By People Staff
January 28, 1985 12:00 PM

by John Fowles and Jo Draper

“Why could not he have done some building like his father, instead of writing a lot of rubbish that no one wants to read?” said one of the novelist’s neighbors to Hermann Lea, Hardy’s young friend who took many of the photographs that make up this beautiful volume. When Lea asked another woman if he could take a picture of a house, she said, “Lor’, we’re just pestered with people coming here every since that book were wrote—I wish the man had hanged hisself afore he got it finished.” The book was Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Hardy was born in 1840 in Dorset, and the locales of his novels were almost as important as the characters. Novelist John Fowles, a Dorset inhabitant, provides the introduction to this book, and Dorset historian Jo Draper does the main text and the captions. These thoroughly researched passages are full of details about the towns in Wessex, the clothing, occupations, the shops—all of the minutiae that made up that incomparably rich world familiar to readers of Tess, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Return of the Native. When most of these pictures were taken, photography was in its infancy. Many of the people in the frames are stiff and self-conscious—a few are blurred because they moved. But the pictures of this time and place seem thoroughly Hardy’s, and this book makes clear how richly a great writer can breathe life into a time and place. (Little, Brown, $25)