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  1. As a teenager I found Thomas Hardy's major novels totally absorbing, his rural world totally different from the one I was growing up in, his characters totally engaging in their humility and their simplicity. Where Dickens seemed hard going (particularly Hard Times, the first one we had foisted on us at school) and sometimes recklessly over the top, Hardy's gentle rustic realism always seemed that much more believable. This flawlessly researched and meticulously written biography has taken me back to Hardy's world, all that stuff about the pathos underlying the grandeur and the grandeur un
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