Max Gate is the Dorset home of author Thomas Hardy. The year is 1928 and Hardy is on his death bed. Whilst he lies dying in his bedroom, downstairs decisions ar being made about where his body should be interred. Hardy’s wishes are that he be buried next to his family and first wife, Emma, at the local church in Stinisford. However, his friends, curator Sydney Cockerell and author J M Barrie, feel thay his literary greatness should be acknowledged and his remains be buried in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey. Hardy’s second wife Florence doesn’t know what to do for the best.
The story is narrated by maid Nellie Titterington, who occasionally goes off piste with her narrative. But in her ramblings you do get an insight into Thomas Hardy the man.
This book is beautifully written with lyrical prose juxtaposed with colloquial dialogue: the transition between the two is effortless. The characterisation is detailed and very believable. Nellie draws the readers in so that you feel you are part of Max Gate and the debate about Hardy’s remains.
There is sympathy for Hary’s second wife Florence, who feels jealousy towards his first wife, Emma, and insecure at her position in all this. She was his secretary before his wife and feels she never lived up to her predecessor, she is not even with Hardy when he dies. Again, she gives detail into Hardy the man, not the writer and also the role of women in 1920’s England.
Nearly all the narrative takes place in Max Gate so this is not a book where there is a lot of action. Instead, emphasis is on literary style and characterisation. If like me you enjoy an accomplished, literary novel, beautifully written with detailed characterisation this is definitely a book for you. In my reviews I will very rarely give a 5 book rating but this reaches that grade.