This novel, although classic, did not move me as many other classics do. Several factors contributed to this, including a violation by a blood relative at the beginning of the novel, overly descriptive language describing the land, and the utter helplessness of the heroine. She is completely unable to stand up for herself. A reader will roll his or her eyes many times at Tess's attempt at self-futility, most pointedly during the scene where her husband reacts to her "secret." Some say her final act in this book makes up for the weakness she exhibits throughout, but for me, I didn't think so. Only recommended if you've got a misogynistic streak.
The text is very good, I have not finished the book yet because of lack of time. What I find most irritating about the book is the non margin on inner side of the pages. Almost impossible to read, a constant struggle to keep the book opened wide enough to read. How did the publishers ever get away with being so stingy with paper?
Although the experts deem this to be one of Hardys best novels, I found it to be a slow-moving soap opera: a triangular variation of the Hester Prynne-Rev. Dimmesdale saga, but much longer. In this, our heroine, Tess, seduced by a false dUrberville finally marries a Mr. Claire, the third son of a stalwart preacher, only to be immediately spurned by her new husband. What ensues are the trials and tribulations that she faces after being abandoned. It seems that what deserves forgiveness in the gander holds not for the goose. All this ends abruptly and unexpectedly in the conclusion. Hardy forces the readers imagination early in the story and again throughout; one must read between the lines and fill in the details. Thus, amplification of the seduction is largely in the mind of the reader, as are the fates of Tess and Mr. Claire at the conclusion.
Violated by one man, forsaken by another, Tess Durbeyfield is the magnificent heroine of Thomas Hardy. Using the innocent and powerless victim, Tess, he creates profound sympathy for human fraility. This classic is still consider one of the best.
A review from Amazon.com:
Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles is one of the best stories I've ever read. Its characters, especially Tess herself, are so alive and memorable that they stay in your mind long after you've finished the book. That being said, though, it's also not a novel for the casual reader. This book is so thought-provoking and, ultimately, heartbraking that it can't be easily forgotten, and will more than likely leave you with an overwhelming sadness for a long time afterward. I read a lot, and material with very different subject matters, so I'm not being melodramatic when I say that this book left me extremely choked up, and almost on the verge of tears. For a guy in his mid-20's who never gets emotional, I think that's saying quite a lot. It certainly left me with a lot of respect for the author. The reader comes to care so much about Tess, and agonize over the way her life turns out, that it becomes almost unbearable at times. For a fictional tale to have that effect on a person is quite incredible. Difficult or not, anyone who is interested in reading a brilliant and moving story that deserves to be called a classic should read Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
A beautifully written allegorical insight into changing English mores at a time of great social and economic upheaval. The gross injustice of it through contemporary eyes kept me both angry and intrigued.