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on May 18, 2013
"Tess of the D'Urbervilles" is Thomas Hardy's most famous protagonist and one of literature's most tragic heroines. At first, she reminded me very much of Ibsen's Nora, but as the book came to a close I came to realize that Tess is far more emotionally complex than Nora: much moodier, much prouder, much more romantic, and ultimately much more tragic.

The story is pretty well-known to most people. Tess is a young beautiful maiden who has a lazy drunk for a father and a manipulative opportunist as a mother. At a young tender and naive age she is essentially raped by her well-to-do cousin, and it's a stigma that haunts her in the small-minded provincial town where she lives. She soon meets the man of her dreams, a clergyman's romantic son who finds a kindred soul in Tess, and while Tess does her best to maintain her distance eventually she gives way to her passion, and marries Angel Clare. Though she has lost her virginity to another man Tess remains pure and free, and against the warnings of her mother she forces herself to tell her new husband of her past. And because her husband is very young, very proud, and ultimately constricted and contained by the conservative pettiness of the people around him he decides to flee from Tess. And this sets the stage for Tess's ultimate downfall.

The themes and plot of this novel have been copied copiously in Western culture, but what makes this novel such a masterpiece is the emotional force and beauty of Tess's characters, and it would be almost impossible for anyone else to replicate the sincere sympathy Hardy has for his most famous heroine. Literary critics can always point to the depth in meaning and symbolism of the novel -- the themes of innocence, spirituality, and romantic passion course wildly throughout the novel -- but it's Tess's sense and pursuit of love, her utter and pure and completion to the man she loves, that will continue to move readers for centuries to come.
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on June 16, 2016
I like Penguin Books for its supplemental background information and I also enjoy Thomas's Hardy nearly as much as any classical writer that I've read. This is the third Hardy book I've read. One of his books, Far From the Madding Crowd, I read recently, and another book, Jude the Obscure, I completed over thirty years ago. I'm excited about the fact that he has a supply that I can continue reading for the rest of my life. I plan to read at least two more of his books, the Return of the Native and The Mayor of Casterbridge, which will be all of his most popular novels for me, and then I will see how I feel about reading more than that.
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on August 9, 2015
This is one of the great English novels, probably among the first five in distinction among the novels of the late 19th century. It is certainly Hardy's most accomplished novel. "Tess" is set in Hardy's version of the Wessex region of England, where, for example, the city of Dorchester becomes Casterbridge. This is the story of Tess Durbeyfield. The Durbeyfields used to be known as the d'Urberviiles, centuries before, when they were rich and powerful. As with almost all of Hardy's novels, the evocation of the boggy hill country of southern England is so closely intertwined with nature, that one begins to smell the heady aromas of the countryside. Coincidentally, Roman Polanski's finest film is "Tess", Nastassia Kinski is the perfect Tess, Polanski shows us
the innocence of the girl, how its purity is the reason for her downfall. The scene in which she bites into a strawberry is the ultimate seduction scene for PG audiences.
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on March 22, 2014
Loved it when I was sixteen. Just reread and it has lost nothing for me in all the years between. No one writes books like this anymore or characters like Tess. The writing is truly beautiful, a joy in itself, and the story perfectly crafted. Thomas Hardy was a master story-teller, and his works deserve the esteem they've garnered for well over one hundred plus years.

Like Dickens, most of his work was serialized in magazines, but unlike Dickens, Hardy focused on rural settings and the country folks who endured travails that wrench the heart and illicit sympathy for the characters. He draws you into their lives, and you are a voyeur on one fascinating journey after another.

I've read most of Thomas Hardy's novels, but Tess remains my favorite. If you haven't read anything by Hardy, do yourself a favor and start now.
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on May 24, 2017
Tess is a great book. It gives an accurate and moving account of a time thankfully now gone by. It is not, however, an easy read and it takes some tenacity to get through it.
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on January 19, 2016
I re-read this book. And the following passage always takes me back to my HS years as a 14 year old. "Tess passionately seized the first piece of paper that came to hand, and scribbled the following lines: O why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do not deserve it. I have thought it all over carefully, and I can never, never forgive you! You know that I did not intend to wrong you-why have you so wronged me. You are cruel, cruel..."

The long-suffering young wife was finally angered and wrote a beastly letter to her estranged husband. Hmm, there is nothing like a woman scorned. While there is no HEA, there is a beauty in this writer's prose. I gave this novel 4.5 stars.
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on October 23, 2015
Old story exposing real life of women in the past and how survival strategy develops with the resources available. Author is gifted with langusge, development of character and process. An old book useful to modern students of Womens' Studies, psychological and socialogical studies and especially the psychopathic personality so well described that one wonders what the author was all about.
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on January 5, 2015
This is the first Thomas Hardy novel I've read and I think I'm hooked. Will definitely read his others. Excellent writing which really draws you into the story. Loved it. The entire time you're reading it, you feel compelled to rescue Tess from her situation and to scream to the whole hypocritical Victorian world, "It's not her fault!" Near the end of the book, Hardy builds up to such suspense that I found myself holding my breath and praying that things turn out well for Tess. Hardy gives the reader a view of England in 1800's that, in my opinion, is probably a lot more accurate than we would like to believe. And I also think his style is easier to read than Charles Dickens. I highly recommend this book. I have ordered the 1998 DVD from Amazon as it had rave reviews as being true to the book. Can't wait to watch it.
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on October 14, 2016
Thomas Hardy is a contemporary of Charles Dickens, and his writing is similar. The themes are quite modern for that time, as the protagonist is an atheist or at least agnostic. As a Christian, I was somewhat disappointed in the way my Faith was portrayed, and the story became rather melodramatic as it progressed (probably due to the method of serial publishing in order to retain readers and increase sales) but it was an entertaining tale nevertheless.
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on July 8, 2014
I've read lots of Thomas Hardy, and somehow left this book for last. I should have read it sooner. Not to give too much away, every woman alive in the western world should read this book to see how much better they have it than their sisters from the nineteenth century. Tess is sorely used by almost every man in the book who encounters her, and she has so little protection from those who should protect her, it's very sad.

The language, somewhat difficult for a less educated reader like me, is beautiful. The descriptions of the English countryside makes one long for simpler, more bucolic times. We wouldn't have to keep track of our steps to get our 10,000 every day. In several scenes, characters walk 30 miles in a day, starting before first light (in summer) and arriving at their destination well after dark.

At least two characters in the book get just what they deserve--I'll leave it to you to decide if I'm right.

I loved the book. It is my favorite of all the TH books I've read.
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