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"A witty and sentient writer"— LA Times
"Wilkins can command a breathtakingly supple literary style"— The New York Times
1928: Thomas Hardy is dying in the upstairs room of Max Gate, the house he built in his beloved Dorset. Downstairs, his literary friends are locked in a bitter fight with local supporters. Who owns Hardy’s remains? Who knew him best? What are the secrets of Max Gate?
Housemaid Nellie Titterington narrates this earthy and emotionally-charged novel about ambition, duty, belonging, and love.
Damien Wilkins is the author of seven novels, including the New Zealand Book Award-winning The Miserables.
|Publisher:||Gallic Books Limited|
|Product dimensions:||7.80(w) x 5.10(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Damien Wilkins: Damien Wilkins is one of New Zealand’s leading writers, the author of seven novels, including the New Zealand Book Award-winning The Miserables, and The Fainter, which was shortlisted for both the Montana New Zealand Book Awards and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. In 2013 he became the Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. Wilkins completed his MFA at Washington University and won a Whiting Award in 1992.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Short historical novel focusing on Thomas Hardy’s last days, with the controversy about where to bury him. Lyrical and evocative. Tess of the D’Urbervilles was a favorite read in my teen years. So when I received Max Gate for review, I was intrigued. Written by a New Zealand author (my second author of this country, after Chad Taylor), this short historical novel focuses on the last days before Thomas Hardy’s death and the decisions around his place of burial. The book is narrated by Nellie Titterington, the main housemaid at Max Gate in Dorset, Thomas Hardy’s Victorian property that he designed himself. Through her voice, you can feel the tension in the household days before Hardy’s passing. Tension, competition, and jealousy among the staff, worried of being no longer needed and dismissed after the master’s passing, tension among acquaintances, trying to get financial advantages through the event, tension with Florence, Thomas’s second wife. Thomas expressed his desire to be buried with his family in his little village. Should they respect his last will or rather share him with all of England and choose Westminster as his resting place, possibly making money through the deal, thanks to his influential name? With all that is going on, in an ambiance of doom, Nellie shares her memories of Hardy, of the house (so important here as a character really), of the rural surroundings. There are beautiful lyrical descriptions of the fauna and flora. In juxtaposition, there are also quite crude dialogs. It is also about Hardy’s beliefs, thoughts, and books. The novel is historical in the sense that it focuses on a few important days in history. But do not expect much action, there’s none, and it is very slow, more like literary fiction, not unlike Proust’s. Except for an interesting twist in Part 2. Part 3 takes place sixty years later, and tells us about what happened to each main character of the book. Earlier on, I used the word “juxtaposition”. Even though I enjoyed the book as a whole and appreciated the beautiful descriptions, I thought it lacked a bit of unity. No doubt the author chose the patchwork’s style on purpose, but it didn’t totally work for me. Nevertheless, if you are a Thomas Hardy fan, you need to read this interesting take on his final days.