Until I came across, Desperate Remedies, I wasn’t aware that Thomas Hardy wrote sensation novels. I have read only a few Hardy novels, and cannot vouch for whether he wrote more in the genre, but Desperate Remedies is certainly a “sensation novel”. And what’s amazing is that this was Hardy’s first published novel. So, what made him choose this genre for his first published novel? My guess is the popularity of the genre, and the fact that his very first novel was flatly turned down by the publishers. I don’t blame him. If I were in his shoes, I’d have gone with the tide as well.
Leaving the genre aside, Desperate Remedies brings to the literary world an author who would keep a name for centuries to come. Being his first publication, the novel doesn’t equal in quality of his later works. But it demonstrates his potential as a great writer that he was later to become.
What I have always enjoyed in Hardy is his beautiful, poetic writing. Being a poet in his soul and architect by profession (before he became a full-time writer), his words create images and sounds, paint pictures, and capture the beauty of nature. In short, his writing of place is atmospheric. Hardy has the ability to take the readers to the very core of his setting through his words, making them part of the story. It’s amazing that even from his very start he had demonstrated a great skill in atmospheric writing. Hardy was indeed a born wordsmith.
As was already mentioned, Desperate Remedies is a sensation novel. The story excites you, shocks you, and moves you with its secrets, mystery, crime, sin, and melodrama. It has its flaws as the first major product of the author; nevertheless, it takes the reader through a memorable journey. The story has heroes and villains like any sensation story. However, the line was hard to draw when it came to villains because Hardy calls for the reader’s sympathy for their actions.
Hardy has an amazing ability to choose his characters well and place them appropriately in his stories. I have seldom come across characters in his novels that I have disliked. It was the same in Desperate Remedies. I liked the characters, even the villains. I felt that Hardy has presented his villains more strongly than his heroes. Presenting a worthy opponent has always been characteristic in Hardy novels.
The story is dark and eerie. Yet it was steered towards a happy ending which was quite pleasant. It had some inconsistencies, and some of the mysterious incidents were unexplained. Nevertheless, the story was enjoyable. Although the start was slow and it took time to absorb all the information, the story gradually picked up the pace and became a real page-turner.
Desperate Remedies is a lesser-known work of Thomas Hardy. For those who have read his later works, his writing here may feel amateurish. Yet, after reading and enjoying it for its own merits, I feel the novel is worthy of the reader’s attention.