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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
ISBN: 9781416592167
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I don't remember anything about this book. Evidently, it didn't do much with my imagination.more
Depressing and morose.
The story has potential but the main character needs some backbone.more
I am currently sitting in a gorgeous B&B in the very county where Thomas Hardy was born, a few miles from a hill Tess herself climbed. Sydling, in case you were wondering. Dorset. It's beautiful, and this book is really location-specific - Hardy spends an inordinate amount of time describing the countryside in minute detail, and you look out the window and yep, that's what it's like.

The advice I give to people who aren't feeling Tess, which never helps because if you ain't feelin' it it ain't gettin' felt, is to not take it too seriously. It's a Melodrama (capital M!). Everything in it is totally over the top. I thought it was a blast. Think of it as Hardy gleefully jumping the shark. The pheasant scene is what does it for me - you'll know it when you get there, it won't be long - it's beautiful and vividly drawn, but at the same time ludicrously overblown. That's the novel. Hardy is pulling the stops out.

No spoilers, I promise: The ending is the same deal. Some folks criticize it for being sortof "TA-FRIGGIN'-DAH!" But that's why I love it. Why not? In my opinion, anyone who hates that ending secretly wishes they'd thought of it themselves. Someone had to write that. Hardy did.more
It's a pretty uplifting book with the title character being the kind that needs a good shake up! Of course Tess was let down by Angel deserting her although she was raped by Alec, or at least was not desiring a relationship with Alec. I suppose it is a tragedy brought on by the morals of the timesmore
Spellbinding, suspenseful, and a must-read. Cannot believe I have not read this before, but glad I read all of Jane Austen first. Hardy was absolutely brilliant! It's been awhile since I spent days raging to family about a character or cried on walks while listening to audio (I also read portions from my hard copy which has been on my shelf for years).more
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.more
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.more
If you haven't tested Hardy's stature for a while by actually reading his work, you might have forgotten how gloomy the world he depicts is. The undeniable richness of description and tone ought to be some compensation, perhaps, but the pessimism and fatalism still hangs heavy. And especially with Tess; she's not as spirited or insightful as you would want from a female lead, and is brought down low, oh so low, by, by what? Oh yes, her youthful innocence being taken advantage of by a plausible cad. (He's a baddie, but at least has clear-sighted motives, hers are rarely unwrapped). So she's raped, and thus tainted and lost, and that's pretty much the core of the entire narrative, as it develops, and the seeming moral rationale of her fate. Whilst one ought to be willing to think into the mindset of the day, this unbending and imbalanced sense of propriety seems so outrageous, not to say indeed absurd to this reader, that it's hard to engage too deeply with a story and characters, so emotionally pitched to it. Just as with Hardy's fussing over details of ecclesiatical doctrine, impenetrably trivial from this sight. And although Hardy's motive in writing Tess seems to have been to distance himself from those prevaling dogmas that punished fallen women for their misfortune, that apparent opposition, at this remove, has but a fraction of the impact of the poweful codes so starkly portrayed here.more
Hardy poses a complete rejection of Victorian ideals through the cultivation of utterly futile and tragic characters, his heroine most of all. The story devolves into complete oblivion, and then the bottom drops out. Hardy, unlike Dickens for example, has a verbose prose style that often works against him. Despite this, the sheer power and absurdity of the thematic elements of the story redeem it from wordiness for the most part. A heavy antidote to the sickly romantic victories of Jane Austen, though the characters may be equally unlikable. That is probably Hardy's intent, however. We are to pity Tess Durbeyfield and Angel Clare, swallowed up by fate rather than embraced by it. Unlike Austen and some others, Hardy sees the sometimes present maelstrom which they reject outright.more
How much more melodrama could possibly be wrung from this story? There is no hope at all in the characters in this novel. A downward spiral of depression and misery.more
Tess of the d'Urbervilles has a reputation as a fantastically depressing and tragic book, and it's not undeserved. Thomas Hardy uses this story as a platform to express his deep skepticism and agnostic leanings; no wonder the outlook is bleak. The story centers on Tess Durbeyfield, a simple country girl in England during the 1880s. Her family, poor and somewhat lazy, nevertheless becomes proud and ambitious when they learn of their prestigious family history as the noble d'Urbervilles. Tess is packed off to try her fortune with another supposed (and richer) branch of the family, but soon falls prey to an unscrupulous "cousin," Alec d'Urberville. Her entire life is tainted by her d'Urberville descent, the selfishness of those around her, and (more indirectly) the rigid application of Christian morality then prevalent in Britain. This isn't a novel you read for its uplifting sentiments. Either Hardy's views were more strongly developed since the publication of his earlier works or he, emboldened by his literary success, now had fewer qualms about expressing his anger toward the God whom he believes is most likely not there. In any case, the doubt and questioning of God are much more pronounced in this novel than in either The Mayor of Casterbridge or Far From The Madding Crowd. As Tess's greatest advocate, Hardy argues that she would not be so miserable if it weren't for the "accepted social laws" regarding morality that her society forces upon her. He's mad at the Christian conception of God as a harsh taskmaster (as shown by the wandering man who paints biblical texts of judgment and hellfire on barns and fences). And yet at the same time, Hardy is mad at the Christian God for not being there to prevent great evils and make sure that