Dr Seuss: How The Grinch Stole Christmas | 60th birthday

It’s that time of year again, and this one is a special one, because one of the world’s best-loved children’s Christmas stories is turning 60, and it’s had a special makeover to celebrate.

y648

This beautiful new edition of Dr Seuss’s Christmas masterpiece ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ is the perfect addition to any Christmas list. The illustrations and charming storyline remain the same, but are joined by a welcoming introduction by Charles D Cohen which explores the origins of the story, and the true meaning of Christmas – this is all contained within a beautiful clothbound cover and presentation box.

I absolutely love the Grinch, I include the 1960s animated short and even the Jim Carey feature in this, but of course nothing is a patch on the original. It is one of Dr Seuss’s best known stories, and with good reason. It took just a month to write, and two months to illustrate, but no other book so perfectly explores and presents the true meaning of Christmas.

You all know the story, and I’m sure I don’t need to bore you all with an explanation of the excellent storyline, writing style, or even illustrations – that said, Dr Seuss’s illustrations never cease to amaze me, in with this book in particular I love the use of red and black, making the pages seem at one dark and festive.

The story itself remains the same, a true Christmas classic, but the really nice thing about this new edition is the introduction.

It is said, and I cannot help but agree, that most people think of Dr Seuss as the Cat in the Hat – but remember that even the happiest people have their bad days. Dr Seuss, whose real name, for those of you who didn’t know, was Theodor Geisel, actually based the grisly, green-eyed character that stalks the page of this Christmas caper on none other than himself.

As his stepdaughter Lark Dimond-Cates once said: “I always thought that the Cat… was Ted on his good days, and the Grinch was Ted on his bad days.”

Seuss created the Grinch as a character at the tender aged of 53, on the day after Christmas day 1956, as an expression of his own concerns about the festive season. It’s an alarming thought, that someone who wrote such wonderful, magical children’s book could struggle with the spirit of Christmas, but Seuss did, and he used the Grinch to help work out exactly how he felt about the holiday.

So the intro says, Seuss was looking into the mirror, brushing his teeth on that Boxing Day morning, when he saw the Grinch peeking back at him.

maxresdefault

“Something had gone wrong with Christmas, I realised, or more likely with me. So I wrote the story about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”

This is, in fact, alluded to a little in the text “For fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now! I must stop this Christmas from coming! … But HOW?”

The introduction goes on to explain a little more about the books notoriety. It was first published back in 1957, an interesting year for Christmas which saw the launch of three separate which encouraged readers to rethink the true meaning of Christmas. These included: The Year without Santa Claus, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It became a year when people were forced to think about what Christmas really meant to them – and people loved it! All the books received prominent praise, and went on to become films in their own right, but none was quite as special as the Grinch, who became a Christmas staple, paling only in comparison to Santa Claus, and Rudolph.

However, unpleasant the Grinch character may seem at first, the book reminds us of an important fact – Christmas is about more than just presents. There is a deeper meaning to the book, though, expressed through the image of the Grinch, and the Whos coming together, that no one should be alone on Christmas, and that anyone can be part of a community.

The poor Grinch has never had a friend, or a family, and certainly never been part of a community, and cannot understand the Whos. In particular, he hates the Who-Christmas-Sing, a time when the Whos “would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing. They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing.”

Through the magic of Christmas, and seeing the Whos resilience even in the absence of presents, the Grinch learns to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas and to spend time and share a meal with the Whos, and as such to become a part of their community.

It is not a religious story, Seuss made sure of this. Like many of his books, Seuss wanted to ensure that the Grinch would teach children that people who look different, and come from different places can still come together as friends. A message we could all do with remembering at such troubling times.

As the intro concludes, most readers can notice a little something of the Grinch in themselves, I know I definitely can. I love Christmas, but I have had my troubles with it in the past, fed up with the endless money, presents and complete and utter faff that comes with it. At some point, though, I realised how I was only depriving myself by feeling this way, and by doing away with my own faff, I learned to enjoy Christmas for what it is, a time to be thankful, to spend time with friends and family and celebrate life, a time for quiet, reflection – and now I love it again.

