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One of the most popular of Hardy’s novels, this charming pastoral idyll is a lightly humorous depiction of life in an early Victorian rural community. Drawn from Hardy’s childhood memories, it represents, he said, “a true picture at first hand of the personages, ways, and customs which were common in the villages.”
The story delicately balances the concerns of the Mellstock parish choir with a romance between Dick Dewy, a member of the choir, and Fancy Day, the village schoolmistress. While the choir battles for its survival against the new vicar’s mechanical church organ, personal conflicts arise over the anachronistic customs of tradition.