human relations progress toward the best interest of each party. Hardy is a mass of contradictions. God is blamed for not intervening, but God is also blamed for how He has intervened. God is cruel; God should be different from what He is; God, in Hardy's opinion, has failed. And yet Hardy's writing is rich with biblical allusions and metaphors. He can never quite repudiate his early upbringing, but he has to replace God with something — and, like a true materialist, he settles on the deification of nature instead. Humankind is made to worship, and worship we will, even if we remove God from the picture. Hardy emphasizes natural law over moral law; over and over again he reminds us that Tess's troubles are not because she was raped, but because people hold to "arbitrary social customs" that have "no foundation in nature." Nature is freeing; society is restrictive. And Tess—a character clearly loved by her author—is pretty much an extension of the natural world. Hardy writes that country women, when they work in the fields, become a part of the natural landscape in a way that men can't. Hardy loves describing nature, and does so frequently. Rural life is somewhat romanticized (not entirely, though, especially with Flintcombe-Ash farm), while the cities are distant places of misery and evil. The happiest times of Tess's life are spent in isolation from or in very limited contact with society as a whole. The message is clear: nature is god, and society (and the Christian God) shouldn't be. As a Christian of a stamp that Hardy would probably dislike, I can't quite explain my appreciation and enjoyment of his work. He questions, casts doubt on, and sometimes even attacks my beliefs, and yet somehow he does not anger me. On the contrary, I feel a sort of indulgent pity for him. I hope that doesn't sound patronizing, because I certainly appreciate that he was wrestling with very hard things and I don't have pat, easy answers either. Maybe it's our very differences that have created my fascination with his work. I had trouble tearing myself away from this audiobook; I was thoroughly invested in Tess's story (and was, consequently, rather saddened when I reached its unhappy ending). Just last night I was at a library booksale and I swooped down upon a lesser-known Hardy title, The Trumpet-Major, with a sense of having snagged something good. For all that I dislike Hardy's pessimism and distaste for biblical Christianity, the man can write. And his books are works of art. The characters are so complex and realistic. Hardy has to force himself to do justice to Angel's parents, who are portrayed as strict and somewhat narrowminded Calvinist fundamentalists. For all his dislike of their beliefs, Hardy does manage to paint them realistically and even with charity — a gift that he says they possess to the full measure. Tess's parents, shiftless and passive spectators of their own lives, remind me of people I know. Alec d'Urberville is another well-rounded character, even in his role as the pursuing demon of Tess's life. Somehow I never could completely hate him, hateful as he was. I did think that the name "Angel" was rather unfortunate for the male protagonist (I hesitate to say "hero"). But as a character he's very sympathetic, even if his rigidity and double standards frustrate the reader. This audiobook was read by Stephen Thorne, who makes excellent work of it despite his limitations when it comes to voicing female characters. At times I was so eager to learn what happened next that I was tempted to pick up the printed book, but the excellence of Thorne's narration always won out and I patiently listened to all of it. I'm not sure Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a book I will ever revisit, so heartbreaking was its effect, but I feel richer for the experience of reading it. Though Hardy and I would never agree on things spiritual and moral, I've gained a greater appreciation for his attempts to show the problems of misapplied Christianity and to offer a different solution. He offers the wrong solution, but he does try.more
Hardy is one of my favorite writers, and he did not disappoint with this, his most well-known novel. My favorite characteristic of his books are his flawed characters: not one person goes unpunished by Providence or Fate or their own actions. In the way of his characters, he is much like Shakespeare: no one has to have a singular purpose, yet, somehow, by the end of the novel, everyone has fitted into their place. Hardy does not find solace in the lighter side of things. Especially in this novel, he satirizes the idea of a just religion, or the idea that love appropriates certain actions. The ending result with Tess might be a tad more morbid than his other works; which is why I give this four stats out of five, considering I will never like anything better than The Return of the Native. He is an amazing writer, with a knack for complicated themes that makes his work just as poignant as it would have been in the 19th century. I recommend this book to those out there who are looking for a writer who personifies the transition into modernity.more
A hugely engaging book. This is the first Hardy I have read since the mid 1970s when I hated the Mayor of Casterbridge as required reading as a school student. Friends persuaded me to try him again and my prejudices have been shattered. Whilst at places there was some of the ponderous and prolix descriptions of pastoral life with which I had no patience when younger, they added charm and depth to a compelling story. The book brilliantly combines important social points with clever plot, engaging characters and well painted descriptions which all draw you in. Glad I read the ebook - so much easier when you don't know a word just to tap on it, rather than ponder whether to look for the dictionary.more
Supposedly Hardy's best book. Certainly the most touching and heart-wrenching.more
This is one of my favourite books. It is so beautifully written that even through the frustrations and hardships the heroine faces, you are drawn on by the power of the language and the force of the story. Hardy was trying to make an important point in the writing of this story, and while such a tale seems unimaginable in today's world, it nevertheless resonates, particularly with women. Shocking in it's day, Hardy's efforts were felt. Tess is a provocative look at the plight of the 19th century woman, unnaturally naive to a world run by world-wise men. I'm not sure I've ever recovered from this book, and it has been a powerful influence in my own work.more
