The Trumpet Major : A Tale, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Anne Garland, who lives with her widowed mother in a mill owned by Miller Loveday, has three suitors: the local squire's nephew Festus and the miller's two sons, Robert and John.

While Festus' aggressive pursuit deters the young woman from considering him as a husband, the indecisive Anne wavers between light-hearted Bob and gentle, steadfast John.

But as their Wessex village prepares for possible invasion by Napoleon's fleet, all find their destinies increasingly tangled with the events of history.

The Loveday brothers, one a sailor and one a soldier, must wrestle with their commitments to their country and their feelings for Anne.

Lyrical and light-hearted, yet shot through with irony, The Trumpet-Major (1880) is one of Hardy's most unusual novels and a fascinating tale of love and desire.


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(Kindle)An excellent read with the rural background, well-drawn female characters and self-sacrificing heroes that we expect and love from Hardy, but a bit lighter, with less tragedy, and an interesting historical (to Hardy as well as to us) setting, which gives him the opportunity to muse on the passing of time. There’s a particularly lovely bit about the weapons kept in the church which gradually move away, come in for other uses, and eventually drop to pieces on various farms. Festus Derriman, one of the inevitable set of suitors, is hilarious in his moodiness and cowardice. John Loveday is the solid hero, a kind of Diggory Venn figure, making things right in the background; his brother, Robert, is more flighty, and there is always the sense that things could go badly wrong. Old Mr Derriman is a figure of fun, but also of pathos, not too broadly drawn for sympathy in the end, with a purity in his relationship with Anne as a surrogate daughter. The historical details are nicely done, with the fashions carefully delineated, Hardy of the Navy (the “Kiss me, Hardy” one, presumably), and encounters with the king. A charming and overall good read. I doubt I would have approached this without Ali’s Hardy Reading Project, and I’m glad I did.