Book Review: The Hand of Ethelberta by Thomas Hardy

The Hand of Ethelberta by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a satirical work that looks at life from a perspective that was rarely seen at the time of writing, from the servants view. Since its original publication, the social foreground was reversed, and it became increasingly acceptable to present life from the servant’s perspective, and place importance upon them as principal characters

Read as part of my local Hardy reading group.

I had to call quits on this book without finishing. Got most of the way through, got distracted by about 8 other books, and had difficulty getting back into it. Another time, and I might complete it.

It was…ok. The first (and I think only) Hardy book to be set primarily “in town” (London) rather than in Wessex. Ethelbertha is the toast of the town, having produced a book of poems and then reciting her own stories in the fashionable salons around town. Most people dont realise she is the daughter of a butler, and the servants in her house are her mother and siblings.

She finds herself in the position of 3 men wanting to marry her – with her already having given up the apparent love of her life when she got married the first time.

“A comedy in chapters” is a little difficult to understand – perhaps from this distance it’s not possible to see the humour. There is a little farce in having three men in Ethelbertha’s house at the same time, all wanting her hand in marriage.

Unfortunately I got little further than this point. Whenever I attempt to read more, I find it difficult to get through a few pages at a time, so now to give up.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Hand of Ethelberta by Thomas Hardy

  1. You’ll probably be amazed that I’ve read this one three times – not that its my favourite Hardy it most certainly isn’t – I just happen to have read it three times. It is rather odd – and not really funny at all, but I found it got better with subsequent readings.


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