When I finished this book at 10:10 P.M. on Dec 8, 1964, I said: "i am overwhelmed--powerful, stark, overpowering. I have not been so impressed and awed by a novel in years. Most other novels I have read pale into triviality in comparison. In wroking backwards in my list of books read certainly nothing since Roger Martin du Gard's novel can compare, and it is discursive and tedious in comparison. The same can be said of From Here to Eternity, which I read in April of 1961.. It is true the plot is strained at times, unlikely. But the strength of the prose makes up for that. The final paragraph is typical of the harsh Hardy prose: 'Justice was done and the President of the Immortals, in Aesclylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess. And the D'Urberville knights and dames slept on in their tombs unknowing. The two speechless gazers bent themselves down to the earth, as for prayer, and remained thus for a long time, absolutely motionless: the flag continued to wave silently. As soon as they had strength they arose, joined hands again, and went on.' What a story! What a style! I am impressed.more
 This was the first time for reading a Hardy novel, and it wasn't quite so bad as what I thought it would be. Hardy's pastoral descriptions of country life in the English countryside were so acute. The courtship between Tess and Angel was beautifully portrayed, before Tess's shattering confession, and the lurking Alec D'Urberville in the background was a very strange rival.. There were patches where Hardy would ramble on about something completely allien to me and would then return to the story, which is why I have rated it lower. But when it got back on track, it was great. I did not agree with the ending, though.more
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.more
What can I say-I love Hardy. Why do I love an author whose books seem to move from one heartbreak to another? He is definitely not one you read for a light pick-me-up, that is for certain. But his writing is so nuanced that it feels as if I am floating down a quiescent rural stream; I know turbulent water lies ahead-I can feel the increasing pull beneath me-yet there seems to be no urgency to try to pull away in opposition. Going there just seems to be the natural flow of life. So why do I love this man whose plots I willingly follow into the very depths of despondency? Because the prose...oh, the prose!Thomas Hardy is a master of every literary element. For him, setting, especially, takes on such presence that it becomes an amalgamation of every place you have ever been. All of your senses become engaged. You hear the church bells peal across the meadow. The flank of the cow against Tess' cheek feels warm and fluid beneath your own. As she toils in the field you feel the grit of harvested grain in the sweaty crease of your neck and taste its dryness in your mouth. You feel refreshed by the wind and gladdened by the birds in flight.When it comes to character, Hardy is the consummate teacher. We don't just know that Tess' mother is hard at work on wash day. Her weariness is palpable. We aren't told that Tess is a good daughter. She pitches in just where she is needed, time and time again. Each character, major and minor, is presented so completely through their speech and actions that the narrator need fill in very little. For me they each even acquire a distinctive voice in my head.So if you have shied away from Hardy for lack of interest in his wrenching plots, I urge you to give one of his novels a try and experience the power of his incomparable prose.more
So I think all be all intellectual-like and read a classic of literature rather than my usual fare. And what do I get in return? Rape, misogyny, poverty, domestic abuse and capital punishment. I guess it's no surprise that men were also bastards back in 1891. But I was somewhat taken aback to read all that stuff so starkly. (The exception to the starkness being the rape scene - the Victorian era book was so euphemistic about it that I didn't actually figure out what Alex had done to Tess until several chapters on.)Tess is meant to be the ideal woman according to Hardy's narrator, but her two endearing attributes are that she is good looking, and agrees with everything her lover, Angel, says. The villain, Alex, like many others, spends most of his time thinking he has been wronged. The male hero, Angel is a self-important wimp. Naturally, despite Tess's guiltless life the novel moves inexorably towards her punishment. Man (Angel and Alex) has interfered with nature so Tess must be punished.A good book with odd values, and too much discussion of old English countryside for my antipodean sense to appreciate.more
Another TV tip from Faulks on Fiction, about as successful a selection for me as reading The End of the Affair. Tess is well crafted, but unevenly developed, and although I liked Hardy's style to begin with, there was far too much introspection and pastoral eulogising between the main events of the story. Novels filled with thinking, especially Victorian novels, bore me silly.Tess is a victim throughout most of the story, until Hardy has an attack of the potboilers in the final chapters, and her choice in men (or the men who choose her) is woeful, from priggish Angel (what a name!) to Hardy's omniscient narrator, who obviously fancies her. She is a Victorian pin-up, with 'peony' lips (or cheeks in the Graphic) and a voloptuous figure. And although I thought that Tess' confrontation with her new husband was tense and incredibly emotional, he is hardly worth the bother. Likewise, Alec D'Urberville is a pantomime villain with no depth or shade whatsoever.Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is the contrast between the 1891 text reprinted as the Penguin Classics edition, and the very Victorian censorship of the same story for Graphic magazine in Hardy's time (the footnotes mark where passages were changed, such as the description of Tess' looks). The prudishness is almost laughable! (The central conflict of Tess was 'cleaned up' as a clandestine marriage between Tess and Alec.)more
