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One Wednesday morning in November 1912 Thomas Hardy, an old man in ragged trousers, entombed by paper and increasingly estranged from his wife Emma, finds her dying in her bedroom. Between his speaking to her and taking her in his arms she has gone.

The day before he and Emma had exchanged bitter words, leading Hardy to wonder whether all husbands and wives ended up as enemies to each other. He, his family and Florence Dugdale, the much younger woman with whom he had been in a relationship, all assumed that he would be happy and relieved to be set free. But he is left shattered by the loss.

Hardy finds a set of secret diaries Emma kept about their life together and discovers what Emma had truly felt – that he had been cold, remote and incapable of ordinary human affection and had kept her childless, a virtual prisoner for forty years. Why had they ever married?

He is consumed by something worse than grief, an absence without form or meaning, a chaos in which certainties have been obliterated. He must re-evaluate himself and reimagine his unhappy wife as she was when they first met.

Hardy’s pained reflections on the choices he has made – and must now make – form a unique combination of love story and ghost story, by turns tender, surprising, comic and true. Based on meticulous research, The Chosen – the extraordinary new novel by Elizabeth Lowry – hauntingly searches the unknowable spaces between man and wife; memory and grief; life and art.

(P)2022 Quercus Editions Limited


Does art enhance life, or negate it? The painful question runs through Lowry's portrait of Thomas Hardy, and produces a sombre, delicate novel, finely judged and full of insight
Hilary Mantel