||Thomas Hardy lived a relatively unadventurous life compared to some authors: he excelled in school, then worked and won prizes as an architect before becoming a financial and critical success as a writer, and despite domestic problems he remained devoted to his wife, Emma. However, as his novels powerfully demonstrate, beneath the surface Hardy was deeply troubled by conflicts of timidity, social standing, love, suffering, and desire. His view of life leaned strongly toward the dire; as he wrote to a writer who had recently lost a young child: "To be candid, I think the death of a child is never really to be regretted, when one reflects on what he has escaped." In her new biography Claire Tomalin skillfully and imaginatively evokes the life that Hardy could not escape. She examines the experiences of his youth as a sickly child born to a poor family, his early passion for a school teacher, and the difficulties he had growing up and taking part in the literary life of London. Hardy's life was not writ large, but in his subtle suffering and trials Tomalin discovers the fascinating roots of his marvelous novels--and she makes a valiant attempt to explain why, after writing his controversial masterpiece, JUDE THE OBSCURE, Hardy never wrote another novel.