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Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
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Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891)

by Thomas Hardy

Other authors: Tim Horton (Editor), Shirley Joshua (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
12,564156191 (3.82)487
  1. 60
    Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (alaudacorax)
    alaudacorax: At the moment, I think this is the finest of Hardy's novels - if you've read and liked any of the others I'm sure you'll like this. If you've been turned-off by the grimness of some of his others - Tess ..., for instance - you might well find this more palatable.… (more)
  2. 51
    Middlemarch (1/2) by George Eliot (readerbabe1984)
  3. 41
    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (roby72)
  4. 30
    Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (Booksloth)
  5. 30
    Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (roby72)
  6. 10
    The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (roby72)
  7. 21
    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Johanna11)
    Johanna11: Both books write about people with expectations for their future, both are very well written at the end of the nineteenth century.
  8. 11
    The Quarry Wood by Nan Shepherd (edwinbcn)
    edwinbcn: Written by a woman, "The Quarry Wood" explores the awakening sexuality and awareness of the young Martha. More outspoken than Thomas Hardy, but not yet as free as D.H. Lawrence.
  9. 01
    Adam Bede by George Eliot (Heather39)
    Heather39: Both books tell the story of a young, working class woman who enters into a relationship with a gentleman, eventually to her downfall.
  10. 13
    Muriel's Wedding [1994 film] by P. J. Hogan (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: Muriel's Wedding could be paired with Tess of the D'Urbervilles as well as several other novels, such as, My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and even with Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing
  11. 02
    Villette by Charlotte Brontë (allenmichie)
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» See also 487 mentions

English (148)  French (4)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Bulgarian (1)  All languages (156)
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
This is an enjoyable read, and I found ‘The Maiden’, the first of six ‘phases’, to be five star, really getting it off to a great start. I’ll describe the main elements of its plot (mini spoiler alert), but not too much beyond that. We’re first introduced to Tess Durbeyfield’s father, who is somewhat lazy and a drinker; when he finds out he has a connection to an ancient family in the region, he comes to have some unrealistic, high falutin’ hopes about falling into fortune. One night when he can’t drive his beehives to the market for the following morning’s sales, Tess goes in his place. Unfortunately, she falls asleep at the reins, which Hardy describes cosmically: “With no longer a companion to distract her, Tess fell more deeply into reverie than ever, her back leaning against the hives. The mute procession past her shoulders of trees and hedges became attached to fantastic scenes outside reality and the occasional heave of the wind became the sigh of some immense sad soul, conterminous with the universe in space, and with history in time.”

Shortly afterward, in a shocking sequence, Tess gets into a violent accident with a wagon coming the other direction, which kills the family horse. The resulting financial hardship encourages her parents all the more to send her off to the distant d’Urberville family, to work on their property and form a connection with them, but there she becomes the prey of the dastardly Alec d’Urberville. Hardy hints at Alec’s intentions in ways that make the reader cringe, and in an absolutely brilliant sequence late at night after a dance, he rapes Tess. In the morality of the time, this stains Tess; she feels guilty over it for the rest of the novel and unworthy of a future husband, while Alec happily goes on with his life. Grrr.

Hardy was a transitional writer in the late 19th century, including old school melodrama in his writing, but also modernist psychology, and challenges to religion and the morality of the day which deeply offended Victorians. As an extension of that, his (ostensible) protagonist Angel Clare, the more enlightened gentleman who finds Tess and falls for her, is a transitional thinker. On the one hand, Angel is aware of evolution and flouts religion and conventionality, but on the other hand, he has old-fashioned about a woman’s virtue. Between the outright evil of Alec, who Tess has fled, and Alec’s hypocrisy, it’s hard to like either character, or to know who is worse, but I think that’s part of Hardy’s point. The unfairness of life for women will almost certainly make you grit your teeth, and Hardy may go on a teeny bit too long in the center sections of the book, but there is a lot to like here.

Quotes:
On art:
“She thought, without exactly wording the thought, how strange and godlike was a composer’s power, who from the grave could lead through sequences of emotion, which he alone had felt at first, a girl like her who had never heard of his name, and never would have a clue to his personality.”