John Durbeyfield is a poor artisan in the village of Marlott finds out that he is a descendant of an old family the d'Urbervilles, which is now extinct. He and his wife are overjoyed. There is a rich family of the same name in the next county. So they sent their daughter, Tess to their supposed relative to better her prospects. There Tess finds out that they have adopted that name. Eric d’Uberville is a womanizer and he seduces Tess. Tess gets pregnant and returns to her own house. The baby is born and dies. Tess moves away from her house and takes up a job as a dairymaid. At the dairy farm, Angel a parson’s son who is learning the farming profession, falls in love with Tess and after a lot of persuasion Tess agrees to marry him but she could not bring herself to tell him of her past. On their honeymoon when she tells him about her past Angel is distraught and leaves her to go to Brazil.Tess moves away to a farm and works as a farm hand. She has a chance meeting with Eric who again tries to seduce her. Tess resists his overtures again and again. In the meantime Tess’ father dies and the family is forced to move out of Marlott. Finding herself cornered Tess implores her husband to come to her and forgive her. As she gets no reply from Angel she takes up with Eric for her and her families sake.In Brazil Angel is having a torrid time and returns to England. His stint in Brazil has cured him of his reserve against his wife and seeks her out but it is already too late. When he meets Tess she is shattered and in her rage kills Eric and runs away with Angel. The husband and wife spend a peaceful week in a deserted house before the law catches with them. Tess is tried and executed.A very well written book of love and loss.more
** spoiler alert ** I really enjoyed the book, despite the fact that I found myself getting angrier and angrier at the circumstances that Tess kept finding herself in.From here on out this post could be filled with spoilers, so consider yourself warned. It broke my heart that this poor girl was never able to catch a break and she was taken advantage of by almost every person she meets, including her parents. First her parents send her away so she can claim some supposed, ancient, familial claim that they are sure will better their circumstances. In doing that she is exposed to Alec, who also takes advantage of her innocent nature in the worst way before she is sent back home, in ruin. Back at home, her parents seem to just hold her in contempt because she wasn't able to come home with a 'proper' husband, just an illegitimate baby. It seems that the baby inherited his mother's luck and becomes deadly ill soon after birth. The whole scene where Tess is trying to get her baby a baptism before he dies, only to be refused by her father is heartbreaking. I could feel her desperation when she takes it upon herself to baptize the baby and then asks the priest if it's 'just as good'. When she meets Angel you hope that finally she'll be able to have something good in her life, something she actually deserves, and I really hoped Angel would forgive her for her past, especially since she was taken advantage of. However, Angel disappointed me more than everyone else, including Alec. He was a hypocrite and to treat her the way he did after confessing that he'd committed the very same sin was just beyond cruel.I'll admit that when Alec came back into the picture I really held onto the hope that he was sincere in his approach to Tess. That he really felt remorse and was trying to earn redemption for his act. As the story progressed you could see that it was not the case. He was back to his old self, lying and manipulating Tess to get what he wanted from her and I was mad that she fell for it, again. I wanted her to be older and wiser but in the end she fell right into his plot and it led to her ultimate downfall.So, I liked it, despite being incredibly angry and sad about the outcome.more
Dear Tom,Why do I keep reading your books? No one, and I mean no one, treats his characters (or her characters) as badly as you do. Well, maybe with the exception of Upton Sinclair, who must have been greatly influenced by you.I read Jude the Obscure several years ago and closed the book with a "Never Again." I was sure I could not bear to read another one of your books after somehow finishing it in spite of that awful letter from the kids "Because we are too menny". I can't figure out what your overall point is except that if one is poor, one is destined to be miserable and that is all there is to it. I guessed what Tess would be about just from its title. I've read lots and lots of other 19th century fiction. Many books have treated the issue of women who lose their chastity, as it would have been put at the time. Many books are pretty grim about their fate. However, you manage to make it worse than the norm because your characters are so very sympathetic. As I read on, I know that Tess' life is going to go from bad to worse, that her ridiculous level of nobility will end up undoing her, that all bad things will happen to her. Sure enough, but what else would we expect of you. What is the point, Tom? Why do you write these novels? What do you want your readers to do? Unlike Dickens, you don't seem to be a social reformer. You don't seem to ever paint the slightest possibility of an alternative to all this woe. On the other hand, your respectful-but-not-convinced portrayal of evangelical Christianity doesn't seem to show religion as a way out, either. Were you just trying to convey existentialist despair? Weren't you a little too early for this?I am really giving you up this time. This is it. You have been too cruel on your characters and your readers and this is the last of your novels I plan to read. How could you, Tom? You are too cruel, and I will never forgive you.Yr servant,Annamore
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.more
If Thomas Hardy was alive now, I am sure he would have been an Academy Award winning director, as his scenes are so beautifully described. I loved the details of the agricultural life. I can also recommend the TV series starring Gemma Atherton and Eddie Redmayne.more
The essence of the plot is appealing, but Hardy drapes everything in so much symbolism and imagery that it makes it so difficult to get to the actual point. I downloaded this on my Nook since I somehow made it through high school and college without reading this, and I've been slogging my way through it. It will happen. Eventually.more
It broke my heart, but I loved it.more
Read all 73 reviews

Reviews

I don't remember anything about this book. Evidently, it didn't do much with my imagination.more
Depressing and morose.
