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Under the Greenwood Tree

1 rating: 4.0
A novel by Thomas Hardy
1 review about Under the Greenwood Tree

A story about nothing

  • Feb 22, 2014
Rating:
+4
The concept and the execution of Seinfeld, the TV show about nothing, applies to Hardy's second novel as well.  Though nothing much happens, the feel, the characters, the places, the relationships are everything and carry the whole much farther than the parts.


While his opening novel Desperate Remedies felt like a mechanical chess match, here Hardy appears as relaxed and happy as his characters are comfortable in their own skin and their fictiona,l humble, rural, fictional Wessex.  The dramatic action centers on the replacement of the Mellstock church "quire" by the modern technological innovation of the pump organ, and the choir's confrontation with the vicar over their removal from the church program after years of service.  The romantic interest centers on the attraction of one of the replaced musicians to the lovely new member of the community brought there to be the new school teacher--and to play the organ under the too-watchful and admiring eye of the vicar.  When the wonderfully-named Fancy Day attracts the unwanted attention of a third suitor, we know by then that Hardy will handle his cast with care and kindness--and with a sharpness of tongue and observation that demonstrates his trust and respect for their intelligence and independence. 

The Penguin edition introduction calls this Hardy's best loved and happiest novel, and indeed it would be had to argue with either superlative.  I left the Greenwood Tree behind with a wish that it was a place that I could go to on earth, and a feeling of contentedness that it is a place I have known in my imagination.

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