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One of Thomas Hardy's Most Surprising Masterpieces
Anyone interested in Thomas Hardy's work knows that his novels are not always optimistic or upbeat, leaving readers to wonder about both the premises and the outcomes of the stories he produces. Under the Greenwood Tree, however, is somewhat of an exception to this rule.
A beautiful, well-written novel published the month that Hardy turned 32 and following a tale that occurs in a little village that's very similar to Higher Brockhampton, where Hardy was born, this outstanding work represents the changes that rural communities went through during the Victorian era, as seen through Hardy's watchful eyes.
The premise of the plot focuses on the replacement of the "string choir" responsible for rural Mellstock's church music. Since the men taking part in the choir were not always tending to their duties without drinking an exceeding amount of alcohol, the pastor decided a change was due, and things took an intriguing turn when he introduced the new mechanical organ that would replace the choir - along with the figure of an extremely attractive, well-educated young lady that would become the new organist.
The romantic plot, wielded and guided masterfully by Hardy's rich comments and colorful descriptions, then focuses on the choice that the young woman would eventually make, as she is presented with three different suitors, and the drama and romantic scheming continues to escalate along with the villagers' imagination.
While combining many elements of romance and intrigue, the novel also focuses on Hardy's nostalgia related to the old rural way of life he used to know, and how that has all changed along with the scene of the Victorian period.
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