The story has potential but the main character needs some backbone.more
I am currently sitting in a gorgeous B&B in the very county where Thomas Hardy was born, a few miles from a hill Tess herself climbed. Sydling, in case you were wondering. Dorset. It's beautiful, and this book is really location-specific - Hardy spends an inordinate amount of time describing the countryside in minute detail, and you look out the window and yep, that's what it's like.

The advice I give to people who aren't feeling Tess, which never helps because if you ain't feelin' it it ain't gettin' felt, is to not take it too seriously. It's a Melodrama (capital M!). Everything in it is totally over the top. I thought it was a blast. Think of it as Hardy gleefully jumping the shark. The pheasant scene is what does it for me - you'll know it when you get there, it won't be long - it's beautiful and vividly drawn, but at the same time ludicrously overblown. That's the novel. Hardy is pulling the stops out.

No spoilers, I promise: The ending is the same deal. Some folks criticize it for being sortof "TA-FRIGGIN'-DAH!" But that's why I love it. Why not? In my opinion, anyone who hates that ending secretly wishes they'd thought of it themselves. Someone had to write that. Hardy did.more
It's a pretty uplifting book with the title character being the kind that needs a good shake up! Of course Tess was let down by Angel deserting her although she was raped by Alec, or at least was not desiring a relationship with Alec. I suppose it is a tragedy brought on by the morals of the timesmore
Spellbinding, suspenseful, and a must-read. Cannot believe I have not read this before, but glad I read all of Jane Austen first. Hardy was absolutely brilliant! It's been awhile since I spent days raging to family about a character or cried on walks while listening to audio (I also read portions from my hard copy which has been on my shelf for years).more
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.more
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.more
If you haven't tested Hardy's stature for a while by actually reading his work, you might have forgotten how gloomy the world he depicts is. The undeniable richness of description and tone ought to be some compensation, perhaps, but the pessimism and fatalism still hangs heavy. And especially with Tess; she's not as spirited or insightful as you would want from a female lead, and is brought down low, oh so low, by, by what? Oh yes, her youthful innocence being taken advantage of by a plausible cad. (He's a baddie, but at least has clear-sighted motives, hers are rarely unwrapped). So she's raped, and thus tainted and lost, and that's pretty much the core of the entire narrative, as it develops, and the seeming moral rationale of her fate. Whilst one ought to be willing to think into the mindset of the day, this unbending and imbalanced sense of propriety seems so outrageous, not to say indeed absurd to this reader, that it's hard to engage too deeply with a story and characters, so emotionally pitched to it. Just as with Hardy's fussing over details of ecclesiatical doctrine, impenetrably trivial from this sight. And although Hardy's motive in writing Tess seems to have been to distance himself from those prevaling dogmas that punished fallen women for their misfortune, that apparent opposition, at this remove, has but a fraction of the impact of the poweful codes so starkly portrayed here.more
Hardy poses a complete rejection of Victorian ideals through the cultivation of utterly futile and tragic characters, his heroine most of all. The story devolves into complete oblivion, and then the bottom drops out. Hardy, unlike Dickens for example, has a verbose prose style that often works against him. Despite this, the sheer power and absurdity of the thematic elements of the story redeem it from wordiness for the most part. A heavy antidote to the sickly romantic victories of Jane Austen, though the characters may be equally unlikable. That is probably Hardy's intent, however. We are to pity Tess Durbeyfield and Angel Clare, swallowed up by fate rather than embraced by it. Unlike Austen and some others, Hardy sees the sometimes present maelstrom which they reject outright.more
How much more melodrama could possibly be wrung from this story? There is no hope at all in the characters in this novel. A downward spiral of depression and misery.more
Tess of the d'Urbervilles has a reputation as a fantastically depressing and tragic book, and it's not undeserved. Thomas Hardy uses this story as a platform to express his deep skepticism and agnostic leanings; no wonder the outlook is bleak. The story centers on Tess Durbeyfield, a simple country girl in England during the 1880s. Her family, poor and somewhat lazy, nevertheless becomes proud and ambitious when they learn of their prestigious family history as the noble d'Urbervilles. Tess is packed off to try her fortune with another supposed (and richer) branch of the family, but soon falls prey to an unscrupulous "cousin," Alec d'Urberville. Her entire life is tainted by her d'Urberville descent, the selfishness of those around her, and (more indirectly) the rigid application of Christian morality then prevalent in Britain. This isn't a novel you read for its uplifting sentiments. Either Hardy's views were more strongly developed since the publication of his earlier works or he, emboldened by his literary success, now had fewer qualms about expressing his anger toward the God whom he believes is most likely not there. In any case, the doubt and questioning of God are much more pronounced in this novel than in either The Mayor of Casterbridge or Far From The Madding Crowd. As Tess's greatest advocate, Hardy argues that she would not be so miserable if it weren't for the "accepted social laws" regarding morality that her society forces upon her. He's mad at the Christian conception of God as a harsh taskmaster (as shown by the wandering man who paints biblical texts of judgment and hellfire on barns and fences). And yet at the same time, Hardy is mad at the Christian God for not being there to prevent great evils and make sure that human relations progress toward the best interest of each party. Hardy is a mass of contradictions. God is blamed for not intervening, but God is also blamed for how He has intervened. God is cruel; God