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A Laodicean : a Story of To-day (English Edition) [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Hardy

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Produktbeschreibungen

Kurzbeschreibung

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

Synopsis

One of Hardy's most unusual novels. This edition presents the text of the first edition rather than that of 1912, allowing modern readers to read the novel as Hardy originally wrote it.

Produktinformation

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 516 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 496 Seiten
  • Gleichzeitige Verwendung von Geräten: Keine Einschränkung
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B0082RWQUA
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Aktiviert
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #20.755 Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 - Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop)

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Amazon.com: 4.7 von 5 Sternen  3 Rezensionen
4.0 von 5 Sternen 3 and 1/2 Stars -- Not Hardy's Best but Worthwhile 21. April 2010
Von Bill R. Moore - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
A Laodicean may be Thomas Hardy's weakest novel, but his mastery was such that it is more than worthy and quite respectable. Fans should read nearly everything he wrote before coming here but should definitely stop eventually, while those who have read a book or two and not found Hardy to their liking might consider skipping to it. Hardy put it with his "Novels of Ingenuity," and it not only differs markedly from most of his work but is also experimental to a large degree. This will likely disappoint those who like his other novels, though there are other attractions, while those not usually keen on Hardy may well be pleasantly surprised.

These differences are the book's most immediately striking aspect. Hardy had made himself known for rural settings, specifically in Wessex - the part-real, part-dream country, based on his native Southwest England, that he made world famous. This initially seems another entry - and indeed is in part, though not considered a Wessex novel -, but quickly expands to cover much of Europe, while events in various other parts of the world loom large in the background. Some initial readers were disappointed, as some current ones may well be, but this is notable as an overlooked example of Hardy's diversity. A master of place, he brings European resorts and casinos as fully and stirringly alive as rural England. That said, this is not so much unusual per se as unusual for him; such jaunts were near-obligatory in Victorian fiction, especially among Europeans, and this does not particularly stand out. One critic indeed commented that it must be the dullest European trip ever detailed in fiction, and it is easy to agree. Hardy made good use of his own vacation in describing the scenes, but the action is prolonged and strained - a problem to a lesser extent with the plot generally; he sometimes seems to lose focus and continue from obligation only.

The time is also noticeably more recent than usual. A Laodicean was published in 1881 and seemingly set not long before, while most of his fiction is set around 1830 or earlier. As such, we see technology - telegraphs, photographs - usually not present in Hardy. His work has generally been noted for showing modernity's ache - how modern technology's intrusion drastically changed a rural agricultural society that had been virtually the same for a thousand years. This novel does so in a different and perhaps more overt - if not more interesting - way than most, especially as symbolized in the great early scene where Somerset follows a lone telegraph wire through the middle of proverbial nowhere. Perhaps even more surprising is how Hardy uses such elements to advance fantastic plot devices - fake telegram and photo, etc. - of the kind seemingly abandoned in Desperate Remedies, an entry in the then popular sensation genre and his first published novel. An even stronger development in this way is the character of Dare, an embodiment of pure self-serving malice even more highly-wrought than Desperate's Manston. The portrayal is so melodramatic that it almost has supernatural overtones and clashes oddly with the general realism. Hardy was always unusual among Victorian writers in mixing high seriousness with what might anachronistically be called pulp elements; this made him as readable as he was important and was key to his success as well as one of the major reasons he is still so widely read. However, some may think this goes too far, sacrificing literary value for entertainment. The showdown between Dare and Mr. Power is the height - or nadir, depending on one's view - of this, almost proto-James Bond. The scene where de Stancy stands with his ancestors' portraits, which is so implausible that it borders on farcical, is another case in point. Such things will disappoint those who admire more typical Hardy and can hardly win over those who do not but are fairly well done as far as they go. Less excusable as experiments are contrived digressions about tangential topics like infant baptism and gambling. Hardy usually excelled at working commentary into storyline, but here he seemed to hardly try.

To be fair, we must remember that Hardy fell desperately ill shortly after beginning the book and was bedridden for six months while financial and other considerations forced him to painfully and laboriously dictate the rest. There is a definite falling off where the illness began; the first few chapters are consistently superb, the rest hit and miss. The novel would certainly have been stronger had he been at full strength, but inherent limitations would probably have always kept it from his top tier.

It is easy to focus on eccentricities and faults, but A Laodicean also has many classic Hardy strengths. For example, the large rural England sections are on par with his usual excellence in regard to place, and his castle evocation is particularly noteworthy. Characterization is also very strong. Somerset is one of Hardy's most underrated heroes and quickly sympathetic, but the main interest is clearly heroine Paula Power. Hardy is well-known for his heroines, and she is one of the most overlooked. Like many of them, she is unusually well-educated, capable, and independent for a Victorian women in addition to being beautiful - a fascinating combination that makes highly engaging dramatization. The titular Biblical reference to a person neither cold nor hot applies to her in several ways, and the novel is perhaps above all a character study. However seemingly meandering and purposeless, the plot consistently shows this, and the unforgettable final sentence epitomizes it. Whatever the plot's shortcomings, it does vividly show the effects of pairing such a personality with contrary ones. She allures everyone she meets, but only the placidly easygoing Charlotte is never frustrated. Somerset and de Stancy love her to distraction but find her ambivalence exasperating, as do relatives to various extents. We are likely to feel the same - as, it is easy to think, Hardy did also -, admiring her independence and strength while sometimes shaking our heads at her indecisiveness. Capturing this type was surely Hardy's main intention - a seemingly obvious conclusion that critics have always missed. Though extremely well-done, it is of course not enough to hold a book, and most think it fails to atone for other weaknesses, but it is one of Hardy's unsung accomplishments and deserves more attention and praise. The nuanced de Stancy is also interesting; he is overshadowed but could have easily been the tragic hero of another Hardy novel. The same is true of Havill, who is sympathetic, even pitiable, despite - or, actually, because of - all-too-human faults. Hardy is also known for notable preacher characters, and this has one of the more distinguished - all the more so in being Baptist. The reverend's flaws are so obvious as to sometimes veer on laughable, but essential good-heartedness and the subtle depiction make a well-rounded and very remarkable character. As for Dare and Mr. Power, however over the top, they are certainly intriguing.

What really puts the novel below Hardy's best, aside from a relative dearth of the emotional profundity always at the core of his masterpieces, is a near lack of the meaningful themes for which he is known. It does not deal with fate, humanity's cosmic significance, or other large questions like most of his work; the book is essentially a very basic courtship story with a small hodgepodge of typical Hardy elements thrown in more or less haphazardly. Yet there are at least a few minor successes. Perhaps most obvious is the portrayal of the Baptist Church in rural Victorian England - a truly underground movement then gaining power. Anyone even remotely familiar with Hardy knows his many problems with religion, but this depiction of Baptists, though somewhat critical and even satirical, is highly nuanced and not without sympathy - another instance of unexpected diversity. Hardy also explores his perennial class concerns through the courtship of Paula by the impoverished aristocrat de Stancy and the upwardly mobile Somerset. As always with him, the class system and other Victorian standbys are harshly criticized, and the upper class as usual comes out badly. Along the way he touches on paternity and other familial issues in a way that is both moving and thought-provoking. His points are valid and well-made, but the surrounding story is significantly less absorbing than usual. As for the empathetic treatment of women's issues that have made him a feminist favorite, the book has few, but the voyeuristic scene where de Stancy becomes infatuated with Paula, which has a near-pornographic feel, is notable for pushing the era's sexual standards and also for showing what was a very unusual view of gender roles. Those interested in Hardy's life will be far more keen on the book's many autobiographical elements. Hardy said it has more of his own life than any of his other novels, which is easy to see. He was an architect for years, which shows up in all his novels to varying extents but never so thoroughly or integrally. Much of Somerset's work parallels Hardy's, and there is a wealth of other relevant architectural elements. Finally, Dare and Mr. Power show Hardy grappling with the problem of evil and how it affects human affairs. He usually let unavoidable chance and change - and, it soon became clear, fate - wreck lives but is content to let these villains do it here. This is yet another noteworthy difference and, however less successful or preferable, is at least comparable in execution to other writers' similar efforts.

Hardy's Preface suggests that the novel had "a predetermined cheerful ending" even before his illness, which is another standout feature from a writer famous for tragedies. The book has considerable darkness, and the ending's happy union is far more hard won than usual, but the close - and indeed the whole - is much gentler than was Hardy's wont. There is good reason to think Somerset and Paula will be happy, and we certainly hope so for the former's sake, but it is important to remember that, like Hardy's early novel Under the Greenwood Tree, the impression stands only because the plot stops almost immediately after marriage. Hardy once wrote that love thrives on propinquity but dies on contact and has many a work showing this, most of them highly critical of the marriage institution with little faith in his success. Again as with Under, he may well have stopped the story here because it was the only way he could maintain an even ostensibly happy end, but Paula's enigmatic last statement is somewhat worrying in any case. It hardly surprises - is indeed inevitable given her personality -, but probably startles the somewhat naïve Somerset and may well mean the marriage will not be as smooth as he envisioned. The ending first struck me as somewhat abrupt, but I have come to see that it is not only perfect but virtually unavoidable - the fullest and most representative expression of Paula's personality and thus of the book's main concern. It may not be the most satisfying conclusion for those expecting either a fully happy or tragic end but works quite well on its own ambivalent terms - much like the book as a whole.

As for this edition, it has a wealth of supplemental material, making it ideal for serious readers: Hardy's Prefaces to the novel and a collected edition of his works; an excellent introduction giving substantial background on Hardy, the book, and the historical context plus some initial analysis; a chronology; extensive notes; an overview of critical reaction to the novel; further reading suggestions; and chapter summaries. One could hardly ask for more, making this perhaps the best paperback version.
5.0 von 5 Sternen Kindle Option 7. September 2013
Von Bert Peterson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
I've read this on paper, so the text was no surprise. Well worth reading twice. Text-to-voice Kindle option is wonderful for reading on a treadmill or elliptical because one's eyes can become distracted but the flow of the story is not interrupted. B
5.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting story line 25. August 2013
Von Cary Consield - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
A rather dark plot line, typical of Hardy, throughout the last two thirds of the book; but the overall story line is refreshingly different and enjoyable. The enigmatic Paula makes it impossible to guess the ending, especially with all the sinister influences surrounding her. A thoroughly enjoyable page turner.
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