Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, October 31, 2011

Thomas Hardy: Three Short Stories

"The Three Strangers" (1883, 25 pages)
"The Grave by the Handpost" (1897, 13 pages)
"The Fiddler of the Reels"  (1893, 19 pages)

Since I began my blog in July 2009 I have read and posted on three short stories by Thomas Hardy and his very highly regarded novel, The Return of the Native.   I really liked the short stories a lot so yesterday when I was looking around for something on my shelves to read I was happy to find Thomas Hardy:  Selected Stories selected and edited by John Wain.

All of the stories I read recently by Hardy are set among country people in rural England.   The stories are about the lives of these people and they do involve some rural dialect that requires one slow down a bit but I think Hardy is best read slow anyway.

In my brief sample,  Hardy short stories center on death, betrayal and isolation and read like they were very  old stories told for years.  

I  will try to post just enough on each story to convey the flavor of the work but not to spoil the plot.   All of the stories are told in a very traditional fashion and none are hard to follow.   I would say don't read these stories when you are looking for a light pick me up kind of read.    

"Three Strangers" is set during an annual party at the house of a farmer and his wife.   There is a bounty of the honey based drink mead being served.   I think we have to see the idea of three strangers calling at the farm house as an echo of the three wise men.   The strangers arrive one at a time and it is the custom of the region to offer them hospitality even though the wife is not keen on having strangers drink the mead.   Strangers are also a bit sinister seeming in the countryside where most rural people never go twenty miles from where they were born.    The question everyone wants to ask is who is the stranger.   There is a deep connection between the strangers.   "Three Strangers" also lets us see how people felt about some of the terribly harsh laws of the time such as hanging a man for stealing a sheep.    

"The Grave by the Handpost" is a very grim story of a dual suicide  by a father and then his son.   It also shows how England's  wars affected the people of the countryside that provided the soldiers for these wars.    Anyone can write an anti-war story but only a master like Hardy can make us see the real human cost of war on the rural people of England.   I really do not want to relay any of the plot of this very deep perfectly plotted story.

"The Fiddler of the Reels" is another very powerful story.   It is about a very good man, the woman who rejected his marriage proposal four years ago, the handsome fiddler she preferred over him and her three year old illegitimate daughter by the fiddler.    This is a very sad story with a hauntingly sad ending.

One interesting thing in the stories of Hardy is the things that happen in the background.   The several references to people basically disappearing forever through immigration to America were very powerful.   To those left behind, it was almost like a form of death.   

Please share with us your experience with Hardy.   I have three  stories in the collection still to read and post on and I also have on hand The Mayor of Casterbridge.   I will read and post on three more short stories very soon and the novel, hopefully, by the end of 2012.

Please share with us your experience with Hardy

Mel u


@parridhlantern said...

Not read any of his Short Stories, but have read a fair few of his Novels, my favourite being Jude The obscure.Have I told you you can get The Best British short Stories on kindle for $1.36 from the Amazon. Com Kindle store Or £0.86p from the UK one.I've got a copy & hope to read it fairly soon.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I haven't read Hardy's short stories. I'm currently reading JUDE THE OBSCURE, a pretty intense read. The only other Hardy novel I've read is THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE and I liked it very much.

Trevor said...

I love Thomas Hardy, though I haven't read any of his short stories...I loved Jude the Obscure and Tess of the D'Urbervilles! Thanks for visiting =D

Suko said...

Mel, this sounds like a very good collection of Hardy's short fiction. It has been too long since I last read anything by this author. Three Strangers sounds quite intriguing.

Mel u said...

Parrish Lantern-that is a good price for the collection of short stories-I will take a look at it-did you get The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories?

Prashant C. Trikannad-if you like short stories at all, I think you might enjoy Hardy's shorter fiction-thanks so much for your comment and visit

Trev-I will put Jude the Obscure on my 2012 list-thanks so much for the comment and visit

Suko-somehow I keep forgetting to read Hardy!-thanks as always for your comment and visit-each of the three stories is very good -

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Mel, yes my collection of short story Anthologies, now contain the oxford Japanese & Irish, a Granta African (charity shop find) the best British + several individual writer collections.

Nicki said...

I am a huge fan of Hardy. I love his novels in poetry, but I've only read a few of his short stories. I really need to remedy that.