On beauty:
“How very lovable her face was to him. Yet there was nothing ethereal about it; all was real vitality, real warmth, real incarnation. And it was in her mouth that this culminated. Eyes almost as deep and speaking he had seen before, and cheeks perhaps as fair; brows as arched, a chin and throat almost as shapely; her mouth he had seen nothing to equal on the face of the earth. To a young man with the least fire in him that little upward lift in the middle of her red top lip was distracting, infatuating, maddening. He had never before seen a woman’s lips and teeth which forced upon his mind with such persistent iteration the old Elizabeth simile of roses filled with snow. Perfect, he, as a lover, might have called them off-hand. But no – they were not perfect. And it was the touch of the imperfect upon the would-be perfect that gave the sweetness, because it was that which gave the humanity.”

On death, I thought this was an interesting perspective, and yes, our ‘deathday’ is out there somewhere for all of us:
“She philosophically noted dates as they came past in the revolution of the year; the disastrous night of her undoing at Tantridge with its dark background of The Chase; also the dates of the baby’s birth and death; also her own birthday; and every other day individualized by incidents in which she had taken some share. She suddenly thought one afternoon, when looking in the glass at her fairness, that there was yet another date, of greater importance to her than those; that of her own death, when all these charms would have disappeared; a day which lay sly and unseen and among all the other days of the year, giving no sign or sound when she annually passed over it; but not the less surely there. When was it? Why did she not feel the chill of each yearly encounter with such a cold relation? She had Jeremy Taylor’s thought that some time in the future those who had known her would say, ‘It is the- th, the day that poor Tess Durbeyfield died’; and there would be nothing singular to their minds in the statement. Of that day, doomed to her terminus in time through all the ages, she did not know the place in month, week, season, or year.”

On knowledge:
“’Because what’s the use of learning that I am one of a long row only – finding out that there is set down in some old book somebody just like me, and to know that I shall only act her part; making me sad, that’s all. The best is not to remember that your nature and past doings have been just like thousands’ and thousands’, and that your coming life and doings’ll be like thousands’ and thousands’.’
‘What, really, then, you don’t want to learn anything?’
‘I shouldn’t mind learning why – why the sun do shine on the just and the unjust alike,’ she answered, with a slight quaver in her voice. ‘But that’s what the books will not tell me.’”

On religion, harkening back to worship of the sun:
“The sun, on account of the mist, had a curious sentient, personal look, demanding the masculine pronoun for its adequate expression. His present aspect, coupled with the lack of all human forms in the scene, explained the old-time heliolatries in a moment. One could feel that a saner religion had never prevailed under the sky. The luminary was a golden-haired, beaming, mild-eyed, God-like creature, gazing down in the vigour and intentness of youth upon an earth that was brimming with interest for him.”

And this one, questioning God in a world of cruelty:
“The calmness which had possessed Tess since the christening remained with her in the infant’s loss. In the daylight, indeed, she felt her terrors about his soul to have been somewhat exaggerated; whether well founded or not she had no uneasiness now, reasoning that if Providence would not ratify such an act of approximation she, for one, did not value the kind of heaven lost by the irregularity – either for herself or for her child.”

And:
“Once upon a time Angel had been so unlucky as to say to his father, in a moment of irritation, that it might have resulted far better for mankind if Greece had been the source of the religion of modern civilization, and not Palestine; and his father’s grief was of that blank description which could not realize that there might lurk a thousandth part of a truth, much less a half truth or a whole truth, in such a proposition.”

Lastly this one, an example of Hardy taking a simple scene on a dairy farm and both putting it in perspective in the bigger picture, but also pointing out it’s no less important than scenes of royalty; this quote really has it all, compared to how simply it may have been put:
“Long thatched sheds stretched round the enclosure, their slopes encrusted with vivid green moss, and their eaves supported by wooden posts rubbed to a glossy smoothness by the flanks of infinite cows and calves of bygone years, now passed to an oblivion almost inconceivable in its profundity. Between the posts were ranged the milchers, each exhibiting herself at the present moment to a whimsical eye in the rear as a circle on two stalks, down the centre of which a switched moved pendulum-wise; while the sun, lowering itself behind this patient row, threw their shadows accurately inwards upon the wall. Thus it threw shadows of these obscure and homely figures every evening with as much care over each contour as if it had been the profile of a Court beauty on a palace wall; copied them as diligently as it had copied Olympian shades on marble facades long ago, or the outline of Alexander, Caesar, and the Pharaohs.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Aug 9, 2015 |
As part of the 1001 to read before I die list, this was definitely not one I had to read. I made it to page 103, pretty impressive since my limit is page 50. I thought it would get better but no. It's so boring, I couldn't keep my eyes open while reading it.

