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The Return of the Native

Written by: Thomas Hardy
Narrated by: Alan Rickman
Length: 15 hrs and 12 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (20 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Earphones Award Winner (AudioFile Magazine)

Exclusively from Audible 

Set on Egdon Heath, a fictional barren moor in Wessex, Eustacia Vye longs for the excitement of city life but is cut off from the world in her grandfather's lonely cottage. Clym Yeobright who has returned to the area to become a schoolmaster seems to offer everything she dreams of: passion, excitement and the opportunity to escape. However, Clym's ambitions are quite different from hers, and marriage only increases Eustacia's destructive restlessness, drawing others into a tangled web of deceit and unhappiness. 

Considered a truly modern story due to its sexual politics and hindered desires it still holds relevance to audiences today. There is a tension between the symbolic setting of the heath and the modernity of the characters that makes the listener question our freedom to shape our lives as we wish. Are we always able to live our dreams? 

Like George Eliot, Hardy was a Victorian realist whose novels and poetry were greatly influenced by Romanticism, especially the poet William Wordsworth. His critical thoughts on Victorian society can be seen throughout much of his work. 

Narrator Biography 

Multi-award winning actor and director Alan Rickman, famous for roles such as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films and the Sherriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), had a varied career that included performing on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company in modern and classical theatre productions. In America, he gained recognition for his Broadway appearance in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1985) and later his role in Die Hard (1988) made him internationally famous. Other notable performances included his 2001 return to the West End and Broadway in Noël Coward's Private Lives and Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman in 2010. Rickman is most remembered for his roles in films such as Love Actually (2003) and Sweeney Todd (2007) as well as voicing Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), and Absalom the Caterpillar in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010). 

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What the critics say

"Rickman's voice is masculine and seductive; yet by altering tempo, modulating tone, he becomes Hardy's women and children, utterly compelling as he projects all ranges of emotion. His individualizing dialogue of the human-sized characters, that country chorus who form the backdrop of normality for Hardy's titanic lovers, is brilliant." ( AudioFile)

What listeners say about The Return of the Native

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful book and wonderful performance by Alan Rickman

It was an absolute joy to not only listen to a classic by one of the best writers ever, but also to hear the marvellous voice of Alan Rickman bringing all the characters to life. Most memorable!!

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Wallen
  • 2011-04-20

Always Hardy

In this book Hardy proves he is one the really great writers that the English language has. Hardy's literary style is clearly 19th century, but it is really readable today. I thought that his style would be a little too heavy for an audiobook, but I found that the opposite is true - just like Dickens', his style lends itself well to the audiobook format.

72 people found this helpful

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  • Mel
  • 2012-11-04

A Perfect Pairing

One of the most satisfying audio productions I've listened to--a case where the audio version was more enjoyable to me than the text because of the pefect pairing of 2 artists. Rickman's voice added a rich shading and emphasis to Hardy's already beautiful lyricism; it was almost hypnotic. I remember long passages (especially describing Egdon Heath) that challenged my attention when I first read this book, but with Rickman's reading, it all went by like beautiful scenery. One to sit down and experience leisurely.

141 people found this helpful

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  • Doggy Bird
  • 2011-12-04

Might Be My Favorite Audiobook of All Time!

I love Thomas Hardy, and can't recommend his books highly enough, but this reading stands out because Rickman's enunciation is so perfect and his expression so dramatic. It perfectly suits the story in a way that is almost musical. The beginning of the book is like a painting in words and is so beautiful to hear. (but I think I could enjoy Alan Rickman reading the telephone book). It's wonderful to listen a book with so much poetry read so carefully. This is the story of Eustacia Vye, the most beautifully named character in all of fiction. I highly recommend it.

95 people found this helpful

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  • Cariola
  • 2012-09-02

Two Words: Alan Rickman!

While this isn't my favorite Hardy novel (and I do love Hardy), what could be better than having the voice of Alan Rickman in your ears for more than 15 hours? The man has the sexiest voice on the planet, AND he's a great narrator for this rather melancholy story.

57 people found this helpful

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  • Lili
  • 2012-01-12

Fabulous!!!

