Interestingly, Hardy was the major novelist of the Victorian era, and this novel is one of those novels that was first serialised in journals and periodicals and then published in its entirety. It was during this time that the novel became the dominant literary form, and so perhaps we can describe the genre of this work as being a Victorian novel.
What is markedly different about this novel compared to other serialised novels of its time was the way in which serial novels were constructed with the readership in mind and the need to keep readers engaged from one week to the next. Hardy's serialised form of this novel and its final version that we read today are substantially different, and Hardy actually thought that the novel was greatly damaged by the demands of serialisation. What is unique about this example of a Victorian novel is the way in which it focuses exclusively on the fortunes of a single character. Thus, if we compare it to other novels by Thackeray for example, it has a much narrower focus and a more limited set of characters.