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Archive 2018 Group Reads > 2018 July Tess of the D'Ubervilles

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message 1: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Tess Durbeyfield is a 16-year-old simple country girl, the eldest daughter of John and Joan Durbeyfield. In a chance meeting with Parson Tringham along the road one night, John Durbeyfield discovers that he is the descendent of the d'Urbervilles, an ancient, monied family who had land holdings as far back as William the Conqueror in 1066. Upon this discovery, the financially strapped Durbeyfield family learns of a nearby "relative," and John and his wife Joan send Tess to "claim kin" in order to alleviate their impoverished condition. While visiting the d'Urbervilles at The Slopes, Tess meets Alec d'Urberville, who finds himself attracted to Tess. Alec arranges for Tess to become the caretaker for his blind mother's poultry, and Tess moves to The Slopes to take up the position. 518 pages


message 2: by María (new)

María | 30 comments Just started! The beginning sounds promising, let's see what happens.


message 3: by Bernard (new)

Bernard Smith | 2177 comments I think I understand the plot, but what is the Long Depression?


message 4: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Thanks for joining in with us Maria!
Happy Reading!


message 5: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
The Long Depression was a worldwide recession it started around 1873 and totally ended in 1896. It was the worst in Europe and the United States.


message 6: by Bernard (new)

Bernard Smith | 2177 comments Thanks Lesle. I am learning history here, as well as literature!


message 7: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
No problem.
I love looking into things like that. I also like looking into the Author's own personal history, feel like it makes me a little more rounded.


message 8: by Brian E (last edited Jul 08, 2018 08:33AM) (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments Lesle wrote: "I also like looking into the Author's own personal history, feel like it makes me a little more rounded."

Every year I seem to get 'a little more rounded' too, unfortunately.

I will join this in a re-read, finishing up my recent re-reads of Hardy's Big 5:Far From the Madding Crowd, Return of the Native, Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess and Jude.
Hardy is my favorite author and I've read all 14 of his novels, though I can't get myself to read his poetry.


message 9: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8939 comments Mod
That is too bad, Brian. Hardy's poetry is very accessible and I love reading it.


message 10: by Brian E (last edited Jul 08, 2018 12:55PM) (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments Rosemarie wrote: "That is too bad, Brian. Hardy's poetry is very accessible and I love reading it."

For some reason, I have trouble with any poetry, not just Hardy's. It takes a certain reading and understanding skill that I appear to struggle with. But I'm still only 65, so I have time to master, or at least grapple with, that skill. I just don't take the time now since I have so many novels to read. One should always have some mountain left to climb.


message 11: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8939 comments Mod
So true. I do hope you climb it someday, Brian.


message 12: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
I like poetry that makes sense to me without a whole lot of thought!


message 13: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments Lesle wrote: "I like poetry that makes sense to me without a whole lot of thought!"

If you just substitute the word 'anything' for 'poetry,' I'll second that.


message 14: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments FINISHED CHAPTER XVII
I just want to comment on a character in the dairyman's story in Chapter 17, fiddler William Dewy. Hardy first used him as a fiddler for the Mellstock choir in his second novel, Under the Greenwood Tree. His grandson is one of the 3 suitors of Miss Fancy Day in that novel which, along with Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd and The Trumpet Major, all feature a woman having 3 suitors.
Since Hardy uses the same place names in his Wessex novels, I shouldn't be surprised that there is an occasional character crossover. I just hadn't noticed it other novels or when I read Tess before.


message 15: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments FINISHED PHASE THE FOURTH & Chapter XXXV
Phase The Fourth finished in the middle of a climatic episode so I had to read at least one additional chapter, even though I knew what was coming. I was reminded that the novel was first serialized, and like many serials it stops at a cliffhanger (a term derived from an actual cliffhanger in Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes).
I'm reminded of the story of how the American crowds waited at the piers for the latest installment of Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop to find out the fate of little Nell.


message 16: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8939 comments Mod
There is a fantasy series that I have been reading for over 20 years and I place the book on hold at the library as soon as I know it is available.

