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A Pair Of Blue Eyes

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I am about a quarter of the way through this book it having been recommended to me by a friend. Having read a number of Thomas Hardy books in the past she remembers this of all of them as being her favorite. Having read many books by Thomas Hardy myself I have to admit that I am not sure so far why she was so keen on this book in particular.


As with all Thomas Hardy books the book is beautifully written. So far the reader has met few but the main characters as the story takes place in a very small community. The main characters are Elfride the daughter of the local vicar, the vicar himself and Stephen Smith an assistant of a London architect. Stephen comes to stay with the family for a short time to complete drawings of the church and tower which are in need of repair. Although perfectly likable Elfide and Stephen are no Gabriel Oak or Bathsheba Everdene and the story so far although pleasent is very slow moving. As my friend, whose recommendations are usually sound, enjoyed the book so much I can only assume that the story will get going eventually.

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As is often the case my feelings toward this book are changing as I go along. It is a bit of a slow burner and it is beginning to feel as if the best part of the first quarter of the book was a massive scene setter. A few more characters have now joined the story and the story is beginning to widen. As is typical with all of Hardy's books the reader is able to see the main character, in this case Elfride, laying the grounds for their own future problems.


Elfride herself is beginning to grow on me. At the beginning of the book I felt that she was a slightly silly and immature young lady. It is now seeming as if that is exactly what the reader is supposed to think. As the book continues so does her strength of character grow. I felt much the same for Dorothea at the beginning of Middlemarch and now consider her to be one of my favorite female literary characters. Although I am under no illusions of Elfride reaching the dizzy heights of a Dorothea I am enjoying watching Elfride blunder about making her mistaks only to recognise them as such almost as she is comlpeting them! She seems to me to be an odd mixture of Bathsheba Everdene and Lizzy Bennett. Not as strong as either yet but with real potential.


Her relationship with Mr Knight reminds me a little of the relationships between both Bathsheba and Gabriel Oak and Lizzy and Mr Darcey. She is beginning to like Mr Knight almost against her will and like both Gabriel and Mr Darcey Mr Knight makes it far from easy for her. In many ways he brings the best out in her as Gabriel and Mr Darcey did in Bathsheba and Lizzy. I only hope that the results of her blunders of the past will not prove to be too devestating. Is she a Bathsheba or lizzy or Tess?!

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I finished this book this morning having thoroughly enjoyed it. I had no idea until the very end exactly where the story was taking me and although I guessed a little of the final outcome I was in no way prepared for it all.


Any likeness between Elfride and either Lizzy Bennet or Dorethea were very passing, as I suspected her character was in no way as strong or as memorable as either. In many ways she was more an odd mixture of Bethsheba Everdene and Tess, not surprising as they were both also Hardy characters. Many of the twists and turns of this story bore similarities to the happenings within the other two books. Although I will not say here whether Elfride turned out to be a Bathsheba or a Tess in the end I will say that she was as much sinned against as sinning as in some ways were the other two.


The main theme running through this book, as in many similar books by both Hardy and George Eliot especially, was that of causality. The whole story was based upon the fact that one small and often seemingly insignificant action or event can set in place a whole train of actions or events. The characters then end up in positions far different from that expected or planned. While reading this book, as on many occasions in the past, I found myself almost shouting out loud to beg Elfride to take another course at various stages of the book suspecting at least some of the outcome of her actions.


Although not as well known as either Tess or Far From The Madding Crowd I would suggest that A Pair Of Blue Eyes is well worth reading. Lovers of both Thomas Hardy and Goerge Eliot cannot fail to like this book. I am a little surprised that the friend who recommended the book to me prefered it above either of the two better known books by Hardy as I felt it to be a little of a weaker story certainly than that of Far From The Madding Crowd. Having said that Far From The Madding Crowd is one of my favourite books and I have read it many times so this novel did have a lot to live up to. Although it fell a little short I still loved it.

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