A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy.

A Laodicean is, I'm afraid, another Hardy I could have done without: very unfortunate, as this came hot on the heels of The Trumpet Major, another Hardy novel I didn't care for. But there it is: not many authors produce greatness at every single attempt!

A Laodicean was first published in 1881: the title refers to one who is "lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics" (according to Merriam-Webster), neatly summing up Paula Power, the central character of the novel. She is, I do believe, the least appealing and least charismatic character not only out of Hardy's novels, but all novels, and I dare say all people (she would even strip John Major of his nickname "the grey man" were she a real person). One thing I must say though is Hardy was not a well man when he was writing it, and I do believe he was dictating it to his wife Emma.

The novel tells the story of the aforementioned laodicean Paula, and the two men she can't decide between: George Somerset, an architect who represents the 'modern' in the novel (who she first meets whilst refusing to be baptised), and Captain De Stancy, the son of the former owner of Paula's home, a medieval castle in Somerset, who represents the 'old ways'. Paula thus is quite literally torn between the old and the new. Things get yet more complicated when William Dare, the illegitimate son of De Stancy (a most dysfunctional relationship, this), intervenes on De Stancy's behalf to besmirch Somerset's reputation in the most modern of ways: photographs that make him appear intoxicated (these misleading photographs are commonplace today: see Ed Miliband's infamous bacon sandwich moment for a shining example) and falsified telegrams. The question is will Paula find out? Another question: would it matter anyway, to Paula, to Somerset and De Stancy, and to me, the reader? That I can answer: it would not.

Hardy in A Laodicean is not so much 'Homer nodding' as 'Homer in a drunken stupor'. This may sound particularly harsh given Hardy's ill-health, but Hardy did recover and go on to write Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and some of the finest poetry in the English language. Furthermore it does not follow that once something is written it ought to be published. It was a disaster - not well received at all. What saves it, in my eyes, is this always interesting description of this bridge between modernity and tradtion and the dilemma and even apprehension of embracing the new. That alone kept me going, but it was not quite enough to save it.

And so I would say, this novel is only for die-hard Hardy fans, or for anyone who wishes to discover what the most irritating final sentence in a novel is. It is absolutely not for anyone who hasn't read Hardy before - though I didn't care for The Trumpet Major, A Laodicean really does put it into perspective. 

Next on my Hardy reading list: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886). I am very nervous now!

*******
Further Reading

Comments

  1. now is the time to summon up the blood! excelsior! once more unto the breach...! i thought "casterbridge" was pretty good; some excellent writing and interesting plot...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am hopeful for Casterbridge. Planning on reading it pretty soon to erase Laodicean from my head!

      Delete
  2. Okay, stop it, just stop it! You've changed your background again! And your avatar too?! What is the world coming to? (Can you tell that I don't like change? ;-) )

    I admire you for reading consecutive Hardys. I think I could only handle one at a time with good breaks in between.

    Everyone is soooo funny today! I've had so many laughs. "Homer in a drunken stupor" :-D That's a very effective description, however I think that I'll leave this one until I've read some of his better ones. Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, two changes in two days! I didn't like what I did yesterday, and I thought it was time to try a totally new format instead of just different collages, so here it is! No doubt I'll stick with this kind of thing for a long while! The avatar however... I just changed it - couldn't resist that little Arthur Rackham crow :)

      I am well into Hardy at the moment so it's not tough to read as much as I am (which is about one a month). I do think I'll find the poetry difficult, and the two plays - The Dynasts is going to be very very tricky I think!

      I nearly deleted the "Homer in a drunken stupor" - glad you liked it! It shall stay :)

      Delete
  3. I'm sorry you had to suffer through this one (though not *terribly* sorry, as I rather enjoyed this disappointed review). Anyway, I'm stealing the new-to-me word "Laodicean" for something... not sure what yet, but I'm a bit of a word magpie & I'll probably stick it in my Twitter bio or something silly.

    ALSO -- I usually read your blog via RSS and just visited today for the first time in a while to comment and WOW your blog design changed! I like the floral woodcut background.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you liked the review - I normally pad around apologetically when writing bad reviews, but... well, one shouldn't pad too much, especially with A Laodicean! I really disliked it that much. Don't know why I gave it three stars on Goodreads. It's a 1.5 star.

      Also - glad too that you like the template. The floral background is from Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale's illustration of The Miller's Daughter by Tennyson (here's the illustration on Internet Archive) :)

      Delete
  4. When Hardy's on his game, his stories are so memorable and amazing. I'm sorry this one was a letdown.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No matter, I always knew there were some Hardys out there I didn't like much! I have hope for The Mayor of Casterbridge! :)

      Delete
  5. Casterbridge is pretty good. I think it could definitely beat this one, which I will *not* be reading anytime soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm looking forward to it - planning on reading it this weekend for the readathon :)

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Getting up on Cold Mornings by James Henry Leigh Hunt.

The Book Tag.

20 Books of Summer.