The Grinch is an important holiday figure, and the Grinch, as a story, is one I can never get through the Christmas season without reading. I didn’t realise, until I saw this new edition, that the Grinch was approaching its 60th year in publication. I had already decided to start a little ‘tradition’ with my youngest nephew, of buying him a Dr Seuss book for his birthday and Christmas each year, this year’s Christmas present was to be the Grinch, and I am delighted that there is a special, beautiful new edition that I can share with him.

 

Not forgotten – Lesley Ann Anderson

not-forgotten

You have probably wondered what happens to us after we die – is there a heaven or hell? Can we expect to be reincarnated into something very distinct from our human selves? Do we become absorbed into an inky black nothingness, remaining only as memories after the lights turn out? Or maybe there is something different waiting for us after death. In Not Forgotten, author Lesley Ann Anderson explores this final idea. Delving into the complex nature of life after death – not just in the form of what happens to people that die, but of the lives of those left behind. .

The storyline centres on the rather complicated lives of seventeen year old Anna Munro and her dad, Mick. Mick is a bit of an oddball, having been thrown full force into fatherhood by the untimely death of his wife when his daughter was just a toddler. He spends his days indulged in a constant attempt to escape from reality and the hardships of fatherhood and life as a widower, absorbed in walks, books and music. For Anna life is not so simple and escape doesn’t come in the form of nature or the arts. Every night when Anna goes to sleep she feels herself being lifted from her earthly body, or has her semi conscious hours plagued by ghostly figures and incessant whispering.

The teenage years are a difficult time for any young girl, but particularly so for Anna, with new and strange things happening to her body and mind she turns to her father for help only to find out something very new and strange about herself. Assistance comes in the form of Anna’s maternal grandfather, Henryk – a beautiful, old country soul who escaped Poland for the green hills of Scotland during the Second World War. To help Anna understand her new found powers Henryk takes her to Poland, to the ancestral home of her great grandmother Rosalia.

Not Forgotten is a complex and intriguing book, exploring the many avenues of life and death. There is no central character but rather a range of people with conflicting desires and emotions, who have all been scarred by the tragic nature of human mortality. Anderson delves into relationship between love, loss and life, painting a striking picture of life after death, as those left behind struggle with conflicting emotions and grieve for those who have moved on.

Death is not final, and does not only come to us at the end of our lives, rather it is always with us, moulding and shifting our desires, our hopes, and our dreams, and preparing us for the inevitable, from the moment we are born to the day we die.

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

It occurred to me yesterday that 2016 was a terrible year for my personal book reviews. I read and reviewed 28 books for E&T – and loved every second of it I might add – but I really did let my personal stuff fall by the wayside. Turns out there are a few I reviewed, and then left the word documents gathering theoretical dust in my hard drive, so I’m dusting them off this week and will be posting them fresh for you all to see.

 

nightcircus

I’ve had this book for a while, but only decided to pull it down from the shelves in my reading room after David Bowie passed away. As I said, I have let things slip.

I was so upset by his death, so much more so than any other person that I cannot claim to ‘know’ in any real sense. Perhaps it was the very public way that he decided to go, to give it all up with one final hurrah, but it had a very real effect on me, and I spent many nights listening to Black Star and Lazerus while quietly sobbing.

Anyway, shortly after his death I was in Waterstones and saw a copy of The Night Circus with ‘DAVID BOWIE’S FAVOURITE BOOK’ emblazoned across the front. Now don’t get me wrong, this wouldn’t have been enough to make me actually buy the book – I’m still not sure how I feel about this marketing tactic – but it did make me go home and start reading the copy that I already had.

It was the beginning of a week spent reading in the bath until my skin was grey and clammy and the water temperature had dropped a little below tepid. I was absolutely enamoured by this book, a book I had had on my shelf for months – David Bowie’s favourite book.

Imagine you are a small boy, who doesn’t yet know his place among friends or family and is striving to find meaning is his life. One day, as if from nowhere, a mysterious circus tent appears in your home town, and it calls to you.

The Night Circus – or Cirque to Reves – is different to other circuses – there are no sad looking clowns with oversized button holes, or dusty, skinny elephants tied to chairs, rather, it is a place of true magic. At the heart of the circus as some of the most incredible people you will ever meet, wonderful sorcerers, incredible contortionists, talented acrobats and marvellous mystics, all of whom are enamoured by the magic around them. It is beautiful, and captivating, but underneath the black and white façade, something far more sinister is going on.