I read Tess quite a few years and remember that it has a very dramatic ending.
The last Hardy novel I read was Jude the Obscure, which I think is a complete contrast to Tess.
Hardy has created quite a range of characters, moods, and situations in his novels, but his description of the natural surroundings is consistently well written, verging towards poetry at times.


message 17: by Fannie (new)

Fannie D'Ascola | 55 comments That is interesting Brian, I didn’t know that. I read it some time ago, but now I am curious to look at it again.

Rosemary, I am curious, what is the serie?


message 18: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8939 comments Mod
The series is The Magic of Recluce etc. by L.E. Modesitt Jr.. Outcasts of Order is the latest book in the series. They are really good.


message 19: by Trisha (new)

Trisha | 994 comments Brian wrote: "FINISHED CHAPTER XVII
I just want to comment on a character in the dairyman's story in Chapter 17, fiddler William Dewy. Hardy first used him as a fiddler for the Mellstock choir in his second nove..."


Brian, the place names are consistent because they are real places, renamed by Hardy. For example, Casterbridge is Dorchester in Dorset, UK. Many of the buildings described were real too. Last time I was in Dorchester, Henchard’s house was in use as a bank, & the public house was still a pub/hotel. The wonderful earthwork Maiden Castle is worth visiting - it’s huge! It was staying in the area for holidays that made me start to read the novels many years ago. Imagine reading on a beach, then another day actually seeing the book’s setting - magical!


message 20: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie That is nice to know Trisha. Must make a trip there sometime now!


message 21: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments Trisha, I'm jealous, I was able to read while visiting real sites with Willa Cather and Thomas Wolfe, but to do it with my greatest author love, Hardy, would be heavenly joy.
About 36 years ago, my wife and I were planning a trip to England to visit London and then visit Hardy's Wessex and all the places he cited in his books, including Casterbridge/Dorchester. It was to be a last fling before we started to try getting pregnant when... whoops, she got pregnant. Then life got in the way. Now that the kids are grown, I'm fairly immobile,
But maybe someday ...after some replacement surgeries.


message 22: by Trisha (last edited Jul 19, 2018 09:19AM) (new)

Trisha | 994 comments Brian wrote: "Trisha, I'm jealous, I was able to read while visiting real sites with Willa Cather and Thomas Wolfe, but to do it with my greatest author love, Hardy, would be heavenly joy.
About 36 years ago, my..."


So sorry to see this, Brian. I really hope that one day you’ll be able to follow your dream.

I wasn’t planning to read Tess this time - but after discussing this with you, I’m about to start. You’ve brought back lots of memories!


message 23: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) Brian wrote: "FINISHED PHASE THE FOURTH & Chapter XXXV
Phase The Fourth finished in the middle of a climatic episode so I had to read at least one additional chapter, even though I knew what was coming. I was re..."


interesting observation - I did not pick up on this when I read it a few months back.


message 24: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie Gosh Brian! I am sure you will follow your dream one day. Chin up as they say!


message 25: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments Catherine wrote: "Gosh Brian! I am sure you will follow your dream one day. Chin up as they say!"

Boy, the expressions of sympathy mean I may have overdone it a bit with my wistful thoughts. When we felt any remorse for missing the Hardy country/London trip due to early-onset parenthood, we'd think of our friends and family who never could get pregnant, and feel so lucky. Yes, life got in the way, but its been a great life even without the trip.
If I ever think I should have tried harder to arrange such a trip while raising the family instead of deferring to retirement and the unexpected mobility issues, I ask what would I have sacrificed for it? College money? No, I'm fine with it all. But, I still do expect to get there.


message 26: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie I was just referring to the replacement surgeries.But good to know there is hope still.😊


message 27: by Brian E (last edited Jul 20, 2018 10:10AM) (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments Catherine wrote: "I was just referring to the replacement surgeries.But good to know there is hope still.😊"

I cite the classic novel Catch-22 when talking about my replacement surgeries: I need to lose 20+ pounds before getting the replacement surgeries but need the replacement surgeries in order be able to exercise and lose the 20+ pounds.
Actually, I do some exercise anyway and I will diet, so it isn't a true Catch 22, but that doesn't prevent me from citing it. Unfortunately, my mobility issues don't prevent me from reaching the refrigerator. Thanks, Catherine!


