My goodness, this novel is the most moving story I’ve ever come across. It follows the life of a young man named Jude Fawley who aspires to study at the university in the nearby town of Christminister. Sadly, it being the nineteenth century and him being a regular country boy, this will be no easy feat.
His plan first goes a little off track when he meets a young woman named Arabella with whom he develops a small kind of romance. I shan’t share any more of the plot though, as it would take away lots of very exciting twists and turns as you read along and spoiled surprises are likely to reduce enjoyment.
A little later in the book, you meet Jude’s cousin Sue Bridehead. Sue is an excellent character, I find her extremely relatable at times (I find Jude very relatable too, occasionally, but less so than Sue). What’s especially pleasing about Sue, is the fact that she’s a very positive female character from a novel written in the nineteenth century, so it’s nice to see that Hardy was writing against attitudes of the day.
While Sue was my favourite character, the whole book is populated with memorable characters. Richard Phillotson, Jude’s ex-school master, is just so nice. I love characters who are really good to other people, and he’s one of them. He may not have as big a role as certain other characters, but it’s hard not to love him. Plus, there’s also the dubious doctor called Vilbert, who I found rather funny and a young boy known as Father Time who, I probably shouldn’t say much about or else I might spoil the plot!
Something that you should definitely bear in mind before reading this, though, is that it is an extremely depressing novel. The characters do get some small moments of joy, but you’ll generally find them suffering with huge problems for a lot of the time. If you want some light, happy reading, this is not the book for you. I was also very slightly disappointed with the ending because it didn’t really give closure about everything. But these are minor flaws and don’t stop it being one of my all-time favourite books.
(I have written a short story set after the novel in order to give closure. Read it here.)