Extraordinary novel which every sentence and word was food for my mind and soul. Hardy's witty, shrewd and merciless remarks about his heroes and heroines of various backgrounds and beautiful descriptions of Wessex landscapes left me awestruck. Read it I guess ten years ago and now again – I really deem it worth your time and effort, especially if your book edition (as mine) has footnotes regarding (in today's modern world) obscure terminology and references. Very valuable source of otherwise unknown information about rural England of that time, but also of Hardy's vast knowledge and education.
My favourite quote from the book, which seems to reflect the state of mind in every Hardy's novel and character:
There is always an inertia to be overcome in striking out a new line of conduct – not more in ourselves, it seems, than in circumscribing events, which appear as if leagued together to allow no novelties in the way of amelioration.