The Night Circus is not a circus; it is a game of chess, the black and white squares on the board coming to life, twisting and turning into a stunning array of blacks and whites, each pattern striking out against the other. At either side of the board, hidden by their army, stand the two kings. The Night Circus is their pawn; it is a war, a vicious war fought by fame and glory – a war of magic, and fame, and destruction, fought between two competing shadows.

Erin Morgenstern has one of the most beautiful writing styles I have ever come across. The words flow across the page driven by rippling monochromic imagery, made of more than just the ink which paints the page. Even the simplest of phrases or gestures, are given a beautiful, flourishing turn – the opening of umbrellas after the rain becomes the ‘popping’ up of toadstools, lovers hold one another in an ‘emerald embrace’, and a ‘single perfect diamond’ stands out amongst a ‘sack of flawed stones.’

I really, really enjoyed this book. It is mysterious and intricate, filled with stories within stories and lives hidden behind the scenes, and there is so much waiting to be discovered. It struck me that Morgenstern constructed the book as if it is circus itself; with each page the reader is drawn closer and closer to the centre while glimpsing hidden corners and secret passageways that could unfold with the slightest touch. Along the way there is imagery within metaphors, magic overlapping magic and so much more than I could ever give credit to in such a short review.

I get the impression that there will always be more to this story than first meets the eye. There are hints and stories hidden within the text that may only emerge at a second, or maybe even a third reading. It is up to the reader to decide why the book was written and to think about the true meaning behind the circus. This in itself is beautiful; just like the fans of the circus I feel enamoured but ultimately clueless.

Fans of David Bowies, lovers of the obscure, seekers of magic or beauty – read The Night Circus. I implore you.

 

 

 

The Return of the Young Prince – A.G. Roemmers

A few months ago I came into work to see a news story left on my desk. It was inconspicuous, a small sheet of thin paper roughly torn out of a little pamphlet, and it told me they The Little Prince was coming back. The little golden-haired boy whose story opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking had touched another author enough to be brought back to life.

Then, one evening this October as the weather was just starting to turn, I was walking out from South Kensington tube station when I passed small, independent book shop, lit up against the coming dark with the most wonderful display of hardback books – he had arrived.

28957290Those of you who have read my blog a lot might know of my love affair with The Little Prince. I love French translations, and this one was so wonderfully magical and childish that it took me back to innocent place in the very far reaches on my memory. The golden-haired boy of Exupery’s tale holds a firm spot in my heart, and the idea of seeing him again filled me with so much joy.

I approached the book with a certain amount of caution, aware that it could so easily fall short of my rather high expectations – The Little Prince is a rather hard act to follow. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have a few reservations while I was reading the book – there were the invariable comparisons to the original – but while I found it difficult at first after some time I realised that the book needed to be different. After all the original book is not just the story of The Little Prince himself, it is the story of the Aviator – that is, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – and how his life was touched by The Little Prince. In the same way, The Return of the Young Prince is a tale of how The Little Prince touched A.G. Roemmers.

“I think this planet would be a lovely place if everyone on it greeted each other with a smile when they met”

In The Return of the Young Prince, a solo driver, setting out on an expedition across the mystical land of Patagonia, finds a young, starving teenager asleep at the side of the road – none other than The Little Prince, now grown, who has returned to earth in search of his friend the Aviator. The pair embark upon a journey of a lifetime, the man with a destination in mind, and The Young Prince, as he is now known, hoping that along the way he will find what he is looking for. The Young Prince and the driver speak, they are philosophical, quizzical, educational and at times humorous, the conversations passing between the pair serving to highlight, as in the original, the wonderful difference between the adult and juvenile brain, and that there are things in life that you cannot put a price on.

“I can tell you with certainty that your friend gave you the loveliest sheep in the world – the one that you imagined in your fantasy, the only one you could look after and that could go with you to your little planet. Didn’t you enjoy his company as you watched the sunsets? Didn’t you go to him in the night so that he wouldn’t feel alone and that you too wouldn’t feel so alone? Didn’t you think that he belong to you because you had tames him and that you belonged to him? There’s no doubt that he was more real, more alive, than the one you saw in the photograph, because that one was just a sheep, whereas the one inside the box was your sheep.”

There is so much I could say about this book, so many anecdotes I would love to pick apart and ponder over the hidden metaphors and morals. There are so many messages one could take from the story, though, that it would be unfair of me to do so and to taint your own experience of the book. Assuming of course that you are willing to give the book the time of day – I thoroughly recommend it.

