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Tess of the D'Urbervilles
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September 2019: Cultural > Tess of the D'Urbervilles | Thomas Hardy | 5 shining stars

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Idit | 1028 comments Years ago, I read an article by Cardinal Pell (not sure if he is known outside of Australia) - then a condescending asshole, now a convicted criminal. In his story he was commemorating 50 years to the invention of the pill. He was bemoaning how the pill rather than emancipated women actually harmed them. The whole essay was patronizing and misleading and stayed in my mind since then.

As I was reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles, I was saying in my mind again and again: Thank goodness for the pill. How lucky we are to live in a world post-pill (which broke free one of the last shackles that were physically holding the early feminism from what it became after.


here we go - short synopsis: Tess grows in an poor family in a small lovely village. When her father hears that he is the last direct descendant of a noble line, he gets more ambitious, and this is where things start to derail. Tess is sent off to find support at a distant and wealthy branch of that family name, and instead of support she is being used. She tries to get her life back in order only to fall in love with a guy that expect forgiveness for his past follies, but can't forgive hers. would you be surprised if I tell you it's a tragedy?

Tess is strong and weak, proud but also blames herself for everything. Alec is an absolute creep. He is spoiled and entitled, obsessive and abusing his power. classic villain. Angel is good. But also rigid, and expects from her purity that he doesn't expect from himself and does wrong by her. And when he realizes he need to fix things - it's too little too late

Big spoiler here:(view spoiler)


In between, there are amazing descriptions of nature, and of people. Of village work, of social interactions, of friendships and heartbreaks. 

It’s such a good book and creates a real world that while reading it I was inwardly shouting many other things. Like ‘don’t do it Tess’, or ‘Alec, you creep!’

Thomas Hardy... man... I've never read anything by him. He was truly wonderful writer. And he questions everything. The unfair power balance towards women, religions, goodness and evil, modernism, using of poor people in farms, the importance of bloodlines and noble old houses.

I’d love to know how people read it before the 1960s. They probably could identify her fatalism and hopelessness much more then we today (although it’s not like our world is not riddled with tragedy this day and age)


btw -It made me wonder again about A Town Like Alice (which I read a month ago) - how Nevil Shute needed the extra layer of a man to tell the story of a woman, while here he managed to describe her as a human so so well

btw 2 - Angel at some moments reminded me of Lev in Anna Karenina, but Hardy didn't dwell with Angel for too long, and was much more critical of his values and manifest


Joy D | 3068 comments Great review, If it! This book is one of my all time favorites. Glad you enjoyed it too


message 3: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7644 comments Okay, this confirms it: I need to get to this book.


message 4: by Karin (last edited Sep 09, 2019 05:31PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Karin | 6882 comments I hope you like it, Nicole. I read it as a teen and remember not liking it--I suspect because it is a tragedy.

The original title was:

Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented

but it challenged the sexual mores of the day.

BUT, bear in mind that my mother was using birth control BEFORE the pill! Condoms and diaphragms were around--the diaphragm came out in 1950, but I'm not sure if single women could get those or not, but men could buy condoms. I'm not sure if spermicidals were around yet, but I think my mother's mother and father probably used condoms since that family is VERY fertile and they only had four daughters. Their parents came from large farming families, though, so my mother had over 50 first cousins ranging from her mother's age to younger than me.

She wasn't using it after she got engaged, though, because I was started in between the short time between their fun, but not legal in the US or Canada Tijuana wedding and the one in San Diego. I was NOT born in the 1950s, though.


Idit | 1028 comments That’s a good point Karin.
Even though - the power was in the hands of doctors dispensing the diaphragms and man with condoms or other ways. (Although doctors have to give pills too...)

Anyways...
I loved it. Even though it was a tragedy. Of course it’s of it time in many ways


Idit | 1028 comments I always had a list of old novels with women’s name that I was going to read at some point. I finally got to Tess - night use this as motivation to move to the rest: Mol Flanders & Effi Briest where both on my tbr for years but also lately I’ve found Evelina and Adeline (I’m curious if both because of people in life with these names)


Karin | 6882 comments Idit wrote: "That’s a good point Karin.
Even though - the power was in the hands of doctors dispensing the diaphragms and man with condoms or other ways. (Although doctors have to give pills too...)

Anyways....."


The pill was first prescribed in 1957 only for menstrual problems.

But the pill my mother took in the 1960s was VERY strong--she started taking it fairly early on, but after I was born. I am not sure if she took it in between my sister and me or not, but definitely after my sister was born.

By the mid-1970s teen girls of a certain age could get diaphragms, etc, in British Columbia; I know some who did. There was at least one free clinic in Vancouver where you could go to get measured without your family doctor knowing.


message 8: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7644 comments Karin wrote: "I hope you like it, Nicole. I read it as a teen and remember not liking it--I suspect because it is a tragedy.

The original title was:

Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented..."


Thanks for the heads up! Reading tragedies doesn't bother me, but now I will be sure to be prepared for it.

I always waiver between this and Far From the Madding Crowd. I think that is why I have never read either, I am frozen with indecision! lol


Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5537 comments Yay, another Tess fan! I read it in high school (circa 1964 or 1965) Loved it. I've read it three or four times and still love it. I think the last time I did the audio version. Hardy's prose is just magnificent!

Oh, and the movie starring Nastassja Kinski -- spectacular cinematography!


annapi | 4856 comments One of my favorite classics. When I read this, somewhere in my late teens or tweens, at a time when I tried to read more classics on my own, I was very surprised at how readable it was (unlike Dickens, for example) and I enjoyed it very much.


message 11: by Idit (new) - rated it 5 stars

Idit | 1028 comments Book Concierge wrote: "Yay, another Tess fan! I read it in high school (circa 1964 or 1965) Loved it. I've read it three or four times and still love it. I think the last time I did the audio version. Hardy's prose is ju..."

His prose is wonderful.
would you recommend any other of his books?

and I'm always scared of movies after books, but maybe with the right expectations...

I actually started reading it because in the new Tarantino film Sharon Tate collects the book from a shop - she says she is buying it for her husband Roman. :)


message 12: by Idit (new) - rated it 5 stars

Idit | 1028 comments annapi wrote: "One of my favorite classics. When I read this, somewhere in my late teens or tweens, at a time when I tried to read more classics on my own, I was very surprised at how readable it was (unlike Dick..."

I haven't read, but only listened to Bleak House as audio - and I found it very listen-able, but I agree that Tess stayed somehow feeling fresh. I sometime had to rethink if he really wrote it so long ago
A really impressive book


NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 4890 comments Great review! I remember thinking the same thing when I read it (thank goodness for the pill, and more forgiving modern attitudes). I loved the tragic beauty of it, but I was angry that she was treated so poorly. I'm tempted to read it again.


Anita Pomerantz | 6249 comments Great review! One of the very few books I have read twice . . .and your review actually makes me want to return to it.


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