Gone to Earth, Paperback Book

Gone to Earth Paperback

Part of the Virago Modern Classics series

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


The daughter of a Welsh gypsy and a crazy bee-keeper, Hazel Woodus is happiest living in her forest cottage in the remote Shropshire hills, at one with the winds and seasons, protector and friend of the wild animals she loves. But Hazel's beauty and innocence prove irresistible to the men in her orbit. Both Jack Reddin, the local squire and Edward Marston, the gentle minister, offer her human -- and carnal -- love. Hazel's fate unfolds as simply and relentlessly as a Greek tragedy as a child of nature is drawn into a world of mortal passion in which she must eternally be a stranger.


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Mary Webb is the unfashionable author of rural novels of the kind parodied so sharply and hilariously by Stella Gibbons in Cold Comfort Farm. If you can get past the unintentionally amusing dialogue, however, there is more to this novel than romantic melodrama and, while she's hardly the equal of Thomas Hardy, she deals movingly and powerfully with her themes.The central character, Hazel Woodus, is an eighteen-year-old girl living in a hovel with her unloving father. They live in that remote, awe-inspiring, harsh yet beautiful part of Shropshire that borders Wales. Hazel is a child of nature, with little understanding of the 'rules' governing polite, civilised society, and - when she does become aware of them - she dismisses what she sees as pointless. In common with Mary Webb, who became a vegetarian in childhood, Hazel opposes all forms of cruelty, and fox-hunting in particular. She adopts an orphan fox cub, with whom she closely identifies. Both she and Foxy are destined to be victims of cruelty - of the hunt in Foxy's case, of human callousness in Hazel's case.Married to Edward Marston, who wishes only to look after her and allows her to treat him like a brother, Hazel is pursued by the fox-hunting squire Jack Reddin, who arouses her latent sexuality. She detests Reddin, whose cruelty she is all too well aware of, but she cannot break free of him even though she knows Edward is the better man and that she was happy with Edward.The publication year of the novel is a reminder of what was going on in the larger world at the time, i.e. the Second World War (Webb's three brothers were all involved in the conflict). An atmosphere of senseless cruelty pervades the novel, and also a feeling that 'civilised' society is less civilised than it appears at a superficial level. [October 2007]

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