Hardy Women: Mother, Sisters, Wives, Muses

By Paula Byrne


‘He understands only the women he invents – the others not at all’

Thomas Hardy is one of the most beloved and most-read British authors. His influence on literature and the minds of his readers is singular. But how is it that the novelist who created some of the most memorable and modern female characters in literature had such troubled relationships with real women?

In this highly innovative book, acclaimed biographer Paula Byrne re-examines Hardy’s life through the eyes of the women who made him – mother, sisters, girlfriends, wives, muses. The story veers from shocking scenes such as his obsession with the sight of a woman hanged, to poignant vignettes of unfulfilled passion, to fascinating details of working women’s lives in the nineteenth century.

Hardy Women is the story of how the magnificent fictional women he invented would not have been possible without the hardship and hardiness of the real ones who shaped his passions and his imagination. It is only through understanding and witnessing these hardy women that we can truly enter the heart of this great novelist and poet.

Format: Hardback
Release Date: 01 Feb 2024
Pages: 656
ISBN: 978-0-00-832225-0
Paula Byrne is the author the bestselling biographies Perdita, Mad World, The Real Jane Austen, Belle, Kick and The Genius of Jane Austen. She is founder and chief executive of ReLit, the Bibliotherapy Foundation, a charity devoted to the mental health benefits of reading. She is married to Sir Jonathan Bate.


‘Absorbing… a treat for Hardy fans and unhappy wives’ -

The Times -

‘Novelist and poet Thomas Hardy created some of literature’s most enduring female characters . . . but it is the real women who shaped the life of the tortured genius that a book vividly reanimates’ -

Independent -

'By turns infuriating and inspiring, but always fascinating, this page-turner of a book offers a genuinely fresh perspective on one of Victorian Britain’s most famous writers' -

Gareth Russell, author of The Palace -

‘A fascinating re-examination of the life of Thomas Hardy through the eyes of the women who profoundly influenced him-his mother, his sisters, girlfriends, wives and muses. Drawing on access to some neverbefore-seen passages in Hardy's journals, she shows that it is through these hardy women that we can truly appreciate his much-loved works’ -

The Bookseller, Editor’s Choice -