Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review: The Laodicean by Thomas Hardy

genre: fiction
rating: 3/5

I have read Thomas Hardy before, so I wasn't afraid to read this very-small-print-and-many-pages book that my book club chose for this month. Sadly, The Laodicean took me far longer to get into than Tess and I never did find any love or real sympathy for the main characters.

The plot is thus: George Somerset is a young architect who stumbles into the life of the lovely Paula Powers. Not only is Paula the heiress of her late father's railroad fortune, she is also the new owner of Stancy Castle, the ancestral home of the De Stancy Family. Paula's desire to refurbish the castle often throw George and Paula into each other's company and a one-sided romance ensues. I won't share any more of the drama, in case you choose to read this, but let it be said that there is a plethora of drama, of the serialized, soap opera type. People are wooing, people are illegitimate sons, people are forging telegrams - misunderstandings and deceits abound.

An ongoing theme throughout the book is the contrast between historical and modern, forward and backward thinking, staunchly kept vows and lukewarm devotion. Paula is the ultimate representative of all that is lukewarm - her vagueness and indecision was incredibly frustrating, although she does reap the consequences, somewhat. Her desire to be both avant-garde and yet a part of a grand old family makes her a bit of an enigma. George is steadfast and honest, but far too simpering for me. They each have companions that help and hinder them, providing a good portion of all that aforementioned drama.

I like how Hardy set up the plot - always omniscient narrator but giving us a vision of the same scene from different viewpoints and cluing us in to things the other character's don't yet know. I enjoyed having architecture and design itself as a subplot to the book. He is a magnificent writer, I'll give him that, even though I thought this book as a whole was not really up to par. For example:

I have thought of fifty things to say to you of the too far sort, not one of any other; how unfortunate then is your prohibition, by which I am doomed to say things that do not rise spontaneously to my lips, but have to be made, shaped and fashioned.

Although I liked his style and found it, for the most part, fairly readable - this book went on way too long. Even if I hadn't known that it was a serialized publication, I could've guessed based on how certain scenes dragged on. I won't say it's not worth reading - I just don't think I'll be picking it up again.


Meg89 said...

It's disappointing when tried-and-true authors disappoint.

I went through a Thomas Hardy phase in high school. I read Tess, the Mayor of Casterbridge, Far From the Madding Crowd (this one was the best), and probably a few others I can't remember at the moment, during my sophomore year, but I haven't picked one up since.

I've heard good things about Woodlanders, so I'm thinking I should read that, although I would love to go back and read Tess as well. What do you think?

bermudaonion said...

Thanks for the great review. I don't think I'll be picking this up anytime soon - just the title intimidates me.

Cami said...

Bleh. I agree. So sad. Authors should not write from their sick-beds. Pick any other Hardy instead! But true, not without total merit. Just so disappointing from good ole Tom!

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