I’m still focusing on trying to finish my Alphabet Reading Challenge, and this one fills a hole at the J title. I pulled the title off the BBC’s The Big Read list. This makes two Hardy novels in one year – and I’m not sure I’ve read another one before this year!
Genre: literary fiction
Length: 397 pages
Setting: Wessex (Hardy’s imaginary county in England), 1880s
Summary: Jude, an orphan at a young age, grew up with his poor aunt in Marygreen. He always dreamed of going to Christminster to join a college there. To support his studies, he becomes a stonemason. Unfortunately, he’s tricked into marrying Arabella, so his dreams of college must be deferred. They aren’t suited for each other, so Arabella goes to Australia with her family and Jude finally gets to Christminster. Sadly, he has no hope of ever getting into a college, being a poor working man. But, he does meet his cousin Sue, who fascinates him. She marries Jude’s old teacher, but even so, they live together as husband and wife for years, never getting married. They run into a string of bad luck, and Jude’s child by Arabella kills their children and himself. This act drives Sue and Jude back to their first spouses.
Final thoughts: A fine enough story. Nothing too exciting (definitely not a plot driven story), especially when you consider that Sue and Jude end up in the same relationships at the end as they start with. When you consider the book in its historical context, there’s a bit more to the story. The whole idea that men and women could be friends was foreign to society at that time. The fact that Jude and Sue enjoyed their conversations was almost as controversial as the fact that they lived together without being married. I have to give props to Sue’s first husband who let her go when he realizes she’ll never be happy with him. On the other hand, I felt sorry for Jude. He really did want to become a scholar, but his lack of money prevented him from ever getting into a college at Christminster.
Title comes from: Jude was the main character and I think he referred to himself as being obscure. It also referred to the fact that he came from nothing.
Reading challenges fulfilled: #89 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge, and a J in my Title Reading the Alphabet Challenge
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