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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Want to read the classics, start with Tess
What is the point of reading classic literature if all you are going to do is analyse it? What a waste. Hardy, Austen et al would be turning in their graves if they knew that their work would be treated in this way by self-proclaimed experts. Classic novels are to be enjoyed; they are written for the satisfaction of all readers, not just to massage the egos of...
Published on June 30 2004 by neoninfusion

3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent example of the romance genre.
If you are a fan of the Romance genre, particularly if you are a fan of the historical Romance genre, and most especially if you are a fan of the tragic, historical Romance genre, you'll doubtless enjoy this book. What's more, if you like lush, flowery descriptions of pastoral settings, you'll doubtless love this book.
Since I'm not overly fond of any of these...
Published on May 15 2001 by James Yanni

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Want to read the classics, start with Tess, June 30 2004
neoninfusion (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
What is the point of reading classic literature if all you are going to do is analyse it? What a waste. Hardy, Austen et al would be turning in their graves if they knew that their work would be treated in this way by self-proclaimed experts. Classic novels are to be enjoyed; they are written for the satisfaction of all readers, not just to massage the egos of academics.
Yes, I've studied classic literature, and it isn't the genre I am typically interested in. However, "Tess of the d'urbervilles" is the novel that has inspired me to give this genre another try. I found it to be incredibly moving; dismissing the idea that it was poorly written. I've found English literature too stifled by its own airs and graces, but this is not the case with Thomas Hardy. He paints a picture of great hope in a way that allows us to empathise (unlike some of his contemporaries) with the characters of a different era.
I recommend anyone who wants to start reading classic English literature to begin with "Tess of the d'urbervilles". You will find it an easily accessible read. It is beautiful, hopeful and tragic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for a Book Club, Feb. 10 2004
Some great discussions come out of this book. Thomas Hardy has a very distinct style, and uses the environment essentially as another character, so it may be beneficial to at least have some familiarity with England before reading. No one can read this book without having strong opinions about the characters, especially the two main men. This is one of the standout pieces of literature of its time and is well worth the read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, June 25 2004
P. Morelli (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
I had to write a review just to bring up a rating that was unfairly knocked down by a handful of obtuse reviewers. I wasn't an English lit major like some of these reviewers, but I have read upwards of 10,000 books in my life -with a concentration on literature- and have to say that the descriptive writing in "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" is the most beautiful and poetic I have yet encountered. It is not the most exciting, nor the most stunningly transformative(that honour goes to "Altas Shrugged") book, but the construction and execution is exquisite.
The book is in fact slowly paced - so much so in the first couple of chapters that I was rebuffed the first time I started reading it. However, a little patience will grant you entry into the gorgeous spell Hardy invokes. Yes, it is a "victorian" novel, but the sublimity of the writing and of the plot's tragedy emancipates it from the staidness of the genre.
The upshot is that you shouldn't turn to this book if you want a fast paced thriller or "clever" writing. Read it if you want to cultivate your awareness of exceptional beauty; this book is for the cultured connoisseur, not needy readers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Somber rustic majesty, June 9 2004
In a certain light, Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" might be seen as a Cinderella story horribly disfigured by a tragic twist. When we first meet the heroine, Tess Durbeyfield, as a poor, hardworking farm girl who has to take care of her five younger siblings and fulfill the responsibilities abandoned by her inebriated father, she seems like a girl destined for greater things: a brilliant career in a more stimulating occupation, a blissful marriage to a wonderful man. But Hardy likes to illustrate fate's capacity for cruelty, and Tess is merely an innocent woman who is seemingly punished for her innocence.
The name Durbeyfield is a vulgarization of d'Urberville, a family with a rich history descended from Norman knights and wealthy landowners, but various misfortunes have reduced the lineage to the commoners who presently inhabit the impoverished Durbeyfield household. (We learn later in the novel that the Durbeyfields are not the only local family to have suffered this appellative fall from grace.) Although the d'Urberville nobility is defunct, in the near past an enterprising businessman named Stoke sought to increase the prestige of his own family by appropriating a distinguished name from the county annals, and d'Urberville is the one he chose. Thus when Tess, to aid her family's finances after an unfortunate accident deprives them of their income, takes a job tending the fowl at the nearby d'Urberville estate, she mistakenly believes she is working for her relations.
