Tess of the D’Urbervilles (by Thomas Hardy) c. 1891

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
c. 1891
[Adult Fiction]
[Electronic Resource (MyMediaMall eAudiobook)]

Set against the backdrop of rural England, Tess of the D’Urbervilles examines the life of a young woman whose reputation is tarnished when a nobleman takes advantage of her. The consequences of this man’s actions continue to haunt Tess for years as she struggles to survive in a society with an innately flawed sense of morality.

One of the strongest points of this novel is Hardy’s prose. Tess’ story is compelling and interesting, but it is so easy to also get wrapped up in the minute details of Hardy’s language. I found myself rereading this passage several times because I loved how effortless and graceful it seemed:

“All the girls drew onward to the spot where the cows were grazing in the farther mead, the bevy advancing with the bold grace of wild animals—the reckless unchastened motion of women accustomed to unlimited space—in which they abandoned themselves to the air as a swimmer to a wave” (196).

There is a very rare balance between the clarity of Hardy’s descriptions and the overall grace of the prose.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles can be a rather difficult book for the modern reader to process because it is set in a society that is inherently misogynistic and bound by social strictures that enforce that structure. However, Tess does not exist to overthrow those rules; rather, her purpose is to demonstrate how such ill-founded and hypocritical values can cause harm to good people. Consequently, the book is not particularly uplifting.

If you like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, you might also like Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. If you like the setting and overall atmosphere of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but are looking for something a little less depressing, you might like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

Pros: Beautifully written and a rather interesting examination of the psychological effects of social norms.

Cons: It is a pretty depressing story and definitely a tearjerker.

Review by Martha


One thought on “Tess of the D’Urbervilles (by Thomas Hardy) c. 1891

  1. Pingback: Lake Bluff Library Staff’s Top Reads of 2010 « What to Check Out Next…

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