should be different from what He is; God, in Hardy's opinion, has failed. And yet Hardy's writing is rich with biblical allusions and metaphors. He can never quite repudiate his early upbringing, but he has to replace God with something — and, like a true materialist, he settles on the deification of nature instead. Humankind is made to worship, and worship we will, even if we remove God from the picture. Hardy emphasizes natural law over moral law; over and over again he reminds us that Tess's troubles are not because she was raped, but because people hold to "arbitrary social customs" that have "no foundation in nature." Nature is freeing; society is restrictive. And Tess—a character clearly loved by her author—is pretty much an extension of the natural world. Hardy writes that country women, when they work in the fields, become a part of the natural landscape in a way that men can't. Hardy loves describing nature, and does so frequently. Rural life is somewhat romanticized (not entirely, though, especially with Flintcombe-Ash farm), while the cities are distant places of misery and evil. The happiest times of Tess's life are spent in isolation from or in very limited contact with society as a whole. The message is clear: nature is god, and society (and the Christian God) shouldn't be. As a Christian of a stamp that Hardy would probably dislike, I can't quite explain my appreciation and enjoyment of his work. He questions, casts doubt on, and sometimes even attacks my beliefs, and yet somehow he does not anger me. On the contrary, I feel a sort of indulgent pity for him. I hope that doesn't sound patronizing, because I certainly appreciate that he was wrestling with very hard things and I don't have pat, easy answers either. Maybe it's our very differences that have created my fascination with his work. I had trouble tearing myself away from this audiobook; I was thoroughly invested in Tess's story (and was, consequently, rather saddened when I reached its unhappy ending). Just last night I was at a library booksale and I swooped down upon a lesser-known Hardy title, The Trumpet-Major, with a sense of having snagged something good. For all that I dislike Hardy's pessimism and distaste for biblical Christianity, the man can write. And his books are works of art. The characters are so complex and realistic. Hardy has to force himself to do justice to Angel's parents, who are portrayed as strict and somewhat narrowminded Calvinist fundamentalists. For all his dislike of their beliefs, Hardy does manage to paint them realistically and even with charity — a gift that he says they possess to the full measure. Tess's parents, shiftless and passive spectators of their own lives, remind me of people I know. Alec d'Urberville is another well-rounded character, even in his role as the pursuing demon of Tess's life. Somehow I never could completely hate him, hateful as he was. I did think that the name "Angel" was rather unfortunate for the male protagonist (I hesitate to say "hero"). But as a character he's very sympathetic, even if his rigidity and double standards frustrate the reader. This audiobook was read by Stephen Thorne, who makes excellent work of it despite his limitations when it comes to voicing female characters. At times I was so eager to learn what happened next that I was tempted to pick up the printed book, but the excellence of Thorne's narration always won out and I patiently listened to all of it. I'm not sure Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a book I will ever revisit, so heartbreaking was its effect, but I feel richer for the experience of reading it. Though Hardy and I would never agree on things spiritual and moral, I've gained a greater appreciation for his attempts to show the problems of misapplied Christianity and to offer a different solution. He offers the wrong solution, but he does try.more
Hardy is one of my favorite writers, and he did not disappoint with this, his most well-known novel. My favorite characteristic of his books are his flawed characters: not one person goes unpunished by Providence or Fate or their own actions. In the way of his characters, he is much like Shakespeare: no one has to have a singular purpose, yet, somehow, by the end of the novel, everyone has fitted into their place. Hardy does not find solace in the lighter side of things. Especially in this novel, he satirizes the idea of a just religion, or the idea that love appropriates certain actions. The ending result with Tess might be a tad more morbid than his other works; which is why I give this four stats out of five, considering I will never like anything better than The Return of the Native. He is an amazing writer, with a knack for complicated themes that makes his work just as poignant as it would have been in the 19th century. I recommend this book to those out there who are looking for a writer who personifies the transition into modernity.more
A hugely engaging book. This is the first Hardy I have read since the mid 1970s when I hated the Mayor of Casterbridge as required reading as a school student. Friends persuaded me to try him again and my prejudices have been shattered. Whilst at places there was some of the ponderous and prolix descriptions of pastoral life with which I had no patience when younger, they added charm and depth to a compelling story. The book brilliantly combines important social points with clever plot, engaging characters and well painted descriptions which all draw you in. Glad I read the ebook - so much easier when you don't know a word just to tap on it, rather than ponder whether to look for the dictionary.more
Supposedly Hardy's best book. Certainly the most touching and heart-wrenching.more
This is one of my favourite books. It is so beautifully written that even through the frustrations and hardships the heroine faces, you are drawn on by the power of the language and the force of the story. Hardy was trying to make an important point in the writing of this story, and while such a tale seems unimaginable in today's world, it nevertheless resonates, particularly with women. Shocking in it's day, Hardy's efforts were felt. Tess is a provocative look at the plight of the 19th century woman, unnaturally naive to a world run by world-wise men. I'm not sure I've ever recovered from this book, and it has been a powerful influence in my own work.more
