I just can’t be getting on with Hardy, mainly because his characters and storylines swing between dull or melodramatic. He never can seem to navigate successfully between the two in order to weave a compelling narrative as George Eliot does. Though not complete contemporaries, the comparison is an interesting one. Eliot’s characters are so subtle and deep; on the other hand Hardy’s are rather one dimensional, defined by one flaw or tendency. Gabriel Oak needs a lot more development to be plausible as a central character. Sergeant Troy at least avoids becoming a stage villain. And Bathsheba’s pride just isn’t enough to make a sufficiently well-rounded character to carry the novel. Bathsheba is not a patch on Eliot’s heroines. Why has Eliot’s 1872 work Middlemarch been described by many authors as the greatest novel in the English language? And how does Hardy’s best compare?