This ostensibly minor detail is really the basis of the irony which drives the novel. Had Mr. Stoke been honest and not assumed the name of the Durbeyfields' ancestors, Tess would not have been likely to meet the lecherous, skulking Alec d'Urberville, who rapes her after she rebuffs his attempted seduction and impregnates her with a baby that dies in infancy. Of course Hardy, evading the risk of censorship, is decorous enough to suggest in the subtlest manner possible that the rape happened rather than describe it explicitly, but Alec's immoral behavior is clearly implied.
Mortified, heartbroken, Tess then goes to work as a milkmaid at a dairy farm where she and a young man named Angel Clare, the heartthrob of several of the farm girls, fall in love. Angel has defied his father, a vicar, by spurning a career in the clergy for agriculture and marriage with a middle class girl for Tess. He scoffs at his parents' snobbery, but after marrying Tess, he reveals a disturbing hypocrisy when she confesses to him the vicious treatment she had received from Alec and its consequences. Angel's reaction is far from the gentle sympathy one would expect from the magnanimous personality he projects; he is disgusted that she has been robbed of her purity and draws a strange parallel between her violation and the fall of her family's ancestral prestige. He rejects her, they separate, and once again she is mortified, heartbroken, and looking for a job.
Tess is destined to rencounter both Angel and Alec before the end of the novel, and the changes to their characters not only advance the plot in unexpected ways but further emphasize Hardy's utilization of irony. The starkly contrasted images of the novel's penultimate scene at Stonehenge and the last scene, which takes place outside a prison where a black flag flies announcing an execution, raise the question of whether even Hardy knew when he started exactly how this somber story would end.
The novel contains several recurring Hardy elements. Like most of his major work, it takes place in the southwestern part of England he calls Wessex, this time in the fertile Blackmoor Vale, and his evocation of the scenery sets the stage beautifully. Tess's co-workers at the dairy farm are a realistically cheerful lot and provide the continuum of humanity that such a story needs as a reprieve for its tragic mood. An interesting touch which shows that Hardy is not above recycling his own motifs is the similarity between the death of the Durbeyfield horse (a definite foreshadowing for Tess) and the tumbling sheep in "Far from the Madding Crowd," in that both incidents cause their respective protagonists to take distant jobs with fateful results. The incentive to read Hardy lies in his ability to put language at the service of one of the greatest functions of literature: to express the deepest desires and emotions of mankind.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Wake me up, Jan. 25 2004
By A Customer
A great windbag of a novel, Hardy seems to think that not only does a grassy meadow take half a chapter to describe, he thinks that everyone else agrees with him. Please. Not the largest complaint I have, but surely the first, is that Hardy's style is like looking up looking up "stone pillar" in a thesaurus, then two others, and then writing down every single synonym. It takes pages for him to describe a dairy farm, and at some point you wonder if he's introducing the farm as a character, it gets so much time.
Not that he seems to spend that much time on his characters; they are created with little that interests, and contain less development that a homeless shelter under President Bush.
Tess is described, at great length, and quite often, as a beautiful woman. Okay, so what? Her personality is so weak I wonder if he even thought about what she would do in a situation, or just had her do whatever the other characters wanted her to do, until the very end, when she makes an out of character action that is supposed to be shocking, but is more perplexing; the character described in the rest of the book wouldn't do that, and there is nothing to indicate why she has a sudden change of being.
Angel is built up as the "perfect prince in shining armor" until he finds out about Tess's secret, when he suddenly acts like a selfish and snotty child that is the very opposite of what he has been in the rest of the book. Then he switches back at the end, with little thought as to why by Hardy, at least not much that is apparent in the book.
Let's see, boring writing style and poorly done characters, what else is there? Ah, plot. The only way to describe plot is that it made the description seem riveting and his characters thought out. He's spend the time to talk about Tess getting a job, then the next chapter she is suddenly running away from it; I felt robbed of the time spent in the build up, and knowing more in detail of what happened in the intervening time from when she got the job to when she quit would have helped with her character. And when you think there is no need for detail, Hardy's got more than enough. He spends ages talking about Tess and Angel's time together at the dairy farm, but none of their actions change the way they feel about each other. He could have cut our some of their horse riding, and no one would complain.
In short, Hardy's the kind of writer who is analogous to a storyteller that likes the sound of his voice; just because he can say something, he does. And in his endless drivel, what might be interesting is skipper over. This guy could have used and editor.