For the rest of the book review, visit my blog at: http://angelofmine1974.livejournal.com/91503.html
  booklover3258 | Jun 16, 2015 |
Tess is a lovely girl; beautiful, sweet, sensitive and soft. I loved Tess when I first encountered her as a teenager, when I studied Thomas Hardy's novel for my English A'level. Hardy brings Tess and her world to life with such rich, sumptuous detail. I found reading it a mesmerising experience. I wasn't sure who I hated most, of the men in love with Tess, Angel or Alec. They both were unable to appreciate and love her for what she was. They seemed to be intent on destroying her in some way. Tess rose above being a helpless victim, in quite a horrible way, but I was always on her side and had great understanding and sympathy for her. ( )
  AmiloFinn | Jun 13, 2015 |
Tess of the D’Ubervilles is a beautiful, haunting masterpiece.

When Tess’s family fall on hard times, Tess is forced to go and see family she has never heard of before – the well off D’Ubervilles. On arriving she is met with Alec D’Uberville, the man who will be her downfall. After losing her child to illness, Tess receives employment as a milkmaid, and falls in love with Angel Clare, but will Tess be able to tell him about the dark past that she has so long kept secret? And if the truth is revealed, will Angel Clare still feel the same way?

I absolutely loved this book. I’m actually sad that I haven’t read it before. I read if for classes, but so many of my classmates had read it before, and I envied being able to read it without studying it. It’s such a beautiful book with such an immense plot. I kept having to put it down and come back to it, purely so I could give myself time to process what I’d read. Hardy has that ability to describe something in detail, pages covering the same thing, but it’s never repetitious and it’s never boring.

Tess of the D’Ubervilles is famous for being scandalous and shocking when it was first published, and I can see why. Though not really shocking to us now, I can imagine the horror at a story of women with a child out of marriage, and the idea of concealing that child from her suitor. Hardy certainly has a lot to say about social conventions and the way women were treated at that time.

I think Tess is a really fascinating character, she’s strong willed, stubborn and utterly loyal. She makes lots of mistakes throughout the story – and more often than not she pays the price for them. Her story is an immensely sad one. She is a survivor, continuing on even when her life seems the most hopeless.

No matter what I write about Tess of the D’Ubervilles, this review will be woefully understating how wonderful this novel is (but that’s not going to stop me trying!) The language in the novel is beautiful and poetic, and I loved the descriptions of nature. Tess is closely linked to nature throughout the plot – something I found particularly interesting. She is seen as almost part of nature herself, a pure, earthy country girl.

It’s a very bleak and depressing story, but it is definitely worth reading. This was my first outing in the novels of Thomas Hardy – although I am told The Mayor of Casterbridge is by far his best novel, I really enjoyed Tess of the D’Ubervilles and all its wonderful comments on society. ( )
  ColeReadsBooks | May 24, 2015 |
Rarely have I ever had such a visceral reaction to a book. I have read a few other Hardy novels and so at this point I expect tragedy. But this one still blew me away. It broke my heart in so many ways, but Hardy’s writing made the whole experience oddly beautiful, despite the inevitable disaster that you know if coming.

The brilliance of his writing is just breathtaking. The scenes he creates are incredibly beautiful. Alec is such a brilliant villain because of the very fact that he is so relatable to different men. As Hardy himself says, Tess’ own male ancestors probably did the same thing to peasant girls. It's so horrifying and common at the same time and Alec has no real understanding that what he's doing is wrong. He knows what he wants he decides he's going to take it. There's no consideration for anything else.

Tess’ family is poor, but they discover they are descendants of a wealthy local family. She is sent to befriend the family and see if they can improve her own family’s situation. She meets Alec D'Urbervilles and soon her life is changed forever. I can’t say too much more without spoilers, except that it’s a powerful book, but not a cheery one.

