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Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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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.

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I loved this book too. I wish I'd read it when I was a moody teenager, as I think I could've identified with Tess and her misery!

 

Very sad but a great book.

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We recently read this at our reading group - I admit I was very reluctant as I had tried to read it without much success some years earlier. However, was pleasantly surprised how much I thoroughly enjoyed it, quite literally I couldn't put it down. Tess portrays such a tragic figure with whom you cannot help but sympathise - and the ending - without spoiling it for others - left me thinking about it for days after. Superb read.

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Can't add much to what Trev has written but I love this book and have always felt so sorry for Tess. I have read critiques of Tess's character by some American women on a U.S book site who can't seem to understand why she couldn't be more 'pro-active' and assertive, completely disregarding that a village girl like Tess was the the product of the mores and social background of her times.

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Tess is indeed a marvellous novel and deeply moving. I would agree that the ending lives with you for some time!

 

I find Hardy's at his best when he plays the darker tunes and what works so well here is that you have the wonderfully bright counterpoint of Tess herself, an evocatively sympathetic character who keeps us tightly involved with her story. I love Hardy's interweaving of patterns in history (such as the resurgent link between the Durbeyfields and D'Urbervilles, or the scene at Stonehenge) as well as within Tess's life. There is some beautiful writing in this novel and the eulogy for passing rural life is as poignant and involving as ever. It's a very effectively structured novel, with the events at Talbothays providing a wonderful and beautiful oasis amidst the troubles elsewhere. There are also many classic scenes that still live vividly in my mind - the strawberry incident; Stonehenge; Prince's fate; the drip!

 

It is one of the great tragic novels of the nineteenth century, although I think there's a slight weakness of sentimentality at points as Hardy becomes deeply attached to his heroine. This doesn't happen with the male lead, Henchard, in The Mayor of Casterbridge, which is part of why I ultimately think that is the better novel of the two. Still, to choose a diamond over a ruby is hardly to dismiss one of them as hopelessly inferior!

 

I also had a slight problem with

 

 

the note of confession under Angel's door going under the carpet instead. Just a little too convenient. Of course, contrivance in Victorian literature has been discussed at length elsewhere, so I don't object on those grounds, more that it is less subtle than Hardy normally manages - it simply seems out of harmony with the normal fabric of his work.

 

 

I would thoroughly recommend it.

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Thanks, David. You should do this for a living. ;)

 

Anyway, I think the problems some people have with this novel are the same as they have with other classics. They don't understand the difference between life now and then.

 

I love classics for this. We can only learn from the past - and we can only learn from it if we understand it. Therefore I still think it is a good idea to have children at school read the classics. However, whether they would learn from Tess at that age .... I doubt it very much. The whole situation is too complex to be understood and interpreted by teenagers for their own lives

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Tess is the only Hardy novel that I have read in full and I thought it was extremely moving. You can really feel the love Hardy felt for Tess herself, with all the gorgeous descriptions of her beauty, the sweetness of her character and her suffering.

 

But as much as I loved Tess I never really warmed to Angel.

Even considering the time in which the novel was set, I thought the way that he condemned her was terrible, he left her for more than a year! I went through the book thinking that he really didn't deserve Tess at all. I didn't like the idea of Angel and Liza-Lu at the end either.

 

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I loved this book too. I wish I'd read it when I was a moody teenager, as I think I could've identified with Tess and her misery!

 

Very sad but a great book.

 

I read it at 16 so still at my moodyish age, and very feminist in my ideas so this book definately created some sparks for me.

I loved the descriptions of the scenery, the long walks over meadows and the Stonehenge scene. Really a book I must read again.

 

Somebody said that school children should be made to read it, I think the girls would enjoy it, but the boys wouldn't, plus we usually stick to a lot smaller pre 20th century novels unfortunately. It was on the A Level course that I took, inspired me to read many other Hardy works and become for a year or so a favorite author.

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As I said earlier, I doubt that many schoolchildren will benefit from this. And you might have become a Hardy and classic fan anyway. Or not.

Therefore, even if there is only one student every year who starts loving the classics because of this, it is probably worth it.

What do you think, are there any students who might become readers of classics if they were not introduced to them at school?

Although, come to think of it, maybe I should open a thread for this in the Central Library section.

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This has got to be one of my favourite novels of all time. I studied it for A level and have loved it ever since. Many people find Hardy depressing, but I find there is a lot of colour in Tess, despite the hard working background. The imagery of the strawberries and the blood, the way the crimson colour crops up every now and then, is ingenious. I see this book as a succession of colours, Talbothays = yellow, Flintcomb Ash = grey etc. (Synaesthesia or Hardy's clever construction?)

 

I finally ditched my A level copy last year in favour of a new one bought at Hardy's Cottage; another excuse to read the book yet again!

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I finally ditched my A level copy last year in favour of a new one bought at Hardy's Cottage;....
Oh, no :eek: . Doesn't that have a historical value for you? ;)

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Oh, no :eek: . Doesn't that have a historical value for you? ;)

Oh it did, but it was soooo old, some of the notes pages were missing, and it was absolutely covered in annotation. Actually, I am beginning to regret getting rid of it now :cry: . I sent it book-crossing in March, down at Hanley Swan, Worcs, and no-one has claimed they have it yet!!!

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This book is beautifully tragic, I found it so sad but very compelling. I really loved reading it, and found it strange that I was enjoying something so sad! But Hardy writes beautifully, I have a soft spot for his work even though I haven't read it all. He captures emotions not just of individuals but of society in general, and manages to make profound social commentary without forcing it down your throat.

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Like everyone else, I found the book moving and sad. It is difficult to come to terms with Tess' acceptance of Clare's treatment of her, though, and I think that the book really shows its age in this regard. It's not as timeless as some of the other classics, and I think that might cause a problem for readers to the extent that the book might not be read as much as it should be.

 

Hardy does feel for Tess, but he stops short of rescuing her from her desperately hard life, which, to me, suggests that he doesn't care more for her than he cares for social convention. I do admire him, though, for telling it like it was for many women.

 

I agree with what someone else said about it being difficult to like Clare. I found him extremely condescending, even though he wanted to elevate her from her life of poverty. His wish to educate her was always on his terms and it's difficult to like him, despite his notions being perfectly blameless and even noble from the point of view of the society he is a product of.

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Hardy does feel for Tess, but he stops short of rescuing her from her desperately hard life, which, to me, suggests that he doesn't care more for her than he cares for social convention. I do admire him, though, for telling it like it was for many women.

 

I can't agree about Hardy caring for social convention. Surely he flew in the face of it in writing Tess at all, a novel that scandalised the reading public of the time. And you wouldn't want a happy ending with Tess reconciled to either Angel or Alex - or would you? To be frank, though, the novel is hellishly dated now, nobody giving a fig for loss of virginity and the melodrama is less than gripping. I prefer The Woodlanders.

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"In Our Time" - this morning on BBC Radio4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests spend a fascinating 43minutes talking about Tess of the d'Urbervilles. You can listen to the discussion by following the link above.

 

I hadn't realised that it was originally published as a magazine serial, and that there are significant differences between that version and the final novel.

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I listened last Thursday and found it very interesting.  I like the way Melvyn steps in when one of the academics starts to hold forth on some abstruse literary point that most readers would have been entirely unaware of.  Anyway, he quickly sorted that out.  He evidently loved the novel.  I always have.

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