A Brief Book Review: Jude the Obscure

I doubt you've heard of this book; it's certainly not one of the better known classical novels, such as Les Miserables and the like. Written by Thomas Hardy in 1895, it was his last completed novel and received rather harsh criticism from the public at the time of its publication. After reading it, I can see why. Don't mistake me, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the book was well-written, but the story itself was exceptionally despondent and left me with a rather bad taste in my mouth afterwards (figuratively speaking, of course). 
        Here's a brief summary (longer one here): a young, penniless man named Jude Fawley has dreamed all his life of living in the nearby city of Christminster, which he believes to be the pinnacle of learning, sophistication, and morality. However, he is sidetracked from his lifelong goal by an earthy country girl called Arabella, who tricks him into marrying her by convincing him she's pregnant. A year or so later, and their unhappy marriage is dissolved when Arabella moves to Australia with her parents. Jude, meanwhile, discovers that his cousin Sue Bridehead lives in Christminster and makes the journey to find her. Embarrassed to approach her initially due to his lowly status as a stonemason, he falls in love with her from afar. However, Sue ends up agreeing to marry an aged schoolteacher, Richard Phillotson, in exchange for an elevated position at a school. Jude is distraught, as he and Sue have grown quite close in the months since he came to Christminster. Sue marries Phillotson but continues seeing Jude, and soon she asks Phillotson if he will agree to let her leave him for Jude. He agrees, and she and Jude begin living together. Later Jude is told by Arabella that she bore his son in Australia, and Jude and Sue take in the young boy as their own. 
      And I won't spoil the rest, but there is one quite shocking scene towards the end of the book that apparently upset many of Hardy's readers (I looked up the plot beforehand, so I knew it was coming). It was a bit shocking ... and I'm not convinced it was realistic. Oh well; I didn't write the book. 
      Anyway, I learned a lot about Gothic architecture and the people's (merciless) views of marriage at the time. I guess that counts for something? But in all honesty, it was a thoroughly educational read, and while I have a few complaints about the characterization, I'd say Jude the Obscure might be one of the best classics I've read in a while. If you were curious about my complaints, here they are: Jude's characterization was great until he started living with Sue. I'm not sure what happened, but it felt like I was really starting to know this guy, and then he turned back into a mere shadow stamped with black letters. *sigh* And Sue ... I didn't like her. Not a bit. She was whiny and couldn't even make up her mind about whether she loved Jude after she left her husband for him! As Jude often lamented, he never got a confession of love from her, though he freely confessed his love for her. And kissed her. A lot. And another complaint: people kept speculating about Jude and Sue not being married (which they weren't) ... because they seemed too happy. I guess it was just the period, but assuming two people aren't married because they're happy is an awfully depressing way of regarding marriage! 
     At the risk of this being an overly long post, I shall curtail my thoughts now. Do I recommend Jude the Obscure? Sure, if you like gloomy, overly passionate (in a bad way), poetry-spouting protagonists. It's a fascinating read, to be sure, but it's not a feel-good book, so take it or leave it. 
     Enjoy the rest of your day (it'll be better than Jude's, regardless)!