Over the last several months I have been reading one of the most talked about pieces of feminist literature from the Victorian era. Admittedly, it has taken me a long time to finish this masterpiece but it was so worth the wait.
I spent the entirety of this novel with my heart throbbing in my chest as Hardy depicted the horrific lives of women in the 1800s with such honest brutality. I have been dying to write this blog post to explore my thoughts on this book which is so arguably relevant today, especially during this week's light on sexual harassment.
I am about a quarter of the way through this book it having been recommended to me by a friend. Having read a number of Thomas Hardy books in the past she remembers this of all of them as being her favorite. Having read many books by Thomas Hardy myself I have to admit that I am not sure so far why she was so keen on this book in particular.
As with all Thomas Hardy books the book is beautifully written. So far the reader has met few but the main characters as the story takes place in a very small community. The main characters are Elfride the daughter of the local vicar, the vicar himself and Stephen Smith an assistant of a London architect. Stephen comes to stay with the family for a short time to complete drawings of the church and tower which are in need of repair. Although perfectly likable Elfide and Stephen are no Gabriel Oak or Bathsheba Everdene and the story so far although pleasent is very slow moving. As my friend, whose recommendations are usually sound, enjoyed the book so much I can only assume that the story will get going eventually.
Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy - 1891
I couldn't really find a short synopsis describing enough of the story without revealing too much.
Tess Durbeyfield is a girl from a poor family who is thrown into a difficult situation without any fault of herself. This will determine her later life which is not a happy one.
This novel certainly belongs to the tragic ones. A friend of mine said it was the most horrible book she ever read. But usually we disagree about books. As we do this time. I loved this novel. Of course, I didn't like everything that happened to Tess or the other girls in the story, but the way Hardy describes the ordinary people's lives and the countryside is just great. I really enjoyed reading this book.
Based on this thread, this is week one's discussion. Everyone is welcome to participate, though this is primarily geared towards people who appreciate poetry but have not studied it in any academic programme.
<blockquote>The Voice, Thomas Hardy
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!
Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to existlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?
Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves about me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.</blockquote>
And one of the following three questions
I'm quite happy for this to sit in Writers' Corner if it's better there.
By The Bard
I've just finished reading The Woodlanders , which I hadn't re-read since the ice age, and I was somewhat surprised at how ponderous I found Hardy's style in the novel. Very long-winded, more circumlocutions than you can shake a stick at! They struck me as particularly inappropriate given the elemental nature of much that Hardy is writing about. However, I was interested to come across the passages concerning the 1857 Divorce and Matrimonial Act, on which, of course the last part of the plot hinges. I had forgotten all about that, but shouldn't have since I use extracts from the Act as a contextual document in my edition of Pinero's The Second Mrs Tanqueray which I've mentioned in another thread. The Act is but background for the play, but quite crucial for Hardy's novel.