It’s important to approach the book with an open mind. Do I prefer it to the original? Of course not. It’s a very different book, but while it changes some of the themes of the original, it does not detract from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s work. This is a book which speaks of how The Little Prince touched the life of the author, a man who has dedicated years of his life into researching and studying Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The book does not try to pick up where Antoine de Saint-Exupéry left off. Rather, just like The Little Prince, it serves as a tale told by a man whose life was changed by his encounter with the golden-haired child of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s past.

 

The Power – Naomi Alderman

cover-jpg-rendition-460-707

Equality, prosperity and power are just some of the aims of feminists past and present – but what would a world controlled by women actually look like? In her fourth novel, author Naomi Alderman inverts traditional gender roles to create a world where women quite literally hold all the power and men tremble at their feet.

Love it or hate it, utopian and dystopian fiction has a lot to say about how people live their lives and the desires, dreams and fears that lurk under the covers of society. Dystopic works throughout the 20th century have explored totalitarian states, brainwashing, societal complacency and overpopulation. They reflect societal fears of a future in which too much power has been lost to the state, through the wonderful world of science fiction.

This genre suits feminist complaints by questioning the conventional exercise of power between the sexes, often delving into frustrations of women in a patriarchal society. Previous works explored the prospect of women-led civilisations in which gender roles are reversed or worlds where women live alone, having somehow discovered the secret to asexual reproduction.

There is a reason you don’t get many all-male utopias, but I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more novels that explore what a world would be like where women not only ruled, but ruled with power. So many science-fiction novels strived to illuminate societal inequality through exaggeration and role reversal, or the creation of purer, softer societies where women rule each other with soft hands, but I have yet to come across a book which inverts the status to devastating effect.

‘The Power’ is just such a novel.

Naomi Alderman’s latest novel is a manuscript written 5,000 years in the future, documenting the rising power of a female elite. The story begins with the ‘Day of the Girls’, when teenage girls across the world wake with a strange new power. It starts as a subtle throbbing sensation between the collarbones and crackles across the skin, filling the air with electrostatic discharge and the smell of rain and rotten fruit, before emerging as a spark of light from the tips of the fingers.

What would the world look like if men were afraid of women rather than women being frightened of men?

A slight warning, while not fully divulged in this review, the book contains one or two themes that some readers might find disturbing.

Through the guise of a fictional future researcher, Alderman follows the stories of four characters and how they are affected as the world begins to change. We meet Roxy, a tough, foul-mouthed daughter of a London crime lord who is out to seek revenge; Allie, a dual-heritage girl from Jacksonville who, having suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of her foster father, rebrands herself as charismatic faith-leader Mother Eve; Margot, the aspiring New England Governor along with her confused daughter Jocelyn; and Tunde, a plucky Nigerian journalist who strives to uncover the ugly truth behind the rising female power.

‘Men have evolved to be strong worker homestead-keepers, while women – with babies to protect from harm – have had to become aggressive and violent.’

A few videos emerge across social media platforms showing girls seemingly electrocuting men with their hands. The initial reaction is one of disbelief, but as more and more begin to appear, society is forced to attempt to address this strange new phenomenon. As childish tussles give way to deadly brawls and schools are forced to begin gender segregation, the very fabric of society unravels and young women are recruited to fight a bitter battle between the sexes that ravages Eastern Europe.

In Alderman’s present, electricity is no longer a thing of convenience, but a power to be held within the hands of women, to throw off the shackles of oppression. The future, however, is anything but bright, and all thoughts of equality are thrown to the wind. Ideas of a softer, more maternal society give way to hordes of women who rule with iron fists, as men are assigned their place on the bottom rungs of the ladder, forced into submission as slaves to the female race.

The storyline is complex and multi-layered, presenting a future where women have forgotten the male-dominated times of the past – the systems overthrown within the main body of text – and men are thought to be the fairer sex. This book is so much more than the latest attempt at a feminist dystopia. It is refreshing and insightful, combining a gripping storyline alongside an interesting analysis of societal ideas about equality and fairness within gender roles.

This review was first published on online for E&T magazine.

