Geography not being one of my strong points ( Do people boast that geography is one of their strong points? Do they? Really?) I decided to look up Wessex on Wikipedia. Do people boast about looking things up on Wikipedia? Do they? REALLY? The entry ran Wessex The kingdom of the West Saxons was an anglo Saxon Kingdom in the South of Great Britain from 519 until England was unified by Aethelstan in 927.
Hmm, was hoping for something a wee bit more current than that to act as an introduction to a part of Old England I am not so familiar with. Serves me right for using a type 40 version of Wikipedia. Maybe I should have used the Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. I imagine it would have had an entry saying MOSTLY FARMLAND.
That is certainly what comes across in these six stories by Thomas Hardy. Country folk going about their country ways in a most unforgiving landscape, painfully learning you can love the country as much as you want it will never love you back. The emotional life of those who struggle to wrest from the land a standard of living that at best can be described as modest. All are repressed by religion and social convention, all hard fisted piety and gloomy resolve. There is a lot of passion too, bubbling under the surface, barely constrained and rippling beneath the surface, glimpsed in a furrowed brow of in a dark eye. Unrequited love abounds as do melancholy hussars and frustrated horny landed gentry. There is also a surfeit of insanity too, bounding through proceedings with the abandon of mad march hairs in yellow waist coats. You could mount an Amicus House Of Wax tribute to some of the characters in its pages. Sad tales of frustrated passions, which lean at times to the macabre. Stories of foolish folks who awake to the possibilities of love, always just in time to be too late, with the heartbroken dying in despair and ennui. I found myself smiling grimly at one twist that would not have been out of place in a Roger Cormen Edgar Allen Poe adaption.
Am I underselling or overselling the collection at this point?
Thomas Hardy is a bit hard on his characters. One would require the stoicism of Job to endure even a few paragraphs of the burdens he eases upon their shoulders. Six tales of the rum and uncanny to pass the long winter evenings.
More Cider With Radiohead than Cider With Rosie.