message 28: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie Ha,ha.This is priceless! Well done.


message 29: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments In Phase the Fifth, I am slightly surprised to find that Hardy, in describing Tess's possible offspring, refers to the words of Sully Prudhomme, an author unknown to me the first time I read Tess.
Prudhomme was a French poet and the first Nobel Prize in Literature winner in 1901. I have now discovered that Prudhomme was a well-established literary figure by the time Tess was written in 1891.
I would have liked to say it was one Nobel winner citing another but, as with many great authors, there was no such honor for Hardy. While some greats like Proust, Chekhov, Woolf, Fitzgerald and Orwell died before they might have received an award, Hardy lived until 1928, for 28 years of Nobel eligibility, all after his final masterpiece in 1896, Jude the Obscure.


message 30: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) | 729 comments Brian wrote: "Rosemarie wrote: "That is too bad, Brian. Hardy's poetry is very accessible and I love reading it."

For some reason, I have trouble with any poetry, not just Hardy's. It takes a certain reading an..."


I have to read poetry out loud otherwise I also struggle with gaining any understanding. I started to enjoy poetry once I started doing this. Another thing that helped was to allow myself to let the poetry speak to me rather than stress over what the poet may have meant, or what it means to others.


message 31: by Brian E (last edited Jul 27, 2018 11:27AM) (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments FINISHED THE NOVEL - SPOILERS

I first read this book, not too long before I saw the movie with my wife, which then would have been before Christmas 1980. My initial comment after the re-read:

I admire how ambiguous Hardy makes the initial Alec/Tess sexual encounter. (The movie may have been less ambiguous) His description of the encounter and later references leave clues so one could think it was clear rape or a voluntary seduction and degrees in-between.
In my view, it doesn't matter that much. Even if in any degree voluntary, Tess was still a victim and wronged by society and Angel. As to the murder, the best defense is that it was voluntary manslaughter rather than murder, which depends on evidence of provocation or diminished responsibility at the time. The intervening time and Tess's actions in being with Alec probably prevent using the rape as legal provocation or and her best defense is an abrupt emotional reaction or a diminished capacity brought on by Alec's belittling of her and Angel.
However, I believe Tess really killed Alec since she thought, as averred by Angel himself earlier, it was only with Alec dead that Tess could be Angel's true wife and love. Yes, it was an immediate emotional reaction, but as much to Angel's appearance as Alec's actions. I'd have sent her to jail for manslaughter.
Tragedy is most tragic when, as here or a Romeo and Juliet, the bad events could have easily been avoided by a bit better timing. Here, Angel was too late.


message 32: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) SPOILERS DISCUSSED

Maybe I've missed something but I did not find Tess-Alec encounter ambiguous, it's interesting how we all read things differently.

I read this a few months ago, and commenting on this memory:

down the line, when Alec meets Tess again, he tells her he is a changed man, who now follows the word of god, he even apologizes for (how I read it) forcing himself on him, but then, not being able to keep his attraction for Tess under wraps, makes her feel responsible and then starts stalking her.

So from this angle could it really be called self-defence?

What intrigued me, is how to me it looked like Hardy carefully plotted this storyline.

On the surface it invites a debate of whether or whether not Tess was raped.

But i got the impression that really the entire scene was a like a metaphor for Hardy to bolster the commentary he was making about religion, a thread that was quietly unraveling in the background throughout this book.

But, that's the way I read it, and I like how we all read differently.


message 33: by Catherine (last edited Jul 29, 2018 12:48AM) (new)

Catherine Habbie Yes, I too felt that he could not be blamed entirely. It was building up and was a foregone conclusion. Although, consent matters! Having said that, Tess was enveloped by guilt all her life. Her very short married life was peppered with loads of it too. Death of her rival in love probably triggered the impending sense of doom. Hardy does build up the scene for the climax. The gruesome end though was totally unexpected and avoidable. It just adds to the pathos in Tess' life. Religion, merely added to the guilt and 'reformation'.


message 34: by Trisha (last edited Jul 28, 2018 11:57PM) (new)

Trisha | 994 comments SPOILERS DISCUSSED

I finished this & was shocked by the ending! When I started the book I assumed I’d read it before - but found I hadn’t, so it was a real treat.

