This was Thomas Hardy's 2nd published novel. He apparently destroyed the manuscript of his first written novel because the subject was too controversial. The results was this boring novel which follows the pursuit of a man for a woman he seems to have fallen for on sight alone. I wished desperately she'd reject him or something would keep them apart in the end.
It's interesting having read some of Hardy's last novels first and then skipping to the beginning of his career. In this one, you can see the influence of Charles Dickens on his early writing style and character development. I'm glad he grew into his own style with time and eventually decided not to hold back what he wanted to say.
I'd heard this was a more "pastoral" book, but apart from a few metaphorical descriptions of nature, it's not of a pastoral nature.
I can see where Hardy wanted to take this book, but his social commentary is far too weak here to make this the book it could have been. I'm glad, though, that he built up momentum with his subsequent works.
I'd not recommend this book for more than its scholarly appeal to those wanting to read all of Hardy's works. But someone managed to squeeze a movie out of this thin plot, so maybe my problem with the novel is partly expecting more from Hardy.