Book Review : Tess of the d’Ubervilles

3 minute read

I just recently finished reading Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy about a week ago. This isn’t a representative sample of the type of books I usually read. I saw it collecting dust in a closet and decided to give it a shot.

Inside of the book I found a receipt from a book store called Super Crown. Super Crown is a book store a few minutes from my house that went out of business years ago, I don’t think the new Borders helped it much. The receipt was dated 01/16/99, Tess of the d’Urbervilles was purchased for $4.46 along with A Civil Action. I must have had to purchase this book for class, in January of 99’ I should have been in 8th grade. I know for a fact that I didn’t read this book, I also don’t remember it being assigned. It makes sense though, searching online I found that it had a reading level of 8.36 and grade level of 8 to 9.

To me though it seems like the reading level should be much higher, I barely got through it. I must of put it down after the first chapter in 8th grade because I didn’t understand one bit of it. As I dove in, I found out that this was a harder task than it first seemed. I had to recruit a dictionary to be by my side to help me get through the chapters. Often I would get bored and set the book aside for a few months. It took me two years to finish it. I think if you can get past the first third, the rest of the book will start to flow easier.

I can say I appreciate this book for what it is, even though I admit it isn’t my style. It was very well written. I could see why someone might think of re-reading it to get a fuller understanding and absorb more of it. Lots of the phrases were deep and flavorful, many of them in an older kind of English. I couldn’t relate much with any of the main characters, only parts of each of them.

** SPOILER ALERT ** (actually discussing the plot)

The main character of the novel is Tess. It is stated numerous time that she has good looks, but she annoyed me many times. I couldn’t understand why she loved Angel so much, and rejected Alec so much. Well I can understand why she hated him after he raped her, but not before. It’s almost as if she knew what was going to happen before it happened, and acted distressed preemptively. I thought Alec acted rather suave, he was light-hearted, wealthy, and fun going. Alec’s aggressiveness and assertiveness seemed to turn her off.

I was mainly turned off by Angel after his reaction to Tess confessing she wasn’t a virgin during their honey moon. In this part of the book, the difference between the 1800s and the present really show their great divide. I would more have understand Angel’s reaction if he himself was a virgin, he  admitted at the same time he wasn’t. So him applying the double standard was tragic and wrong.

But I’m not letting Tess of the Hook. It’s amazing how both Strong yet weak she was at the same time. At first she swore to herself she would never marry and live a hermit life of desolation after being raped. Then she became engaged to Angel, kept on telling herself she would tell him the truth, kept on rejecting him saying that she wasn’t good enough yet wouldn’t tell him why. She never had the strength to just tell him before the wedding though she had more than enough time. Yet after he left her by departing to Brazil she had the pride and strength to toil herself on the fields for hours a day earning nothing and going broke. I did think the ending was pretty good though. She let off some of that pent up anger, feeding off some of that enraged d’Uberville blood, and went out with a bang!

Looking through the Internet I read that BBC actually made a 4-hour mini-series in 2008. I wouldn’t mind watching it if it becomes available in Netflix. Also a movie was made in 1979, I might watch that as well. I don’t know why but I imagined Tess being blond or dirty blond, but on the movie covers it shows her with darker hair. It probably said what color her hair was in the book, but I didn’t pick up on it. Well enough of mushy novels, my first class for this semester just started so time to get busy studying.