When I finished this book at 10:10 P.M. on Dec 8, 1964, I said: "i am overwhelmed--powerful, stark, overpowering. I have not been so impressed and awed by a novel in years. Most other novels I have read pale into triviality in comparison. In wroking backwards in my list of books read certainly nothing since Roger Martin du Gard's novel can compare, and it is discursive and tedious in comparison. The same can be said of From Here to Eternity, which I read in April of 1961.. It is true the plot is strained at times, unlikely. But the strength of the prose makes up for that. The final paragraph is typical of the harsh Hardy prose: 'Justice was done and the President of the Immortals, in Aesclylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess. And the D'Urberville knights and dames slept on in their tombs unknowing. The two speechless gazers bent themselves down to the earth, as for prayer, and remained thus for a long time, absolutely motionless: the flag continued to wave silently. As soon as they had strength they arose, joined hands again, and went on.' What a story! What a style! I am impressed.more
 This was the first time for reading a Hardy novel, and it wasn't quite so bad as what I thought it would be. Hardy's pastoral descriptions of country life in the English countryside were so acute. The courtship between Tess and Angel was beautifully portrayed, before Tess's shattering confession, and the lurking Alec D'Urberville in the background was a very strange rival.. There were patches where Hardy would ramble on about something completely allien to me and would then return to the story, which is why I have rated it lower. But when it got back on track, it was great. I did not agree with the ending, though.more
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.more
What can I say-I love Hardy. Why do I love an author whose books seem to move from one heartbreak to another? He is definitely not one you read for a light pick-me-up, that is for certain. But his writing is so nuanced that it feels as if I am floating down a quiescent rural stream; I know turbulent water lies ahead-I can feel the increasing pull beneath me-yet there seems to be no urgency to try to pull away in opposition. Going there just seems to be the natural flow of life. So why do I love this man whose plots I willingly follow into the very depths of despondency? Because the prose...oh, the prose!Thomas Hardy is a master of every literary element. For him, setting, especially, takes on such presence that it becomes an amalgamation of every place you have ever been. All of your senses become engaged. You hear the church bells peal across the meadow. The flank of the cow against Tess' cheek feels warm and fluid beneath your own. As she toils in the field you feel the grit of harvested grain in the sweaty crease of your neck and taste its dryness in your mouth. You feel refreshed by the wind and gladdened by the birds in flight.When it comes to character, Hardy is the consummate teacher. We don't just know that Tess' mother is hard at work on wash day. Her weariness is palpable. We aren't told that Tess is a good daughter. She pitches in just where she is needed, time and time again. Each character, major and minor, is presented so completely through their speech and actions that the narrator need fill in very little. For me they each even acquire a distinctive voice in my head.So if you have shied away from Hardy for lack of interest in his wrenching plots, I urge you to give one of his novels a try and experience the power of his incomparable prose.more
So I think all be all intellectual-like and read a classic of literature rather than my usual fare. And what do I get in return? Rape, misogyny, poverty, domestic abuse and capital punishment. I guess it's no surprise that men were also bastards back in 1891. But I was somewhat taken aback to read all that stuff so starkly. (The exception to the starkness being the rape scene - the Victorian era book was so euphemistic about it that I didn't actually figure out what Alex had done to Tess until several chapters on.)Tess is meant to be the ideal woman according to Hardy's narrator, but her two endearing attributes are that she is good looking, and agrees with everything her lover, Angel, says. The villain, Alex, like many others, spends most of his time thinking he has been wronged. The male hero, Angel is a self-important wimp. Naturally, despite Tess's guiltless life the novel moves inexorably towards her punishment. Man (Angel and Alex) has interfered with nature so Tess must be punished.A good book with odd values, and too much discussion of old English countryside for my antipodean sense to appreciate.more
Another TV tip from Faulks on Fiction, about as successful a selection for me as reading The End of the Affair. Tess is well crafted, but unevenly developed, and although I liked Hardy's style to begin with, there was far too much introspection and pastoral eulogising between the main events of the story. Novels filled with thinking, especially Victorian novels, bore me silly.Tess is a victim throughout most of the story, until Hardy has an attack of the potboilers in the final chapters, and her choice in men (or the men who choose her) is woeful, from priggish Angel (what a name!) to Hardy's omniscient narrator, who obviously fancies her. She is a Victorian pin-up, with 'peony' lips (or cheeks in the Graphic) and a voloptuous figure. And although I thought that Tess' confrontation with her new husband was tense and incredibly emotional, he is hardly worth the bother. Likewise, Alec D'Urberville is a pantomime villain with no depth or shade whatsoever.Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is the contrast between the 1891 text reprinted as the Penguin Classics edition, and the very Victorian censorship of the same story for Graphic magazine in Hardy's time (the footnotes mark where passages were changed, such as the description of Tess' looks). The prudishness is almost laughable! (The central conflict of Tess was 'cleaned up' as a clandestine marriage between Tess and Alec.)more