What did you love best about The Return of the Native?

Thomas Hardy's beautiful prose and Alan Rickman's rich voice makes this an absolutely fabulous experience. One of the best narrations I have ever heard. Highly highly recommended!!!!

29 people found this helpful

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  • Gillian
  • 2016-02-10

Good-Bye, Alan Rickman

"The Return of the Native," I believe, is Thomas Hardy at his best, and with Alan Rickman at the helm, turning in a perfect performance, it's a near perfect work. We follow fully flesh-out characters as Hardy guides them through small-town life and the passions and dramas of unrequited love here and doomed love there. The only problem I have with Hardy and which makes this and his other works juuuuust less than flawless is his use of contrived devices: a teeny, tiny something happens that starts an AVALANCHE whereby tragedy ensues. Still and all, wonderful reading, and Hardy is a poet where starlight settles on the brows of maidens and such. And always, always, always, the oh so beautiful tones of Alan Rickman carrying the story, the poetry, making it soothe, making it soar.
Oh, boy, Alan. You will be sorely missed!
Of all the versions of "The Return of the Native" out there, I strongly suggest this one.

35 people found this helpful

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  • HardyBoy64
  • 2015-05-08

The perfect union: Hardy and Rickman

Would you consider the audio edition of The Return of the Native to be better than the print version?

YES. I'm a huge fan of Hardy's writing but Alan Rickman makes Hardy's poetic language sink into your soul. He narrates with such passion and emotion and he chortles, sings, moans and despairs, thus reviving Hardy's memorable characters into full life, off of the dead pages of a novel nearly 150 years old.

What other book might you compare The Return of the Native to and why?

Honestly, in my opinion, no other writer of the English language can or could write like Hardy. Perhaps George Eliot is the closest in poetic expression and tone.

Which character – as performed by Alan Rickman – was your favorite?

I completely loved the Reddleman in the novel. Rickman does an amazing job with the female characters but he really excels at the country folk.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I didn't cry but I do feel like Hardy's ethereal poetic prose and Rickman's sultry and sad sounding voice combine to make the absolute perfect union imaginable. I only wish that Rickman would record all of Hardy's novels.

Any additional comments?

This is the audiobook that got me hooked on the format and while I've enjoyed many, many other audiobooks, this is my favorite one so far because I love the novel and I love Rickman's performance. The best of the best!

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Marlène
  • 2011-01-14

A piece of culture and history

Alan Rickman's voice... his deep and powerful voice did make me buy this one and I discovered local life in late 19th century and an unknown workman : the reddleman which must have scared many children in thosed days in isolated places.
Great read, tragic moments and a good ending.I recommend it.

37 people found this helpful

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  • Amy W. Boucher
  • 2012-10-02

Dark and beautiful

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Fro the writing, and the incredible narration by Alan Rickman.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Diggory Venn, of course, because he takes things to heart in an honest way, works things out in his mind, and persists in his beliefs and his love.

What does Alan Rickman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He can drip with irony, and this is a book where such ironic depth brings out the author's intent.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

A fire that kindles hotly burns out quickly.

Any additional comments?

Egdon Heath is a full character in The Return of the Native, which is a dark and brooding book. From page one, Hardy draws us in: "A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Edgon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment. Overhead the hollow stretch of whitish cloud shutting out the sky was as a tent which had the whole heath for its floor.The heaven being spread with this pallid screen and the earth with the darkest vegetation, their meeting-line at the horizon was clearly marked. In such contrast the heath wore the appearance of an installment of night which had taken up its place before its astronomical hour was come: darkness had to a great extent arrived hereon, while day stood distinct in the sky….The somber stretch of rounds and hollows seemed to rise and meet the evening gloom in pure sympathy, the heath exhaling darkness as rapidly as the heavens precipitated it. And so the obscurity in the air and the obscurity in the land closed together in a black fraternization towards which each advanced half-way."Just wait till you hear Alan Rickman read that.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Sf303
  • 2015-06-24

Alan Rickman is divine!

Rickman's narration is truly incredible. I wish there were more books narrated by him. This story is lovely as well. ❤️

10 people found this helpful