The Return of the Native

 

       On the recommendation of Gear Patrol’s list of “100 Best Books for Men: The Definitive Men’s Library” I recently read (just finished it today) The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, the Victorian novelist and poet. I knew it was a classic, and I had a vague idea of a story about an Indian brave who escapes to the city but in the end learns the value of tribal living; boy was I wrong. It is a flowing third person narrative about country folks living on a rural heath in Eighteenth Century England. I mention the third person aspect of the book because Hardy brilliantly utilizes that voice in creative ways unknown to most books. The only other time I have been floored by 3rd person omniscient storytelling is in one of the Master and Commander books by Patricky O’Brien. In the book, Captain Jack Aubrey and a woman are fox hunting (on horses of course); suddenly, as they are about to jump a hedge the perspective changes to that of the horse Captain Aubrey is riding. Hardy is no less creative with his omniscient narration power.

      He considered himself a poet and it shows in his prose. Here there is no Hemmigway choppy brevity, but lovely colorful accounts of landscapes, weather, people and events. He delves into psychology, but avoids spending the entire story in the brains of his characters as many modern novels do. It isn’t too long, and the story is riveting, sad but morally astute and correct. It is a masterpiece of Victorian literature and worth the read.

 

R. Eric Tippin
On Victoria Road, Newton, KS
March 5, 2013