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Originally published as a biography of Thomas Hardy by Florence, his widow, this ‘Life’ is now known to have been essentially the work of Hardy himself. There has been much critical discussion of its hybrid status, and of Hardy’s motives for contriving what some have seen as a deception.This controversy has tended to obscure a much more important issue – the oddity, attractiveness and diversity of the work in question. It does give an account of Hardy’s life, from the very moment of birth when he was ‘thrown aside as dead’ till rescued by the midwife. But more than that it offers a wonderful miscellany of reminiscences, anecdotes, folk-tales, personal insights, diary entries and intriguing reflections on art in general and fiction and poetry in particular. It reveals a good deal about Hardy the man, and still more about Hardy the writer. No lover of his novels or poems should be without it.
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