Poète et romancier anglais, fils d'un tailleur de pierre, Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) est représentatif du courant naturaliste dans le roman britannique. Une grande partie de sa production romanesque, qui se déroule dans la région fictive du Wessex (sud-ouest de l'Angleterre), met en scène des personnages en lutte avec leurs propres pulsions, dans un climat de tragédie rurale, d'hypocrisie sociale et d'humour cruel. Boudé par son époque, jugé trop pessimiste, dégouté par la critique, l'auteur de Loin de la foule déchaînée (1874), du Maire de Casterbridge (1886), de Tess d'Urberville (1891) et de Jude l'obscur (1895) n'obtiendra la consécration qu'après sa mort.
‘I shall do one thing in this life – one thing certain – that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die’
Independent and spirited, Bathsheba Everdene owns the hearts of three men. Striving to win her love in different ways, their relationships with Bathsheba complicate her life in bucolic Wessex – and cast shadows over their own. With the morals and expectations of rural society weighing heavily upon her, Bathsheba experiences the torture of unrequited love and betrayal, and discovers how random acts of chance and tragedy can dramatically alter life’s course.
The first of Hardy’s novels to become a major literary success, Far from the Madding Crowd explores what it means to live and to love.
'My life looks as if it had been wasted for want of chances! When I see what you know, what you have read, and seen, and thought, I feel what a nothing I am!'
Challenging the hypocrisy and social conventions of the rural Victorian world, Tess of the D'Urbervilles follows the story of Tess Durbeyfield as she attempts to escape the poverty of her background, seeking wealth by claiming connection with the aristocratic D'Urberville family. It is through Tess's relationships with two very different men that Hardy tells the story of his tragic heroine, and exposes the double standards of the world that she inhabits with searing pathos and heart-rending sentiment.
‘The movements of his mind seemed to tend to the thought that some power was working against him.’
When Henchard, an out-of-work hay-trusser gets drunk and sells his wife at a country fair, his life will never be the same. Eighteen years later, his wife and daughter return to Casterbridge to find that Henchard has become Mayor. Although he’s spent most of his life attempting to repent for his actions, he remains a rash and impetuous man. Hardy portrays Henchard as a tragic hero, searching for love and acceptance from the community around him, posing the overarching question of whether we shape our own fate, or whether life deals us an inevitable hand.