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Amidst the fireworks and celebrations of Guy Fawkes Night, a covered wagon winds its way along the dark country heath land. Hidden at the back is a young woman who is running away from a thwarted marriage ceremony with the local innkeeper. The driver of the wagon, a young herdsman, is secretly in love with her but is so devoted that he vows to help her reunite with her useless lover. The opening scenes of Thomas Hardy's sixth novel The Return of the Native, form the backdrop to this story of a profoundly flawed woman and the men who fall in love with her. The book itself had a controversial debut, something which greeted many of Hardy's novels at that time. It first appeared in serial form in 1878 in the Belgravia magazine, which was notorious for its risqué and sensational content. The radical themes explored by Hardy in the novel prevented many publishers from daring to accept it. However, today it is considered one of the finest Victorian novels and one that marks a great shift in the moral universe of the time. Set in the famous, fictional Hardy country Wessex, The Return of the Native also takes place here in this imaginary county of his own creation. This novel's action is focused in Egdon Heath in Wessex, and occurs across the time frame of exactly one year and one day. Probably for the first time in English literary history, a book was written that takes a frank and objective look at concepts like illicit physical and romantic relationships, the conflict between human impulse and societal restraint and the tragedy that awaits those who fly in the face of convention. For Hardy, these were enduring themes that he explored time and again, despite the moral outrage that greeted most of his novels. Unforgettable characters like Diggory Venn, the “reddleman” who rescues his beloved Thomasin Yeobright from a failed elopement, the haughty black haired beauty Eustacia Vye, the bitter and superstitious Susan Nunsuch and many more make this a truly panoramic novel. The novel is also remarkable for its deep roots in country customs, folklore and legends which give it a matchless feel of the atmosphere and authenticity. Hardy's scrupulous plotting, his compassion and humanity, his own experiences of returning to his native Brockhampton after facing the anger of the moral brigade in London all combine to make this book a most valuable experience.
The woman reader is Brilliant! As plaintive as the text she reads. A true artist. Thank you.
Yes, I admit the first reader was lacklustre but the gentleman who read was excellent. I am so glad I persevered. Wonderful story.
Good book, but the reader of the preface, ch 1 and ch 2 and some at the end is terrible!
A beautiful story spoiled by the monotonous style of the narrator. Seems she has never read Hardy. Must be re-read by some more acceptable reader.
I really, really tried to listen to this book. But that woman!! I don't even have the words...
Who in the world approved this woman to read this audio book? Did they bother to listen to her? I couldn't tolerate her for more than two minutes! Ugh!!
I listened to the intro on the Prelude...for about 5 seconds. Sorry, but I can't listen to that type of voice for hours on end...
Never read a Hardy book and felt narrator's storytelling lacked interest.
Enjoyed the story. The reading gets better as you get in to the book.
I'm a Thomas Hardy fan and read and re-read most of his books but with this narration I can not understand & withstand it.
Is the first reader for real? Surely she's not! Maybe she's making a joke of some kind?
I could not understand this book because of the narrator
The first reader's mispronunciations and false cadences suggest she has no understanding of the book!
The reader at the beginning is very annoying. I stopped listening to it because of her voice.
I very much enjoyed this book.
like others have said, first reader is SO off-putting but others are great.
I loved the book! Wonderful and very sad story and wonderful again.
The woman reader from the first and the last needs not to read books out loud.
First reader should be changed!
The book was very interesting, but the first reader made it absurdly difficult to listen. Had to look up those chapters in print. Thank you to the other readers, you were amazing :)
First reader was really bad, and even after listening to 6 chapters of the first book, it doesn't seem interesting enough to keep my attention.
The first reader was awful, however, after the first 2 chapters it changes to a much more suitable reader for the rest of the book