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Paradox ruled Thomas Hardy's life. His birth was almost his death; he became one of the great Victorian novelists and reinvented himself as one of the twentieth-century's greatest poets; he was an unhappy husband and a desolate widower; he wrote bitter attacks on the English class system yet prized the friendship of aristocrats. In the hands of Whitbread Award-winning biographer Claire Tomalin, Thomas Hardy the novelist, poet, neglectful husband and mourning lover all come vividly alive. 'An extraordinary story, beautifully told. Tomalin is the most empathetic of biographers.' Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday 'Another triumph for a biographer who goes from strength to strength.' Melvyn Bragg, Guardian, Books of the Year 'Tomalin provides an object lesson in how to write a life.' Economist 'A moving story, and Tomalin tells it vividly, with as great a fund of sympathy and sense, as can be imagined.' Daily Telegraph 'Painfully gripping . . . acute and original. A great biographer.' Carole Angier, Literary Review 'Hardy emerges as a man full of spirit and gaiety.' Sunday Times