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Summary

Exclusively from Audible

Eager to escape the confines of his lower-class upbringing, Jude Fawley dreams of pursuing higher education, graduating from university and becoming a scholar. Slowly, we witness the resistance Jude is met with and, in keeping with Hardy's other works, the consequences of having dared to defy a society with long-held traditions.

Thomas Hardy's last novel, Jude the Obscure, offers scathing commentary and insight into 19th century England. Widely considered Hardy's boldest and most avant-garde work, it was first published in serialised form, sending weekly shockwaves of outrage to its Victorian audiences. Despite being an able and driven young man, Jude's potential is squandered and his aspirations quashed when he relents and becomes a stonemason. Grounded by an unhappy marriage and a lack of opportunity, Jude's only escape comes in the form of his beloved cousin, Sue Bridehead. An unconventional yet extraordinary heroine, Sue becomes Jude's only chance at happiness, but in a society so unwilling to accept change, their love becomes their undoing.

One of the most influential and prolific novelists and poets of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Thomas Hardy followed the naturalist movement and was greatly inspired by the works of Charles Dickens and William Wordsworth. In turn, his work enthused the likes of Robert Frost, W.H. Auden and Philip Larkin.

Narrator Biography

Stephen Thorne is a classically-trained radio, film, stage and television actor. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and has toured with The Old Vic Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company. His voice experience is extensive and he is credited with over 2000 radio broadcasts and 300 unabridged audiobooks. These include works by James Henry, Dick King-Smith, Arthur Conan-Doyle and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Stephen famously voiced the character of Aslan in the 1979 adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. His unique narration style has won him various awards in both the UK and the USA, including a Talkies Award and several Golden Earphones Awards from Audiofile Magazine.

Stephen is no stranger to the screen and his television roles include Z-Cars, Death of an Expert Witness, David Copperfield, Crossroads, Last of the Summer Wine and Doctor Who. He also appeared in the 1984 film, Runaway and the 1985 film, Lollipop Dragon: The Great Christmas Race.

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Jude The Obscure

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Irritating in places

Would you try another book written by Thomas Hardy or narrated by Stephen Thorne?

I would try any book written by Thomas Hardy.

What did you like best about this story?

A great classic.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

As for the narrator, Stephen Thorne, his voice is very agreeable. Unfortunately, Thorne thinks it necessary to render the women's lines in a painfully querulous falsetto. The result strips the dialogue of credibility and drama. As someone put it on Twitter, it sounds as if the characters are being mocked, and/or infantilized. Pity. I recently listened to a great performance by Annette Bening, who never altered her voice when playing male characters, leaving the writing shine through.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

I was pulled out of the story during most dialogues. Listening was particularly irritating when the narrator was supposed to convey a woman's strong emotion. But a few male characterizations suffered as well. Each time a character other than the protagonist speaks, Thorne has to send it up.

Any additional comments?

It seems to me that the narrator should resist the temptation to make a theatrical performance of a reading.

11 people found this helpful

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Powerful themes amongst pathos and regret

Jude the Obscure is a roller coaster of intensity but doesn’t flow as well as Hardy’s other novels, and there are moments when contrived events seem to propel the plot.

Hardy describes a conflicted society in a story of individual pathos and regret; challenging the church, moral issues of relationships, sex and academic opportunity of the time.

One has great sympathy for the lead protagonists, Jude and Sue; innocents battered, and victims of a repressive and perverse society. I unsuccessfully willed Jude on, frustrated by his naïveté; Sue is complex, presents unexpected revelations but is finally worn down.

There is a quaintness ... when Sue and Jude have their first discussion after many months of friendship...Sue says that “she has remained as she began”...(that she is still a virgin) ... how euphemistic is that ! ? ... and partly exemplifies the hypocrisy of the time ....attitudes toward sexuality, marriage and oppression of women.

I’m no longer surprised by anti-semitic references in Victorian novels... are these justified as accurate reflections of the day, or Hardy’s gratuitous and thoughtless inclusions .... !

There is high feeling and emotion; the novel builds and matures and the final chapters stupendous. Not the strongest of Hardy’s, but one needs to discover this and experience his work through; certainly the social comment is key.

4 people found this helpful

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Hardy at his best and darkest

Thomas hardy reminds us how far he was ahead of his time with this stunning, sad, story on the perils of love and marriage.

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Wonderful Novel / Mixed Performance

Performer's interpretation of the female voices is distracting and irritating, which is rather unfortunate as it detracts from the narrative.

2 people found this helpful

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A Harrowing Tale

The novel was beautifully read . A multilayered tale of thwarted idealism and the tragic consequences thereof.

2 people found this helpful

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Difficult at best.

Well read but goodness me what a tragic story. Almost gave up on it. Try Mayor of Casterbridge or far from the Madding Crowd first.

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So frustrating!!

I love Thomas Hardy but had never read Jude The Obscure. Oh my!!
It’s typical Hardy. Delicious writing. But spoilt for me because I just couldn’t care for any of the characters. ( maybe that’s the point).
I knew from the outset that trouble was afoot and it just didn’t let up! Lost track of how many times I muttered “ oh for crying out loud, just marry him for Gods sake!”
Have to say that Sue is THE most frustrating woman ever. I often felt like throwing my phone out the window in despair!
I’m pretty sure I could not have finished it- the story really does drag on with little progress made - were it not for the EXCELLENT narration. It really added atmosphere and the necessary feeling of impending sadness and doom. His accents were brilliant and I was able to distinguish who was talking. A first class performance.
If you love Hardy give it a go- but not if you’re in need of cheering up. Oh and accompany each sitting with chocolate and a bottle of wine! Youill need it!!

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Superb, probably Hardys best.