When it first came out, this book was ill received, and I see no reason for anything to have changed since.
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5.0 out of 5 stars certainly one of the greatest novels ever written, Sept. 23 2003
mulcahey (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
I was looking for another edition of TESS and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the "average customer rating" was only three stars. So I'm taking a moment to correct the balance.
TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES must be as close to a perfect novel as anyone has written in English. It is a genuine tragedy with a girl/woman as tragic hero. It is about life on earth in a way that transcends mere sociology. It has the grandeur of Milton but concerns itself with the lives of mortal beings on earth, as much with sex as with dirt, blood, milk, dung, animal and vegetative energies. It concerns itself with only essential things the way the Bible does. It is almost a dark rendering of the Beatitudes.
The story is built with such care and such genius that every incident, every paragraph, reverberates throughout the whole structure. Surely Hardy had an angel on his shoulder when he conceived and composed this work. Yet it was considered so immoral in its time that he had to bowdlerize his own creation in order to get it published, at first. Victorian readers were not prepared for the truth of the lives of ordinary women, or for a great many truths about themselves that Hardy presents.
The use of British history as a hall of mirrors and the jawdropping detail of the landscape of "Wessex" make it the Great English Novel in the way we sometimes refer to MOBY DICK as the Great American Novel, though the works don't otherwise bear comparison. Melville's great white whale is a far punier creation.
Hardy's style is like no one else's. It is not snappy, as Dickens can be. It is not fluid and elegant, like George Eliot's. It can feel labored and awkward and more archaic than either. It has no journalistic flavor, but is painfully pure and deliberate and dense, echoing Homer or the language of the Old Testament rather than anything we think of as "modern." Don't start with TESS but with FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, another very beautiful book, where Hardy is at his loosest and wittiest. Once you have the key to his style, then pick up a good edition of TESS with notes, e.g. Penguin, so you get the full richness of all the literary allusions. Hardy's lowly shepherds and farmhands move and breathe in a very ancient literary atmosphere. The effect is not pretentious but timeless.
There is wisdom, poetry and majesty here. Tess stumbling through the dark and taking her last rest at Stonehenge will send chills up your spine like no other reading experience. I wonder if anyone can know why there are novels, why we care about them, or what they are capable of, without reading this one.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Awful...just plain awful!!, Aug. 31 2003
By A Customer
Okay...I had to read this book as summer reading...I must say I was actually looking foward to reading it...I thought it would be good...I thought wrong. Tess is one of the most awful books I have ever read...Tess is a sap with no spine and an insult to all women. I understand this book was written in an era when women were not strong but still...couldn't Hardy have given Tess some common sense?? This book put me to sleep more than once with its long descriptions of the same valley...and can anything else happen to Tess at the end of this novel? I think every bad thing that could happen to a woman happened to Tess...a bit melodramatic, maybe? I don't know how this book became a classic...was it classic for its ability to put somebody to sleep...or how about sending someone into a depression or fits of anger because Tess is a moron? If you want to read classics read Crime and Punishment or even Madame Bovary...I also had to read those this summer and I actually enjoyed don't go saying to yourself the only reason I don't like this book is because I was forced to read it...I was forced to read those other books and I liked them. In short, I pity anybody who has to read this book...and I don't know how anybody in their right minds could have given this book 5 stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Most Extraordinary Novels Ever, July 23 2003
Despite its seemingly needless tragedy, its persistently downbeat tone, and its relentlessly persecuted heroine, Thomas Hardy's 1891 novel, "Tess of the D'Urbervilles," is without doubt one of the greatest novels I have ever read. And I have read a few. Tess is the only truly well-developed character in the novel, which, coupled with the fact that Hardy renders the landscape of Wessex as to make it a character itself, gives one the sense of a real struggle between humanity and nature. This, for me, is one of the great themes of the novel - the tension between nature and the artifices with which we fill our relations with other people. The beauty of Hardy's pastoral setting is never idyllic - Hardy keeps us always aware that human society, with its false moral standards and technological advancements, is ever encroaching upon the already vanished past.