“God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.” ― Voltaire

The power of words

The Chronicles of Narnia ― C. S. Lewis

book-inmyownview-map-narnia-the-chronicles-of-narnia-Favim.com-204175

Firstly let me say how irritated I just was when I typed ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ into Google image search, and was overcome with stills from the films. I had to add ‘book’ before I got anything of use.

I’m going to make this a short review, as this is a review of seven books in one I feel it necessary to keep it to the minimum or I could go on for an age.

I would recommend these books very highly to anyone who hasn’t read them, and would not want to spoil any part of them. Go out, buy the books, read them, read them to your children, buy them as gifts. I feel I would have loved these books even more had I read them as a child. I would recommend the Chronicles of Narnia for children far above the Harry Potter books, Philip Pullman’s dark materials or Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. Not that the other series’ do not have their merits, but I would go so far as to say I would not let any of my children grow up without giving them the opportunity to experience these stories.

C S Lewis writes the stories in a way that everyone can understand, communicating at times with children on their level. I have read it written that C. S. Lewis had an incredibly strong respect for children, and felt the need to speak with them as if they were his equals and not beneath him. This is evident throughout the books, with C S Lewis coming up with little analogies to explain things which only a child will fully appreciate.

I know many people will know the basics of the Chronicles of Narnia, but I still don’t wish to ruin anything for those of you who are in the dark. Put very simply, the books follow the adventures of the Digory Kirke, Polly Plummer and the Pevensie family in the mysterious land of Narnia, and their encounters with the king of Narnia -Aslan.

I am sure there are people out there who will not enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia, partly due to their obvious theological content. It is well known that the books draw heavily in the bible, from the Creation Story through to the Book of Revelations. I have never been what I would call religious, I have yet to decide exactly what I believe in, no doubt one day I will decide but it will be my choice alone. However I believe that these books teach fantastic morals, and can be enjoyed on several levels.

The books are a great read as stories alone. The adventures are incredibly enticing, and kept me enthralled for hours at a time, to the point where I did not want to put the books down, reading one after another in quick succession. C S Lewis’ presents religion in such as way as to appeal to those who are not open to the ideas of Christianity, by giving them something which is meant first and foremost to be entertaining, presenting religious stories as works of fiction.

I feel as though the stories are meant to inspire children to love Aslan in the way that Christ should be loved. Not to force children into believing, but to help them understand how others feel. I felt myself falling completely in love with Aslan, for reasons I can not fully explain. Something in the way he is described -beautiful and yet terrible at the same time, the voice he is given and the words that he speaks very much appealed to me, as I’m sure they have to many people. There is one quote I will share with you from The Last Battle, when Aslan is explaining the difference between himself and the terrifying god Tash, which for me perfectly encapsulates the idea of religion, and when de-constructed is a fantastic moral to teach children:

“The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child?”

Ultimately Aslan is not speaking of serving one god or another, but of a way of living. It is a guideline, a moral, to be good and kind and feel the benefit of your actions, or to suffer as a result cruel choices.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed these books for what they were – stories. It was interesting for me to look at the theological aspect as well, but ultimately it was the stories that I enjoyed, and it is the stories that I recommend. Having finished the books I plan to lend them on to my younger siblings, who are of the perfect age to fully appreciate the stories.

Is this a hearty welcome, or a Hardy welcome?

Blogging seems to be all the rage these days, so I’ve decided to jump on board the band wagon. After all, who doesn’t enjoy talking about themselves? I’m not so vain as to think many people will be particularly interested in my chattering away about nothing though – I do think blogs are more interesting when they are about something, rather than everything. My ‘something’ will be the books I read. I like to read, but I am by no means a connoisseur of fine literature. I will blog about the books I feel like reading, rather than reading books purely for the sake of blogging about them, so I’m terribly sorry if my reviews are grossly behind the time and irrelevant. Furthermore I refuse to rate anything out of ten, the idea that all my thoughts and emotions relating to a book can be summed up in such a small scale is, frankly, ridiculous.

So on to the first book of many.

Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

Jude The ObscureI will admit that I have never really given Hardy the time of day before now ― due to a very bad experience of far too many hours spent listening to the audio book of ‘Return of the Native’ read by Alan Rickman, thanks to the incompetence of my sixth form English literature teacher. A friend of mine recently read Jude and told me it was “the most depressing book ever” naturally I was intrigued so thought I would give Hardy a second chance – I’m glad I did, although I can’t really say I enjoyed reading it.