John Durbeyfield is a poor artisan in the village of Marlott finds out that he is a descendant of an old family the d'Urbervilles, which is now extinct. He and his wife are overjoyed. There is a rich family of the same name in the next county. So they sent their daughter, Tess to their supposed relative to better her prospects. There Tess finds out that they have adopted that name. Eric d’Uberville is a womanizer and he seduces Tess. Tess gets pregnant and returns to her own house. The baby is born and dies. Tess moves away from her house and takes up a job as a dairymaid. At the dairy farm, Angel a parson’s son who is learning the farming profession, falls in love with Tess and after a lot of persuasion Tess agrees to marry him but she could not bring herself to tell him of her past. On their honeymoon when she tells him about her past Angel is distraught and leaves her to go to Brazil.Tess moves away to a farm and works as a farm hand. She has a chance meeting with Eric who again tries to seduce her. Tess resists his overtures again and again. In the meantime Tess’ father dies and the family is forced to move out of Marlott. Finding herself cornered Tess implores her husband to come to her and forgive her. As she gets no reply from Angel she takes up with Eric for her and her families sake.In Brazil Angel is having a torrid time and returns to England. His stint in Brazil has cured him of his reserve against his wife and seeks her out but it is already too late. When he meets Tess she is shattered and in her rage kills Eric and runs away with Angel. The husband and wife spend a peaceful week in a deserted house before the law catches with them. Tess is tried and executed.A very well written book of love and loss.more
** spoiler alert ** I really enjoyed the book, despite the fact that I found myself getting angrier and angrier at the circumstances that Tess kept finding herself in.From here on out this post could be filled with spoilers, so consider yourself warned. It broke my heart that this poor girl was never able to catch a break and she was taken advantage of by almost every person she meets, including her parents. First her parents send her away so she can claim some supposed, ancient, familial claim that they are sure will better their circumstances. In doing that she is exposed to Alec, who also takes advantage of her innocent nature in the worst way before she is sent back home, in ruin. Back at home, her parents seem to just hold her in contempt because she wasn't able to come home with a 'proper' husband, just an illegitimate baby. It seems that the baby inherited his mother's luck and becomes deadly ill soon after birth. The whole scene where Tess is trying to get her baby a baptism before he dies, only to be refused by her father is heartbreaking. I could feel her desperation when she takes it upon herself to baptize the baby and then asks the priest if it's 'just as good'. When she meets Angel you hope that finally she'll be able to have something good in her life, something she actually deserves, and I really hoped Angel would forgive her for her past, especially since she was taken advantage of. However, Angel disappointed me more than everyone else, including Alec. He was a hypocrite and to treat her the way he did after confessing that he'd committed the very same sin was just beyond cruel.I'll admit that when Alec came back into the picture I really held onto the hope that he was sincere in his approach to Tess. That he really felt remorse and was trying to earn redemption for his act. As the story progressed you could see that it was not the case. He was back to his old self, lying and manipulating Tess to get what he wanted from her and I was mad that she fell for it, again. I wanted her to be older and wiser but in the end she fell right into his plot and it led to her ultimate downfall.So, I liked it, despite being incredibly angry and sad about the outcome.more
Dear Tom,Why do I keep reading your books? No one, and I mean no one, treats his characters (or her characters) as badly as you do. Well, maybe with the exception of Upton Sinclair, who must have been greatly influenced by you.I read Jude the Obscure several years ago and closed the book with a "Never Again." I was sure I could not bear to read another one of your books after somehow finishing it in spite of that awful letter from the kids "Because we are too menny". I can't figure out what your overall point is except that if one is poor, one is destined to be miserable and that is all there is to it. I guessed what Tess would be about just from its title. I've read lots and lots of other 19th century fiction. Many books have treated the issue of women who lose their chastity, as it would have been put at the time. Many books are pretty grim about their fate. However, you manage to make it worse than the norm because your characters are so very sympathetic. As I read on, I know that Tess' life is going to go from bad to worse, that her ridiculous level of nobility will end up undoing her, that all bad things will happen to her. Sure enough, but what else would we expect of you. What is the point, Tom? Why do you write these novels? What do you want your readers to do? Unlike Dickens, you don't seem to be a social reformer. You don't seem to ever paint the slightest possibility of an alternative to all this woe. On the other hand, your respectful-but-not-convinced portrayal of evangelical Christianity doesn't seem to show religion as a way out, either. Were you just trying to convey existentialist despair? Weren't you a little too early for this?I am really giving you up this time. This is it. You have been too cruel on your characters and your readers and this is the last of your novels I plan to read. How could you, Tom? You are too cruel, and I will never forgive you.Yr servant,Annamore
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.more
If Thomas Hardy was alive now, I am sure he would have been an Academy Award winning director, as his scenes are so beautifully described. I loved the details of the agricultural life. I can also recommend the TV series starring Gemma Atherton and Eddie Redmayne.more
The essence of the plot is appealing, but Hardy drapes everything in so much symbolism and imagery that it makes it so difficult to get to the actual point. I downloaded this on my Nook since I somehow made it through high school and college without reading this, and I've been slogging my way through it. It will happen. Eventually.more
It broke my heart, but I loved it.more
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