As the novel begins, Tess Durbeyfield's irresponsible wastrel of a father is casually and jokingly informed by the local minister that he is a descendant of a long-degenerated and disenfranchised noble family, the D'Urbervilles, whose influence stretches back to the Norman invasion. This simple, careless act, nothing more than a name, wreaks such havoc upon everyone in the novel, that I'm actually having a hard time right now even looking at the title - the name itself, now having read the novel, is such a powerful condemnation of status, of privilege, of reputation, of all the injustices of English society from the eighteenth century through the time of this novel, almost the dawn of the twentieth. Sent by her nearly indigent parents, whose heads have swelled with the possibilities of lineage, Tess leaves her home in Marlott, going to claim kinship with the last apparently wealthy D'Urberville, in the village of Trantridge. There she meets Alec D'Urberville, who seduces her. The rest of this powerful novel shows Tess Durbeyfield attempting to piece together a reputable life out of a situation and a condition in which respectability is fundamentally denied her.
"Tess" is a novel steeped, perhaps even choked, with tradition - history, literature, theology, philosphy, economics - Hardy's frame of reference calls all of these to account through the course of the novel. Tess, ostensibly a simple country girl, is forced to reckon with the accumulated weight of human knowledge and thought, no small burden for a girl with only the kind of basic education available in a small rural town. As readers, we are asked to measure the applicability, the efficacy, of the Bible next to Shakespeare, next to Greek mythology next to art - to determine if any of these are capable of fathoming what it means to be human, to endure the myriad experiences of human life, both good and ill.
In her dealings with the changeable Alec D'Urberville, the almost-modern Angel Clare, the farm-hands Izz Huett and Marian, her poor, practically minded mother, Joan, Tess experiences so much of life, mostly of the harshest kind. For me, this is the key facet of the novel. Tess endures. Despite all of her hardships, which are hard indeed, and in the face of the worst kinds of scrutiny and deprecation, both from others and from herself, Tess exhibits a kind of composure, threshold for pain, and strength that are all quite amazing. Daniel Defoe's eighteenth-century "Moll Flanders" is the first character that immediately comes to mind, just in terms of comparable pluck in the face of such overweaning odds.
Though many may disagree with me, I think that Tess, more than simply being the protagonist of the novel, is a real heroine. She is so insistently admirable, so determined to live despite all the forces and pressures arrayed against her from the very outset of the novel, when as a 15 year old girl, she is asked to restore the family's fortunes - it is really just astounding. I regret that I had never read "Tess" before, but I am supremely glad that I have had the chance to do so now. A novel cannot get a higher recommendation from me.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Grim, but beautiful, March 31 2002
By A Customer
This is possibly the saddest novel I have ever read. I have been thinking about it ever since I finished it. Few novels have evoked so much emotion in me. Tess makes me feel sad, frustrated, and angry.
Tess of the Durbervilles is the story of Tess Durbeyfield, the daughter of poor, alcoholic parents who learn that they are of a noble bloodline and send Tess off to work for her noble "cousin" Alec Durberville. While there, Alec rapes Tess and she has his illegitimate baby. This event ruins Tess's life. She is no longer pure, and virginal, and therefore brings shame upon her true love Angel Clare when her past is revealed.
It is hard to believe, in this day and age, that Tess is shamed and ostracized because she was the victim of a horrible crime. Hardy's novel is a powerful statement on the questionable morality of Victorian society. Tess, who is a heroic, brave, caring, selfless woman, is not worthy of Angel because she is somehow impure due to the rape. Angel, who has lived with a woman out of wedlock and is clearly not a virgin himself, feels justified in punishing Tess when he learns of her past.
The writing is beautiful, but the story tragic. It will stay with you a long time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just... wow., March 9 2002
Min Farshaw (Lebanon, NH USA) - See all my reviews
my language arts teacher had my class choose a book to read. I had no idea what I wanted, because she wouldn't allow me to read anything by Stephen King, and I had no other ideas for something worth reading. My friend suggested Tess of the D'bervilles, and so I took it from the school library.
Unfortunately, I started reading it a week before I was supposed, and finished it the next day, and so I must choose another book to read for class.
This is an excellent book that makes you think about what women had to go through a few hundred years ago. It makes you think about the complete lack of backbone shown in Tess untill the very end, when she finally realizes the injustices done to her were NOT her fault. You must remember that she had not been brought up to understand certain things, and could not have understood how to cope, or over come with problems that many women of her time had to face.
The ending was excellent, and rather sad.
If you enjoy learning about history, I suggest reading this book.
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Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Hardcover - Oct. 27 2009)
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