Author: Thomas Hardy
Publisher: Wordsworth Classics
Publication Date: 1996 (1894)
Genre: Classics / Short Stories
The proverbial phrase 'life's little ironies' was coined by Hardy for his third volume of short stories. These tales and sketches possess all the power of his novels: the wealth of description, the realistic portrayal of the quaint lore of Wessex, the 'Chaucerian' humour and characterisation, the shrewd and critical psychology, the poignant estimate of human nature and the brooding sense of wonder at the essential mystery of life.
The tales which make up Life's Little Ironies tenderly re-create a rapidly vanishing rural world and scrutinise the repressions of fin-de-siecle bourgeois life. They share the many concerns of Hardy's last great novels, such as the failure of modern marriage and the insidious effects of social ambition on the family and community life. Ranging widely in length and complexity, they are unified by Hardy's quintessential irony, which embraces both the farcical and the tragic aspects of human existence.
I have read nearly all Hardy's novels and many of his poems, but this was my first time reading his short stories. Life's Little Ironies was a wonderful collection of tales in which things always went wrong, and always with an ironic twist. Hardy's signature descriptive prose was certainly present in these tales too, along with memorable characters, all well crafted despite the shortness of each story. This is probably a good little collection to try if you are new to Hardy's writing and want to dip your toe in before tackling one of the novels. Meanwhile, existing fans of Hardy's works will certainly find something to enjoy in these stories. It gets a solid 4 stars from me.