This years Novel Holiday took a group of 6 of us to Dorset to explore the haunts of Thomas Hardy while examining one of his novels - The Woodlanders. We also covered Tinkers by Paul Harding and On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan.
The cottage here (courtesy of an article in the London Evening Standard about Hardy's Dorset) is where Hardy lived, in Higher Bockhampton during his early life, and it really is as beautiful as it appears. It is just over a week ago since we started our Hardy exploration and this was our first destination. Right on the edge of Puddletown Woods it was a really lovely start. I had total garden envy.We also went to Max Gate, the house he designed and where he spent his latter years, and also Stinsford Church where his heart is buried (his ashes are in Poets Corner in Westminster Cathedral in London). All of these locations were very close together, on the edge of Dorchester (Casterbridge in nis novels) and do-able in one day.
We had spent about an hour and a half discussing The Woodlanders the day before, while sitting in the late summer sunshine, in the garden of our holiday cottage in Netherbury. We talked about so many things, including 'Did Giles even deserve Grace?' to 'Romanticism or Darwinism in the descriptions of the Woods?'. Of course we also talked about whether we loved it or hated it, and whether we would read any more Hardy. We unanimously loved Marty, and were frustrated with Grace, many of us feeling she needed a good slap. A few of us also wanted to slap Giles, but most of us elicited a sigh when he was mentioned, especially when Rufus Sewell from the film came into it. Sigh! It was a lively discussion and a great book to talk about.
We also visited Chesil Beach and almost got blown away, it was so windy, but quite atmospheric. It was difficult to walk on the shingle and we all agreed that there was no way that Florence would manage to run far along it in the novel. We had talked it over in the conservatory that morning. Tinkers also provoked interesting debate, being both a vivid and also an ethereal read.
Of course we did many other things during the week...Mapperton Gardens, Cerne Abbas Giant and many lovely walks around Netherbury.
It was an excellent week, Dorset was totally beautiful, as was our lovely cottage in Netherbury, and we ate, drank and talked loads. My thanks to my friends who made it a brilliant week.
We are currently looking into possible locations for next year! So many to choose from...