Title: The Return of the Native
Author: Thomas Hardy
Audio book narrator: Alan Rickman
First published: 1878
Edition: Audible audio book & paperback, published in 1974 by Macmillan
Tempestuous Eustacia Vye passes her days dreaming of passionate love and the escape it may bring from the small community of Egdon Heath. Hearing that Clym Yeobright is to return from Paris, she sets her heart on marrying him, believing that through him she can leave rural life and find fulfilment elsewhere. But she is to be disappointed, for Clym has dreams of his own, and they have little in common with Eustacia’s.
This is one of those classics I had tried to read the paperback of several times and never got very far. When I noticed there was an audio book narrated by the inimitable Alan Rickman, I knew that was the one for me.
As to this narrative, it is not really for me. I did not like any of the characters. I just felt if any of these characters had stopped to think just for a minute, their world would have made a much better place. Instead, we have a bunch of characters feeling sorry for themselves in a beautifully described landscape. So yes, the descriptions of the heathland were masterful and the portrayal of Eustacia’s depression and Clym’s guilt very human, but the story itself did little for me.
This is not a happy tale. It is filled with sadness, depression and bad choices and although I am glad I finally read it, this is not the kind of book I would return to. I would like to try something else by Thomas Hardy in the future though, because in places his writing was absolutely beautiful.
A note on Alan Rickman’s narration: overall I really liked it and it helped me get through to the book, but he made every woman in the book sound like a whimpering soul. However, if not for his narration I would have given up on this book again before the halfway point.
4 out of 7 stars