**SPOILERS**
I’ve never hated a character as much as I hated Alec. He is a rapist, a manipulator, and worst of all, he honestly doesn’t think he’s done much wrong in the first half of the novel. At one point Alec says something about how Tess shouldn’t have worn a certain dress and bonnet because it made her too pretty. The “you were asking for it” mentality was present even back then when dress was far more modest. It was so frustrating and infuriating. He manipulated every situation, forcing her to be alone with him, to rely on him for help, etc.

His condescending nicknames made my skin crawl. When he calls her “Tessie” or “my little pretty” it made me nauseous because she was shrinking away from him and begging him quietly to stop touching her. She said again and again that she did not love him and she was scared of him. She never feels comfortable with him. From their very first interaction, as he makes her eat strawberries from his hand, she is uncomfortable and wants to go home immediately. There was no infatuation only a feeling in her gut that he was not someone to be trusted.

On top of that, Angel’s absurd double standard for his actions and her actions was infuriating. The worst part is that both men, the “good” one and the “bad” one share the same mentality about the situation. Both blame Tess but never themselves. The same attitude is around today, even though women have many more options, they are often shamed when they are sexually assaulted.

The book is split into different phases and the second one begins after the infamous event. Tess is so broken; she's not even scared of him anymore because he's already done the worst to her that he could possibly do. She's resigned to her fate and full of sorrow. I kept thinking about how many other women over hundreds of years have gone through the same thing and are just completely broken afterwards and no one understands why. The man took something from her that she did not want to give and society treats it as if he didn't really do anything wrong. They justify it and say things like, maybe she gave off the wrong signals or put herself in a bad situation. It's just horrible.

**SPOILERS OVER**

BOTTOM LINE: This is not a cheerful book. Every time Tess’ situation improves, heartache is just around the corner. But Hardy deals with it in such a raw and personal way that it is relevant even a century later. His writing transcends the subject matter and I’ve learned that I’ll read whatever he’s written.
** My Penguin Clothbound Classic edition discusses the different versions of the novel that were released. The original release presented a much harsher version of Hardy. Apparently he toned it down and made him more appealing in later versions, which is interesting.

“‘I shouldn’t mind learning why the sun do shine on the just and the unjust alike,’ she answered with a slight quaver in her voice. ‘But that’s what books will not tell me.’”

“The beauty or ugliness of a character lay not only in its achievements, but in its aims and impulses; its true history lay, not among things done, but among things willed.” ( )
3 vote bookworm12 | Apr 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
Daring in its treatment of conventional ideas, pathetic in its sadness, and profoundly stirring by its tragic power. The very title, "Tess of the D'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman", is a challenge to convention.
 

» Add other authors (98 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Hardyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Horton, TimEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Joshua, ShirleyEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alvarez, A.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cosham, RalphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dolin, TimEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Firth, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Higonnet, Margaret R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Irwin, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porter, DavinaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skilton, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stubbs, ImogenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorne, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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'...Poor wounded name! My bosom as a bed | Shall lodge thee.', - W. Shakespeare [Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 1, Scene 2, 111/12] & should read: 'Poor wounded name: My bosom as a bed | Shall lodge thee...', [Riverside Shakespeare (1997)].
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On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
In order to step out of family poverty, Tess attempts to find her ancient relations, the d'Urbervilles. Unfortunately, she is taken advantage of by a man which causes her even more strife throughout the rest of her life. She is forced into a moral delimma when she truly falls in love with another man due to her previous circumstances. More conflicted than ever, Tess is able to eventually become a strong woman who makes choices for herself instead of what the society tells her is right. This book was some what a hard book for me to get through because some parts of it seem very dry, but overall the story line is interesting.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439599, Paperback)

The chance discovery by a young peasant woman that she is a descendant of the noble family of d'Urbervilles is to change the course of her life. Tess Durbeyfield leaves home on the first of her fateful journeys, and meets the ruthless Alec d'Urberville. Thomas Hardy's impassioned story tells of hope and disappointment, rejection and enduring love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:21 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

"When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future. With its sensitive depiction of the wronged Tess and powerful criticism of social convention, Tess of the D'Urbervilles is one of the most moving and poetic of Hardy's novels. Based on the three-volume first edition that shocked readers when first published in 1891, this edition includes as appendices: Hardy's Prefaces, the Landscapes of Tess, episodes originally censored from the Graphic periodical version and a selection of the Graphic illustrations."--Back cover.… (more)

» see all 43 descriptions

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