Must confess. In my late teens, I went on a Thomas Hardy binge. British lit wasn’t new to me, but something about Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Far From the Madding Crowd just hit my tragic drama queen teen heart. Read everyone I could get my hands on, and in those days, there was a fair bit to be found, in school libraries and even public ones. Inevitably the protagonist (and it was usually a heroine) came to a sad end, and I was there for it. So this collection was, shall we say, a blast from the past.
Looking at these stories now, they seem like such stifled lives. Missed connections. Things that should have been said but weren’t. Miscommunications. But I have to admit Hardy had a dark sense of humor. In An Imaginative Woman, the heroine, a poetess of no renown, has her poems published along with those of a moderately more successful poet. She absolutely fangirls the man, although they have never met, and since she was published with a man’s name, he has no idea who she is. He is occasionally in the neighborhood, or staying with a friend, or renting a cottage just down the road, but try as she may, she never manages to see him. Her husband, all the while is absolutely oblivious to her hapless maneuvers. Eventually though, the poet dies, and after giving birth to her fourth child, she does too. A few years later though, the husband finds a photo of the poet that his late wife had carefully tucked away, and seems to recognize the features as those of his youngest son. “I’m damned if I didn’t think so!” murmured Marchmill. Then she did play me false with that fellow at the lodgings! Let me see: the dates. . . . Get away you poor little brat! You are nothing to me!” Ha! Poor kid will never know why Dad hates him.