somewhere.

Amanda said...

I skipped your spoiler part because I hope to read this very soon. I read the beginning of it recently but have put it aside while I'm on a reading break. I heard that this book is the one that caused Hardy to stop publishing - that it was so controversial that he never wrote another novel. I'm looking forward to reading it.

So far I've read two Hardy novels - Tess (which was very slow to start, but worth it in the end) and Return of the Native (which was one of my favorites books from last year).

Teacher/Learner said...

This sounds like something I might like. Hardy always tends to signal "depressing" in my mind, but I might actually try this. Thanks for the review :)

Kathy said...

This one's on my list so I skipped the spoiler part too (thanks for the alert). I LOVED Tess and I hope you do too . . . although, like Jess said, she experiences her share of sadness.

Anonymous said...

I really REALLY love Thomas Hardy. I recently finished Jude and reviewed it on my blog last week. I've now finished all of his major works and just started his biography by Claire Tomalin. Yes, his stories are quite tragic, but at least for me, his depth of insight, introspection, understanding of the human condition, and social commentary/history all outweigh the tragic events.

Yes, you are right, Jude did cause quite a stir back in the day. It was publicly burned by the Bishop of Wakefield. In fact, it was the last novel that Hardy ever wrote because he was so exasperated with the critics.

If you're hoping for a *little* less tragedy in your next Hardy read, I'd go with Far From the Madding Crowd.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Anything that has caused a stir (even back then) gets a vote from me. I've never read Hardy, but I aspire (ha) to get to it someday.

Kristi said...

I haven't read any Thomas Hardy, but Tess is on my list. I don't mind a good heartbreaking story every once in a while, but too many can be depressing. I'll have to add this to the list.

Becky Hill said...

So glad to read your review of this book. I have only read Tess and have Far from the Maddening. My plan is to read Maddening but will add Jude to my list too. Great review!

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

This is on of the most depressing books I've ever read and as many depressing books, it's really well written. I've read other books by Hardy and the only one not ending in tragedy is the great Far From the Madding Crowd. Highly recommended.

Jenners said...

I know I read this in college but darned if I remember anything about it!

LindyLouMac said...

I studied Hardy and he is a favourite novelist of mine. In fact reading your review has tempted me I might read this as part of the Victorian Challenge, thanks Avid :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

It sounds like Far From the Maddening Crowd or Return of the Native are two good choices. I'll have to try one of those next. Maybe I should save Tess for when I want another downer. Sometimes I'm in the mood for those, but just not everyday.

everybookandcranny - Wonderful review! It's interesting that this was the last book you read of Hardy's and you've now read everythign of his and this was my very first book of his. I love how little things like that can really affect the way you view the author's work.

Sandy - I did think all of controversial marriage stuff was fascinating. It was funny to have someone describing marriage as an antiquated institution in 1895. It seems like that's such a recent idea, but it's really not.

LindyLouMac - I read this one for the Vic Lit challenge too. I'm so glad I've found Hardy's work.

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

Great review. I skipped the Spoilers section since this is currently sitting in my TBR pile, and I hope to read it soon. Jude the Obscure intimidates me, though, since I've heard that Hardy's novels can be very depressing.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Don't be intimidated the writing is very accessible, but it is a sad book.

BookQuoter said...

Love Far from the Madding Crowd, but I also liked this one, even if it was sad.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

BookQuoter - I officially need to read that one. Everyone seems to love it.

Fanda said...

Thanks for the review! I haven't read any Hardy, but Tess is on my list. Maybe I'll put Jude and Far from Madding as well. Hopefully Jude is not as depressing as Wuthering Heights :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Fanda - If you're looking for something that isn't depressing this might not be the best choice. It's pretty dark.