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Open Culture - Thomas Hardy—architect, poet, and writer (above)—gave us the fierce, stormy romance Far From the Madding Crowd, currently impressing critics in a film adaptation by Thomas Vinterberg. He also gave us Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Return of the Native, and Jude the Obscure, books whose persistently grim outlook might make them too depressing by far were it not for Hardy's engrossing prose, unforgettable characterization, and, perhaps most importantly, unshakable sense of place. Hardy set most of his novels in a region he called Wessex, which—much like William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha—is a thinly fictionalized recreation of his rural hometown of Dorchester and its surrounding counties.
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