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ENDURING LITERATURE ILLUMINATED BY PRACTICAL SCHOLARSHIP

A young woman challenges the conventions of her time in this classic novel about nineteenth-century English society.

THIS ENRICHED CLASSIC EDITION INCLUDES:

  • A concise introduction that gives readers important background information
  • A chronology of the author's life and work
  • A timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context
  • An outline of key themes and plot points to help readers form their own interpretations
  • Detailed explanatory notes
  • Critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work
  • Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction
  • A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience


Enriched Classics offer readers affordable editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and insightful commentary. The scholarship provided in Enriched Classics enables readers to appreciate, understand, and enjoy the world's finest books to their full potential.

Topics: Sexual Abuse, Love, Family, Morality, Poverty, Female Protagonist, Coming of Age, Dark, Tragic, Romantic, Naturalism, Victorian Era, England, Rural, and Bildungsroman

Published: Simon & Schuster on Nov 1, 2007
ISBN: 9781416592167
List price: $6.95
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In terms of sheer style, this is one of the best books I've ever read. I'm not a fan by and large of Victorian fiction, but Hardy, while having all the hallmarks, does it all so skillfully it's akin to an edifice like Chartes Cathedral--the epitome of its kind. The omniscient point of view is masterful and flowing, nothing feels like filler--even the description. The description that seems mere bagatelle in other narratives contributes greatly to tone, theme, and atmosphere--besides which the descriptions so often strike me as out and out beautiful. Some scenes are so striking, so cinematic. I'm not about to forget Alec feeding Tess strawberries, or Tess in the tombs of her ancestors or at Stonehenge. Nor is it all doom and gloom, there are glints of humor, especially to be found in the depiction of Tess' family and her parents' pretensions. Although if you're one of the few who doesn't know this story is a tragedy, it's so early and often foreshadowed you'll have no problem mistaking this for a happily ever after romance. The story falls into a subgenre of tragedy I usually despise--the "fallen woman" trope seen in such novels as Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. It's been decades since I've read those novels, so perhaps my memory isn't accurate, but my impression of both is that their authors didn't have much sympathy for their fairly flighty heroines. What struck me about Hardy is the compassion, even admiration, which he obviously feels for his character. It's society he seemed to condemn, and that's never more apparent than his depiction of the hypocrisy of the "misnamed" Angel Clare, the man Tess loves. I didn't think it was possible he could eclipse Alec Stokes-D'Uberville, Tess' rapist, in my contempt and hatred for him, but I hated Angel with the heat of a thousand suns, in itself a literary achievement.So, why don't I give this five stars? Why isn't it on my favorites shelf? I think it's because of Tess. I can't quite put my finger on why, but she never comes alive for me. Alec and Angel, the two men who between them destroy her feel like real people to me, Tess doesn't. Hardy subtitled his novel "A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented" and maybe that's it--he didn't depict a woman of flesh and blood, but a feminine ideal and a victim. It's not quite as simple of that. Tess has pride and doesn't always act wisely or well--she's not quite a complete innocent and she's sorely tried. But something in her depiction distances me from her.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I could barely make it halfway through this book before I had to toss it aside. I hate it when the author tries to write a sentence phonetically, instead of just typing it out in standard English, and then saying (spoken in a _____ accent). It makes it very difficult to read. That bit aside, the little that I did read seemed to be following a very tragic route. Firstly, her parents are extremely foolish, and very poor, and have a string of children to feed. She accidentally kills the family horse, and then tries to restore honor by going to work for what she thinks is her rich relation (they aren't even related). Her mother hopes she will marry the rich relation. Instead, he rapes her. The child that she has (aptly named Sorrow), dies in infancy. That is about the point where I started to just lose interest. It's a bit depressing to be reading about rape and infant death. The book does have some redeeming qualities. For instance, Hardy was a bit of a rebel for his time- he wrote things that seriously wounded Victorian sensibilities. He wrote of poverty, death, and rape, at a time when that was not considered to be part of "polite" conversation. What today might be considered mild, was certainly at the time the book was written, considered outrageous. This is probably the reason why this book would be included on a school's reading list.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book is so masterfully executed that I rate it a 5. What I especially like was Hardy's ability to describe everything so elegantly, including the scenery and the emotions. He excels at using just enough brushstroke to convey his ideas, while leaving everything else to the reader to complete. The themes are simple, yet profound. The book is reminiscent of ancient Greek classics in several ways. The characters live tragic lives, some linked to the downfall of their ancestors. There are also natural and spiritual forces at work. Hardy even interjects narrated commentary that immediately reminded me of the remarks we hear from the Greek chorus of the great plays. I suspect such narrative seemed very modern in the late 19th century.Also Modern were some of Hardy's phrases, such as the "vegeto-human pollen" he describes in a village dance scene. To me, the primary struggle Hardy was exposing was the balance between human nature and societal norms. Several times, he interposed comments such as: She was ashamed of herself for her gloom of the night, based on nothing more tangible than a sense of condemnation under an arbitrary law of society which had no foundation in Nature. Given the time in which this book was written, I also believe Hardy was showing the tension that comes with our migration away from agrarian society. The description of the threshing machine and the engineer are examples supporting this.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

