Title: The Fiddler of the Reels and Other Stories
Author: Thomas Hardy
Source: Personal library
Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge
First Sentence: "Here stretch the downs, high and breezy and green, absolutely unchanged since those eventful days."
Summary (From back of book):
In the title story of this collection, Car'line Aspent, bewitched and seduced by the dazzling fiddler, Mop Ollamoor, rejects her loyal suitor Ned only to repent her decision and seek him out years later. The ten other tales share the theme of love, but they are more than simple love stories. Written with Hardy's customary compassion for ordinary men and women and his sharp sense of irony, they tell of romantic disasters, betrayals, misunderstandings and cruelties. And, as in Hardy's novels, it is frequently the women who fall in love unwisely, in defiance of their class, their expectations or their family loyalties, and suffer for their impulsiveness.
My Two Cents:
This collection of short stories is classic Hardy at its finest: Fatalistic and sympathetic at the same time. Anyone who's read Hardy's novels (Tess of the d'Urbervilles specifically comes to mind) knows that Hardy feels for the common man, but knows that fate does not spare those who need it.
My favorite story in this collection is "An Imaginative Woman," which tells the story of a woman who falls in love with a poet she's never met. As you're reading the story, you think there are a couple of ways it can end. When it finally does come to a close, Hardy provides a twist ending to rival those of Guy de Maupassant. It is well done and actually made me laugh out loud (I'm not sure if that was his original intention, but I like irony!).
Another great story is "Enter a Dragoon." After learning that the man she was supposed to marry three years ago was not killed in battle after all, Selina's family hurries to make the marriage final. It's not until after his death, though, that she learns the truth of what happened during those three lost years. I kind of saw the ending coming, but that didn't make it any less interesting of an ending.
Fans of Thomas Hardy's novels will enjoy this book full of looks into the lives of the common man who doesn't always get his happy ending.