I have never come across a character in my reading quite as unlucky as Jude Fawley, and that is to put it lightly. Poor Jude has from a young age, dreamt of travelling to the nearby town of Christminster and pursuing the life on an academic, but Hardy places so many road blocks along the way that Jude’s journey seems doomed to fail. Hardy goes far beyond making Jude’s character merely unfortunate, gifting to him a life filled with little other than misery and pain.  The chronicle of Jude’s life seems to me so depressing that it becomes almost completely farcical. While I am fully aware that Jude’s life is one to be pitied, I find myself more inclined to have a laugh at his expense, as his life gets ever more ridiculous.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading this book I will elaborate.  Jude has a very humble background, and was raised for the most part by his elderly Aunt, a bitter, cynical old lady, who tried in vain to convince Jude that the Fawley family are not meant for marriage.  Despite this Jude is quickly trapped by local girl Arabella, who tricks him into marriage, which seemingly makes Jude’s dreams of becoming a scholar a distant memory. However, when the marriage inevitably falls apart and Arabella leaves the country it seems almost possible that Jude may have a second chance at happiness. I was too easily fooled by this first part of the book, Hardy continually lays these traps, luring the reader into thinking that things could be ok for Jude after all.

Eventually Jude does find himself in Christminster and once again has high hopes of somehow securing a place in the colleges; however he is inevitably rejected by all the institutions, and somehow find the time to fall hopelessly in love with his cousin Susan Brideshead in the process, whom of course he cannot marry being already wed to another. In true Jude style, Arabella asks for a divorce, just in time for Sue to get married. When Sue finally decides she wants to be with Jude and asks to be released from her marriage it seems just a bit too good to be true.

Of course it really would be asking too much for Jude to have any sort of luck, and so he soon finds out he has a son from his first marriage. Refusing to let this dampen their spirits the couple decide to raise the child – known as ‘Little Father Time’- as their own. This inevitably leads to their being shunned by society for living together out of wedlock. Jude and Sue decide to leave the area completely, in order to avoid the gossip.

When Jude and Sue return to Christminster a few years later, after pretending to tie the knot, and having a further two children of their own they find things little improved and are continually turned away from lodgings. Noticing the tension in the air Little Father Time speaks with Sue and quickly gathers that his parents are suffering because they have children, he then throws a tantrum and promises to never forgive Sue upon finding out that there is another child on the way. The next morning Jude and Sue find all three children hanging dead in their bedroom, Little Father Time having killed both his younger siblings and then himself – leaving behind the note ‘because we were too menny’. The devastation of losing her children leads Sue to lose the baby she is carrying. Sue then leaves Jude, returning to her first husband, as she feels that the death of her children was a punishment for her having done wrong in her first marriage.

Alone and miserable Jude is somehow once again tricked into marrying Arabella. By this stages Jude’s health is declining rapidly, he soon becomes bed ridden and is of little interest to Arabella. When Jude inevitably dies, he is on his own, pleading for a glass of water. Once discovered by Arabella the death is temporarily covered up, so as to not inconvenience Arabella’s social plans. Jude’s funeral is a dismal event, of which Sue does not attend.

My thoughts upon finishing this book are mixed. I am satisfied that what started out as an incredibly depressing story did not somehow end up having a fantastical and unbelievable happy ending. However as I have said before the extent to which Hardy attempts to make the story one of woe does seem to go a bit too far. The idea that any one person could be quite as unlucky as Jude Fawley does make me laugh (Hardy ha ha), it seems so detached from reality.  I also found myself really disliking most of the characters, which I feel in some ways made the book more enjoyable. Sue is the most annoying creature I have ever experienced. Sue’s character has moments of such fantastic clarity and insight, expressing her thoughts so brilliantly, but for every one of these there are at least a dozen irritating sessions in which she is seen to cry, continually change her point of view and attitude, and ultimately behave like a complete swine to her husband Mr Phillotson –who is in turn annoyingly accepting and far too nice for his own good. Jude’s character is not only unlucky, but also so intolerably needy, and so incredibly weak willed (what sort of a man gets tricked into a marriage, twice?!). Despite being quite an unpleasant character, it seems to me that the only one of group with an ounce of strength in her is Arabella, she is manipulative and cruel, but ultimately she gets what she wants, and is the only person who ends up being anything close to happy.