Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

I have been meaning to read Tess for a long time now, but I just never got around to it.  I mentioned to one of my co-workers that I wanted to read it and she bought me a copy for Christmas.  Love her for this.  I loved this book.  I love discovering classics for the first time.

Summary: Tess Durbeyfield is a common girl, with a father who tends to drink more than he works and a mother who is always tending to the children and household duties.  When her father discovers that the Durbeyfields may actually be descendents of the D’Urbervilles he sends his oldest daughter, Tess, off to try and claim some of their fortunes.  Tess meets Alec D’Urberville, who takes an instant liking to Tess.  What happens between Tess and Alec is not quite clear.  However, what is made clear is that Tess no longer has her virtue and is now with child.  Whether is was rape or not is sort of glossed over by Hardy.  Tess returns home, unwed and with child.  She gives birth to a son whom she names Sorrow and who dies within the first few months of his life.  Tess again leaves home and goes to work as a milkmaid.  Here Tess meets and falls in love with Angel Clare.  She wants to tell Angel the truth about her past, but fears he will no longer love her when he discovers she is not a chaste woman.  They marry and on their wedding night Tess is honest with Angel, hoping his love for her will overcome her past.  However, this is not the case and Angel cannot handle the truth.  He separates from her and heads off to South America, leaving Tess alone and devastated.  Can their love overcome past mistakes?  Will Angel ever forgive Tess?   You need to read this book to find out.

Review:  Again, I loved this book.  Hardy’s style is so engaging. There were moments when I just wanted to punch Angel Clare in the face, which to me is always a sign I am connecting with characters and am engaged in the story.

I felt as though the author sometimes hovered over the characters giving an overview of what was happening, distanced from the characters, and then zoned in on the characters and their emotions. Like a bird, who comes in for a closer look.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the role that nature and setting took.  They were crucial parts of the book, reflecting Tess’s conflicts.  I am considering using excerpts of this book with my students so they can analyze this aspect.