This, I understand was the last novel from Thomas Hardy, the story cannot be faulted , Hardy was the master observer of human relationship with a wide understanding and tremendous skill in weaving the reasoning into his story: Stephen Thorne does an excellent job in his narration.

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Worth the time

I love Thomas Hardy’s book, so relevant even now. So worth listening too, I listen on long car journeys !

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Intensely boring story

I skipped the last 6 hours after struggling for hour after hour with listening to a relentlessly drawn out description and repetition of Sue's merciless control of Jude.

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  • Tad Davis
  • 16-02-10

Staggering

I first read this book about 40 years ago, and coming back to it now, with Stephen Thorne's wonderful narration, I feel the same sense of overwhelming tragedy. The climax of the book is shattering.

Jude is a country laborer with a dream, and with patience and determination to match. He teaches himself Greek and Latin while supporting himself as a stonemason, and he hopes to become a fellow at the University. But one thing after another happens, and his opportunities become more and more constricted. Personal drama takes center stage. He falls in love with his cousin Sue, a relationship doomed not only by his own prior entanglements but by Sue's own indecisiveness and apparent horror at physical expressions of love. (There's something damaged about Sue that Hardy never tries to explain: it just is.)

Stephen Thorne is a terrific reader: all characters distinctively voiced in a variety of accents, with the brooding narrator hovering over all. Enthralling throughout: but be forewarned that it ends badly for pretty much everybody you care about.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Julia
  • 20-09-09

Thomas Hardy would never have wanted this narrator

I love this book, and have loved it since I was a teenager dreaming of how Jude and I would have been soulmates, but this narrator is the worst! His deadpan, inflectionless reading of this heartrending text is unlistenable-too. I had to stop. Poor Jude, he was sounding as exciting as last year's weather report. Oh my, what a lost opportunity to bring a fantastic novel to life!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Deb Dake
  • 17-03-09

It kept me engaged...

I thought the narrator was good as far as creating the environment but his portrayal of the female characters is weak and kept slightly pulling me out of the story. Not enough, however, to bring me to quitting it all together. I don't regret the time spent on the book.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Natalie Bartels
  • 23-12-16

A truly complex and lovely tragedy

If you could sum up Jude The Obscure in three words, what would they be?

Lovely tragic novel

What was one of the most memorable moments of Jude The Obscure?

Jude's foolish drunken scenes.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, it would have been too rich

Any additional comments?

My first Hardy novel. Brilliant. Tragic. When I finished it, I had an overwhelming feeling of having participated in something so aesthetically rich and complex. Learned a a lot about myself by exploring these characters. Would recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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  • J.B.
  • 22-04-22

The Deepest of Undeserved Tragedies

Jude wants to be a man of literacy, he wants to be a cleric, he wants to be a good lover, he wants, he wants, he wants, and he should be, should be, should be, but nothing breaks in Jude’s Favor. Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy and read by Stephen Thorne, is a study of tragic failures by the turn of the 20th Century education system, the church, and the institution of marriage. This is Jude’s story, the deepest of underserved heartbreaks. All Hardy books are laden with heroes and heroines whose obtuse decision-making leaves them adrift with loss. The peculiarities of humankind, and how we are hurt by the peculiarities of other humankind. This book is no exception to Hardy’s style. Perhaps it is just the most despondent of his novels.

Jude gets trapped into a forlorn marriage while falling in love with a cousin, who foolishly passes Jude up for an older loveless man, and they struggle, to live with their mistakes. Finally, they ignore social norms and co-habitat in an effort to resolve their love but achievement in love never arrives, but for a fleeting moment and then disaster. A tortured disaster. The tale is painful but capturing. One may wonder, how with all its pain, it has remained in literature an alluring read? Because Hardy always instructs in how not to live your life. Read Hardy in hopes of not making the mistakes his characters make.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-04-21

Read a review first

I had not heard about the book before listening. The subject matter is harsh and it upset me. I did learn about a difficult time in history.

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  • KAtl
  • 05-03-20

Want to feel better about your own life? Read this!

Wow so incredibly sad but in a very meaningful and moving way. A story that was beyond its time. Hardy portrays the struggles of his female characters so well. Enjoyed the narrator although would’ve liked him to differentiate the characters and especially female ones more. Would still highly recommend.

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  • Lewis Teeter
  • 17-08-19

Not Hardy's Best

As a lover of classical literature I found Jude the Obscure a bit tiresome. There wasn't a sympathetic character to root for in the entire story and I found myself regularly checking how much time I had left before the book was finished. If you've never read Hardy I recommend you try Return of the Native.

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  • Chrissie
  • 27-04-14

Jude cannot pick women!

Just as the book description clarifies, through this book Hardy criticizes the three institutions - marriage, religion and education - during Victorian times. Although I agree with his criticism, he exaggerates; he finds example that go beyond a fair analysis. Some of the characters are good and some evil, as in all novels, but Hardy goes beyond this and throws in characters that are mentally instable. Their behavior cannot be seen as a just criticism of the inflexible morals, rules and beliefs. A better criticism would have been achieved through more stable characters.

I have nothing against depressing books, but this is excessively depressing and frustrating beyond words since the characters cannot make up their mind. Talk about vacillation! It was tiring to see how they make a decision and then changed their minds, not once, but over and over again. Yes, such rigid institutions can force people into craziness, but not to the extent portrayed here. These people would not even be happy in less restrictive times, and thus Hardy's message loses impact.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Stephen Thorne. I was not pleased with the women's voices, and you could not tell who was speaking. The tone was disagreeable, but so were the characters.

I liked Jude, but felt such pity for him. It is hard to see a man so crushed by life, and his choice of women could not have been worse.

I might try another book by Hardy.