The Hand of Ethelberta

Naxos. Mar. 2023. 16:01 hrs. ISBN 9781781984284. $39. F
Hardy’s (1840–1928) lighthearted novel, first published serially in The Cornhill Magazine in 1876, follows an ambitious daughter of a serving-class family in England. With a melodious voice, narrator Fenella Woolgar portrays Ethelberta, who is determined to raise herself and her family out of poverty. At the age of 17, she marries into an upper-class household but is widowed less than a year later. She then crafts a new identity for herself as a poet and storyteller and seeks out another well-heeled husband, all the while disguising her humble origins. Ethelberta balances on a knife’s edge, keeping multiple suitors waiting, and eventually settles on an older “peer of the realm” with secrets of his own. This story is not typical of its author, who is known for tragedies such as Jude the Obscure and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Here, Hardy creates a story full of humor, wry wit, and irony, couched in the flowery Victorian prose of the time. Woolgar’s narration is perfectly attuned to Hardy’s words, capturing his sly deprecation of the English class system, including the silly pretenses of people of all classes in the novel.
VERDICT An excellent addition to any audio classics collection.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing