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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.
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.
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.
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?