Thursday, May 30, 2019

194. Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Thomas Hardy
Around 450 pages

This was the very first Thomas Hardy I read, which made me quite sure I didn't like him. My blind loyalty to the List made me read more of his work and I discovered I actually adore that man. Still, I would disagree that this is his masterpiece.

The story follows Tess, who is born to poor, uneducated parents. She becomes attracted to Angel (a favorite hot guy name) at the May Dance, but on the way she falls asleep at the reins on her way home, which results in the death of the horse. Tess is persuaded by her family to go "claim kin" with Mrs. d'Urberville, a wealthy widow who shares their name, to cope with the financial loss of the horse. Through this unsuccessful endeavor, she meets Alec, Mrs. d'Urberville's son, who is a "libertine" which is 19th century talk for sociopathic rapist.

I am not entirely sure I can pinpoint why I did not respond to his prose in this novel in my usual way. Hardy is clever enough to critique Victorian views on sexuality, but he wasn't quite progressive enough to know what to do about them, which I think comes out in this work. He has a strange relationship with modernism, as he is still eager to include themes that Industrialization is poisonous, as demonstrated by Alec's behavior. I also felt like the pacing was a bit off. I am not usually bored by Hardy, but some passages felt tedious.

But he is still Thomas Hardy, which means there are plenty of good nuggets in here, as he is a master of description. Still, the best Hardy is yet to come on The List: Jude the Obscure!

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

When he was 16, Thomas Hardy witnessed the hanging of Elizabeth Martha Brown, a woman who murdered her violent husband. The experience compelled him to write Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

Lake scenes from two different adaptations:

UP NEXT: Gosta Berling's Saga by Selma Lagerlof. A female writer? I'm flummoxed!

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