Tess Durbeyfield’s life changes forever when her father learns that he is descended from the noble D’Urbervilles. After discovering that he has some wealthy D’Urberville relatives living nearby, Tess is sent to visit them in an attempt to improve the family’s fortunes. While there she is taken advantage of by Alec D’Urberville and returns to her parents pregnant. A few years later when she falls in love with Angel Clare, the parson’s son, she is forced to decide whether to trust Angel with the truth about her past…
It seems that people either love or hate Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Among those who hate it the main reasons for disliking it appear to be that the book was too dark and depressing, or that Tess was too passive and weak. Although I can understand these complaints, I personally fall into the group of readers who loved the book. I don’t have a problem with a story being tragic, melodramatic or depressing as long as it’s well-written. And Hardy’s writing is beautiful. With other books I am often tempted to skim through pages of descriptions of trees, fields, sunrises etc, but Hardy’s portrayal of nature and the English countryside is so poetic I wanted to read every word. Be prepared, though – you will learn more than you ever wanted to know about milking cows, threshing wheat and slicing turnips!
It’s true that Tess doesn’t stand up for herself enough – there were plenty of times when I wanted to scream at her – but I mostly felt sorry for her. She was young (sixteen I think at the start of the book), innocent, naive, and didn’t have the best family life, with a father who was often drunk. It seemed that everything that could go wrong for her did go wrong. More than poor Tess, it was Alec d’Urberville and Angel Clare who both really infuriated me – and I actually thought Angel was worse than Alec in some respects.
The injustice of a society with different sets of rules for men and women, Christianity vs pagan symbolism, the Industrial Revolution, and the class system of Victorian England are some of the interesting topics this book covers. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the ending – the final chapters just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the novel.
So, if you haven’t read this book yet give it a try – you might hate it…but you might just love it like I did.
Genre: Classics/Pages: 464/Published:BBC Books (Random House)/Year: 2008 (originally published 1891)/Source: Library book