'Tony Kytes' is set in the fictional English county of Wessex. The story revolves around the main character, Tony, and his relationships with the girls in his village.
The first key theme I found whilst reading this text was betrayal. We are told very early on that he is “fixed down” to Millie Richards- obviously meaning they are engaged. So first impressions of Tony are he seems to be quite respectable.
However, my opinion soon changed when we are introduced to Unity Sallet. The first things we are told about Unity are she is “handsome” and Tony had been “tender” towards her before he got engaged to Millie.
So I was wary when he agreed to give her a lift home.
We quickly find out Unity is very needy and obviously still wants Tony and continually asks him why he left her for “the other one” and has no respect for Tony’s new engagement to Millie. Shockingly, Tony admits that Unity is pretty and uses language that is inappropriate when he engaged to someone else.
The plot thickens when Tony realises that Millie is walking on the path ahead, and he asks Unity to hide in the back of the wagon whilst he covers her with tarpaulin; he also promises her if she does hide for him, he will reconsider his proposal to Millie and ask Unity instead; he lies futher and says “Tisn't true that it is all settled between her and me.”
This is the main turn of events in the story. When Millie gets in the cart with Tony, they talk pleasantly before he spots Hannah Joliver who is described as being “the very first woman that Tony had fallen in love with”. So again he asks Millie to hide under the tarpaulin before letting Hannah into the cart with him.
Again Tony lies to Hannah about his engagement to Millie. However, Millie obviously hears this and makes a sound which Hannah hears, and another: “an angry, spiteful squeak, and afterwards a long moan, as if something had broke its heart” after Tony continues to tell Hannah he wants to marry her.
Tony then has to get out and speak to his father - who in my opinion is a wise man and questions Tony on why he is in the cart with Hannah when he is engaged to Millie - unaware that both Millie and Unity are hidden in the back.
Disaster strikes when Hannah hears Unity and Millie talking under the tarpaulin. She loses control of the horses and the cart is upturned, leaving all three girls exposed. Both Hannah and Unity have a conflict with Tony and leave, leaving Millie as the only one left, and Tony tells her more lies as if she was the one he wanted all along, even though a few pages before we know he wanted Hannah, and she believes and forgives him straight away.
I would really recommend 'Tony Kytes' to anyone. It takes about half an hour to read. The hardest part is probably understanding its high register and slightly archaic language, although Hardy's style is not really too difficult. The plot gripped me from the start and I enjoyed getting to know the characters. I also enjoyed the ending, where Unity and Hannah left having stood their ground, obviously having a lot of respect for themselves, whereas Millie didn’t. Tony was very deceiving and manipulating of the girls and it is bittersweet that, although two of the girls expose him for the cheat he is, he ends up getting Millie, which I found slightly infuriating!