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Desperate remedies

Thomas Hardy's debut novel

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Chess piece sensation novel

  • Feb 15, 2014
Hardy became known for the depth and nuance of his morality plays but in his debut the moral landscape is simpler and clearer in its shading of black and white.  The subtle shades of gray would come with Hardy's maturity as a writer.

The plot turns on a fading beauty and a young heroine sharing the same unusual first name which we will learn through a series of too-remarkable coincidences is more than coincidental.  Hardy manipulates the action by controlling the characters like chess pieces, and the young Cytherea is too passive, too cliched damsel-in-distress to earn our sympathy.  If the plot were stronger the weakness of the heroine would be the more regrettable.

Sensation novels were a Victorian genre that relied on "surprise" but telegraphed twists like concealed marriages, out-of-wedlock births, and characters "returning from the dead.".  They were  criticized then and later for their lack of subtlety, reliance on impossible coincidence, and generally clumsy writing, even though such well known and acclaimed writers as Hardy, Dickens, and Wilkie Collins contributed to the genre.

Here, Hardy relies on the usual sensation plot elements, but his skill as a writer are apparent in the dialog and description.  Even with the weaknesses, Remedies reads as well as a decent modern mystery and certainly isn't a waste of time.

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February 17, 2014
Thanks for sharing.
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #36
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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