In terms of sheer style, this is one of the best books I've ever read. I'm not a fan by and large of Victorian fiction, but Hardy, while having all the hallmarks, does it all so skillfully it's akin to an edifice like Chartes Cathedral--the epitome of its kind. The omniscient point of view is masterful and flowing, nothing feels like filler--even the description. The description that seems mere bagatelle in other narratives contributes greatly to tone, theme, and atmosphere--besides which the descriptions so often strike me as out and out beautiful. Some scenes are so striking, so cinematic. I'm not about to forget Alec feeding Tess strawberries, or Tess in the tombs of her ancestors or at Stonehenge. Nor is it all doom and gloom, there are glints of humor, especially to be found in the depiction of Tess' family and her parents' pretensions. Although if you're one of the few who doesn't know this story is a tragedy, it's so early and often foreshadowed you'll have no problem mistaking this for a happily ever after romance. The story falls into a subgenre of tragedy I usually despise--the "fallen woman" trope seen in such novels as Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. It's been decades since I've read those novels, so perhaps my memory isn't accurate, but my impression of both is that their authors didn't have much sympathy for their fairly flighty heroines. What struck me about Hardy is the compassion, even admiration, which he obviously feels for his character. It's society he seemed to condemn, and that's never more apparent than his depiction of the hypocrisy of the "misnamed" Angel Clare, the man Tess loves. I didn't think it was possible he could eclipse Alec Stokes-D'Uberville, Tess' rapist, in my contempt and hatred for him, but I hated Angel with the heat of a thousand suns, in itself a literary achievement.So, why don't I give this five stars? Why isn't it on my favorites shelf? I think it's because of Tess. I can't quite put my finger on why, but she never comes alive for me. Alec and Angel, the two men who between them destroy her feel like real people to me, Tess doesn't. Hardy subtitled his novel "A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented" and maybe that's it--he didn't depict a woman of flesh and blood, but a feminine ideal and a victim. It's not quite as simple of that. Tess has pride and doesn't always act wisely or well--she's not quite a complete innocent and she's sorely tried. But something in her depiction distances me from her.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I could barely make it halfway through this book before I had to toss it aside. I hate it when the author tries to write a sentence phonetically, instead of just typing it out in standard English, and then saying (spoken in a _____ accent). It makes it very difficult to read. That bit aside, the little that I did read seemed to be following a very tragic route. Firstly, her parents are extremely foolish, and very poor, and have a string of children to feed. She accidentally kills the family horse, and then tries to restore honor by going to work for what she thinks is her rich relation (they aren't even related). Her mother hopes she will marry the rich relation. Instead, he rapes her. The child that she has (aptly named Sorrow), dies in infancy. That is about the point where I started to just lose interest. It's a bit depressing to be reading about rape and infant death. The book does have some redeeming qualities. For instance, Hardy was a bit of a rebel for his time- he wrote things that seriously wounded Victorian sensibilities. He wrote of poverty, death, and rape, at a time when that was not considered to be part of "polite" conversation. What today might be considered mild, was certainly at the time the book was written, considered outrageous. This is probably the reason why this book would be included on a school's reading list.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book is so masterfully executed that I rate it a 5. What I especially like was Hardy's ability to describe everything so elegantly, including the scenery and the emotions. He excels at using just enough brushstroke to convey his ideas, while leaving everything else to the reader to complete. The themes are simple, yet profound. The book is reminiscent of ancient Greek classics in several ways. The characters live tragic lives, some linked to the downfall of their ancestors. There are also natural and spiritual forces at work. Hardy even interjects narrated commentary that immediately reminded me of the remarks we hear from the Greek chorus of the great plays. I suspect such narrative seemed very modern in the late 19th century.Also Modern were some of Hardy's phrases, such as the "vegeto-human pollen" he describes in a village dance scene. To me, the primary struggle Hardy was exposing was the balance between human nature and societal norms. Several times, he interposed comments such as: She was ashamed of herself for her gloom of the night, based on nothing more tangible than a sense of condemnation under an arbitrary law of society which had no foundation in Nature. Given the time in which this book was written, I also believe Hardy was showing the tension that comes with our migration away from agrarian society. The description of the threshing machine and the engineer are examples supporting this.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Old Hardy probably loved 'Tess' more than he loved his wife Emma. He was a strange bird in that way. He was always straining for those things that were just out, or somewhat more than just out of his reach. It might be said that he wandered, most of his life, lonely as a cloud.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Tess starts out as an emblem of innocence, a pretty country girl who delights in dancing on the village green. Yet the world conspires against her. Her travails begin when her family is in need and decides to seek help from relatives by the name of d’Urberville. They send Tess to ask them for help. Seduced by a duplicitous older man, her virtue is destroyed when she bears his child and her future life is shaped by a continual suffering for crimes that are not her own.Cast out by a morally hypocritical society, Tess identifies most strongly with the natural world and it is here that Hardy's textual lyricism comes into its own. His heroine's physical attributes are described with organic metaphors - her arm, covered in curds from the milking, is 'as cold and damp ... as a new-gathered mushroom'. At the height of Tess's love affair with the parson's son, Angel Clare, Hardy describes a summer of 'oozing fatness and warm ferments'. When she is separated from him, Tess is depicted digging out swedes in a rain-drenched, colourless field, working until 'the leaden light diminishes'. Tess’ baby symbolizes Tess’ bad circumstances and innocence in the sense since this baby was innocent having done nothing wrong, but it was punished by society for coming from such an evil act. Having been raped, Tess was also innocent of the crime, but she was still punished and pushed aside by society. This book deals with the oppression of an innocent girl. Most of the consequences she faced were not consequences of her own actions which makes this story somewhat of a tragedy in that sense giving the book a mood that you can try to make for yourself a good life, but you do not determine your own outcome. Hardy uses a lot of imagery and describes the scenery in great detail. While each individual sentence may not be difficult to understand, it is the way the various sentences fit together to form a whole picture which separates him from other authors. His evocative descriptions are underpinned by a gripping story of love, loss and tragedy. According to Hardy's biographer, Claire Tomalin, the book 'glows with the intensity of his imagination'. It is this that remains the key to its lasting power.
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I read this novel many years ago, but I remember that it was very sad and it has stayed with me.
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