Goodreads description: !warning: description contains spoilers! Highly controversial because of its frank look at the sexual hypocrisy of Victorian society, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles was nonetheless a great commercial success when it appeared in 1891. It is now considered one of the finest novels in English.
Using richly poetic language to frame a shattering narrative of love, seduction, betrayal, and murder, Hardy tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a beautiful young woman living with her impoverished family in Wessex, the southwestern English county immortalized by Hardy. After the family learns of their connection to the wealthy d’Urbervilles, they send Tess to claim a portion of their fortune. She meets and is seduced by the dissolute Alec d’Urberville and secretly bears a child, Sorrow, who dies in infancy. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer Tess love and salvation, but he rejects her—on their wedding night—after learning of her past. Emotionally bereft, financially impoverished, and victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality, Tess escapes from her vise of passion through a horrible, desperate act.
With its compassionate portrait of a young rural woman, powerful criticism of social convention, and disarming consideration of the role of destiny in human life, Tess of the D’Urbervilles is one of the most moving and memorable of Hardy’s novels.
This book would be a difficult one to review, so I’m going to approach it a little differently. As the description says, Tess is poetic and sad. The book explores redemption and forgiveness, and the toll life and love can take on a good person. Tess is a kind, good person whose whole world kind of crumbles around her. Regardless of how bad things get, and how much pain she goes through, she goes on. She has moments of weakness, but ultimately the girl is filled with strength.
In the beginning of the story, Tess is naive and faces the challenge of a world with no compassion. She makes a mistakes but takes responsibility for it. She tries to make her life better and to be a better person. When she meets Angel Clare, she thinks things have finally improved for her. Tess and Angel find love, but that doesn’t make their lives easier. I don’t want to give the story away (unlike the description!) but Tess continues to be amazing while having horrible things happen to her and dealing with incredible challenges.
Tess is a heartbreaking character and I couldn’t help but love her. She’s sweet and pure and continually put to the test by her family, men, and jobs. She didn’t always make good decisions but she tried so hard and went up against so much.
Some pretty (non spoilery) words I loved, including the quote I got the name of my blog from:
++ “Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?”
“All like ours?”
“I don’t know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound-a few blighted.”
++ “Which do we live on-a splendid one or a blighted one?”
“A blighted one.”
++ Sad October and her sadder self seemed the only two existences haunting that lane.
++ Hate him she did not quite; but he was dust and ashes to her
++ The sun, on account of the mist, had a curious sentinent, personal look, demanding the masculine pronoun for its adequate expression.
++ She was not an existence, an experience, a passion, a structure of sensations, to anybody but herself. To all humankind besides, Tess was only a passing thought.
++ One day she was pink and flawless; another pale and tragical.
++“Three Leahs to get one Rachel,” he whispered.
I downloaded a free ebook of Tess at Goodreads, which has some free classic ebooks and a few other titles. Gutenberg also has a lot of free classic titles available as ebooks, so be sure to check them out and read some classics!