Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Pair of Blue Eyes

Finished A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy, published in 1873. It is the story of a young girl, Elfride, and the two men she falls in love with.

Her first love is Stephen Smith, a young architect of low lineage, who is earnest and works hard to gain money, position and the respect of Elfride's father. Her second love is Mr. Knight, an older man who is both scholar and critic and who was once Stephen's tutor. He is a relation of Elfride's stepmother and is visiting with them.

Elfride's love for Stephen pales during a momentous event. She knows that Stephen is returning from India and goes to the nearby cliffs to watch his steamer come into the harbor. Knight, unaware of the prior relationship, accompanies her. Through foolhardy actions of his own Mr. Knight slips and and finds himself clinging to the edge of the cliff. Elfride looks for help but finds none. She removes her dress and petticoats and tears them into strips which she binds into a rope and uses this to rescue Mr. Knight. Their relationship then changes from that of casual acquaintance to two people who have been through a harrowing experience, even more so than George Emerson and Lucy Honeychurch in A Room With a View. This novel was serialized, with an installment leaving Mr. Knight dangling from the cliff. According to Wikipedia, this is the origin of the term "cliffhanger."

While not as pastoral as other Hardy novels I have read, this book was enjoyable. At times I was reminded of Trollope's The Warden. This is probably because of the female characters falling for men their clergymen fathers disapprove of.

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