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March 18, 2008

Hardy and the unreasonable Baptists

Roberto and I confessed to being fans of Thomas Hardy last year. For any of you fellow lovers of depressing literature out there, I read a real gem by Hardy over the Christmas holidays.

Actually, though, this one is a departure from Hardy's usual bleak outlook on life. A Laodicean tells the story of Paula Power, a young woman who has inherited a fortune from her industrialist father and is torn between the approaching modern world and the nostalgia of history and pedigree. While spinning his morality tale, Hardy gives us a great story of love, friendship, deceit, and treachery.

Best of all, as you may have guessed from the title, A Laodicean delves into matters of faith. The title references the church of Laodicea mentioned in Revelation, that was neither cold nor hot for God. One of Paula's struggles surrounds her father's dying wish that she be baptized into his own Baptist faith, while she is drawn to the Church of England that her friend Charlotte espouses. 

As a Baptist myself with several Anglican friends, I had to laugh when I read this little exchange between Paula's love interest, George Somerset, and Charlotte de Stancy:

"But you are not a Baptist any more than I?" continued Somerset.

"Oh no. And I never knew one till I knew Paula. I think they are very nice; though I sometimes wish Paula was not one, but the religion of reasonable persons."

Even though I may be an unreasonable Baptist, I fully recommend A Laodicean to anyone who likes Thomas Hardy or just a plain old good story. 

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