I agree with the comments above about rape & religion. But it also seemed to me that Angel was incredibly selfish. He just did what he wanted. He was cruel to Tess immediately after their wedding - but considered having an affair himself. Towards the end of the book, he wanted to be with Tess again. Did he really love her, or was she just acceptable then because he was ill? Was he lonely, or scared of dying alone?


message 35: by Brian E (last edited Jul 29, 2018 02:14PM) (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments SPOILERS

Trisha, I generally agree with your assessment of Angel. Yes, he is way too selfish to be heroic. But he is really not as selfish as some other males in the story, such as Alec and Tess's father. He is just so weak and impulsive. He thinks he's an enlightened and a religious freethinker and then reacts in such a standard religious way to Tess's revelation.
He definitely is not worthy of devotion of such depth that Tess, as Izz averred she would, ultimately gives her life for this devotion, In Angel's behalf, though, few would be so worthy.


message 36: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) SPOILERS DISCUSSED

Yeah, that ending was shocking.

In how I read it I got the impression, aside from the fact that Angel needed to do some more growing up, social pressures influenced his treatment of Tess. I thought he had an idealised notion of what love / marriage / wife means. I did kind of wonder if Hardy was using the Tess-Angel storyline to underline the cruelty and confusion caused when meeting Society's ideals, especially when founded in religion ???

And up to the last page I was confident that Angel regretted the choices he made and how it impacted Tess, because he did really love her --- but then --- what confused me was the last page, where I got the impression that with Liza-Lu he’s already gotten over his remorse as they walk off together in the sunset.

Maybe I read the ending wrong – but I thought getting over it that quickly, that’s tough


message 37: by Brian E (last edited Jul 30, 2018 10:25AM) (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments I was a little surprised too that Angel and Liza-Lu were already walking off into the sunset BEFORE the black flag flew. Yes, you can read it differently and say they didn't stick around to avoid the pain, which is probably what is intended, though I think Hardy primarily just wanted to set up the nice visual.
I'll look at the future positively, Liza Lu and he are well-matched in maturity levels so maybe they can grow up together. I see Angel having a successful farm, taking care of Liza-Lu, and having a daughter named Tess. He gets over his remorse by thinking her actions show that Tess was mentally ill. Like an Anna Karenina.
In that scenario, Tess died so Angel and Liza-Lu could have better lives than if Tess hadn't killed Alec.


message 38: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) This was my 2nd Hardy novel I finished. I've been buying the Audible Originals that are narrated by famous actors. Return of the Native was read by the incomparable Alan Rickman, and Tess by Peter Firth.

I never thought of Tess as mentally ill. She was a victim of circumstance. Her father, Alec, Angel, and society all victimized her. Liza Lu may have made the same decision had she been put in the same situations.

Just my 2 cents.


message 39: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments I was describing the thought process Angel may use to get over his remorse in order to live happily ever after with his mini-Tess. I personally didn't think of Tess as mentally ill, but maybe I'll ponder that issue a bit more.

Peter Firth played Angel in the 1979 movie of TESS


message 40: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) Interesting hypothesis Brian - it could be a sequel :)

I've not read Anna K, Ummmm, yet - working up to it

But Tess sacrificing herself for others to be happy - I didn't think of that, I'm trying to remember that ending, and doesn't she tell Angel that Liza-Lu is a better version of herself, or something along those lines ???


Kirsten --- Rickman, brilliant actor and with that voice I bet can bring any novel to life in an entertaining way


message 41: by Trisha (new)

Trisha | 994 comments Some very interesting points raised. Yes, I agree with Inkspill that Tess had almost told them to be together, so there was some justification in the ending. Brian, I didn’t think Tess was mentally ill, I think she was just poorly educated & expected to conform to what others, especially men, told her to do. She was violent just once, when she was frustrated, upset & in a panic.


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