Most helpful critical review
Wake me up
on January 25, 2004
A great windbag of a novel, Hardy seems to think that not only does a grassy meadow take half a chapter to describe, he thinks that everyone else agrees with him. Please. Not the largest complaint I have, but surely the first, is that Hardy's style is like looking up looking up "stone pillar" in a thesaurus, then two others, and then writing down every single synonym. It takes pages for him to describe a dairy farm, and at some point you wonder if he's introducing the farm as a character, it gets so much time.
Not that he seems to spend that much time on his characters; they are created with little that interests, and contain less development that a homeless shelter under President Bush.
Tess is described, at great length, and quite often, as a beautiful woman. Okay, so what? Her personality is so weak I wonder if he even thought about what she would do in a situation, or just had her do whatever the other characters wanted her to do, until the very end, when she makes an out of character action that is supposed to be shocking, but is more perplexing; the character described in the rest of the book wouldn't do that, and there is nothing to indicate why she has a sudden change of being.
Angel is built up as the "perfect prince in shining armor" until he finds out about Tess's secret, when he suddenly acts like a selfish and snotty child that is the very opposite of what he has been in the rest of the book. Then he switches back at the end, with little thought as to why by Hardy, at least not much that is apparent in the book.
Let's see, boring writing style and poorly done characters, what else is there? Ah, plot. The only way to describe plot is that it made the description seem riveting and his characters thought out. He's spend the time to talk about Tess getting a job, then the next chapter she is suddenly running away from it; I felt robbed of the time spent in the build up, and knowing more in detail of what happened in the intervening time from when she got the job to when she quit would have helped with her character. And when you think there is no need for detail, Hardy's got more than enough. He spends ages talking about Tess and Angel's time together at the dairy farm, but none of their actions change the way they feel about each other. He could have cut our some of their horse riding, and no one would complain.
In short, Hardy's the kind of writer who is analogous to a storyteller that likes the sound of his voice; just because he can say something, he does. And in his endless drivel, what might be interesting is skipper over. This guy could have used and editor.
When it first came out, this book was ill received, and I see no reason for anything to have changed since.