Every summer I read a classic that I have never read before, and since I'm planning to visit Southwest England soon, I felt I should read a novel that takes place there. Descriptively written, with romance and suspense, Hardy portrays Tess as a beautiful, young woman born in poverty with a title that ends up doing her more harm than good. Tess, at the start of her tale, is moral, hard-working and loving, and through no fault of her own, she is forced to face hardship and tragedy. Hardy demonstrates what can happen to an innocent, trusting girl in a man's world.
If you want a quick, light read, Tess of the d'Urbervilles is not it. However, if you're looking for a beautifully written novel that captures life in rural England about 150 years ago, give Tess a try.— Nancy Randall
Coming to PBS in January 2009- a MasterpieceTM Classic production of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'UrbervillesTess Durbeyfield knows what it is to work hard and expect little. But her life is about to veer from the path trod by her mother and grandmother. When her ne'er-do-well father learns that his family is the last of a long noble line, the d'Urbervilles, he sends Tess on a journey to meet her supposed kin- a journey that will see her victimized by lust, poverty, and hypocrisy. With its sensitive depiction of one of literature's most admirable and tragic heroines and its powerful criticism of social convention, Tess of the D'Urbervilles is one of the most moving and poetic of Thomas Hardy's novels.
About the Author
Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840. In his writing, he immortalized the site of his birth--Egdon Heath, in Dorset, near Dorchester. Delicate as a child, he was taught at home by his mother before he attended grammar school. At sixteen, Hardy was apprenticed to an architect, and for many years, architecture was his profession; in his spare time, he pursued his first and last literary love, poetry. Finally convinced that he could earn his living as an author, he retired from architecture, married, and devoted himself to writing. An extremely productive novelist, Hardy published an important book every year or two. In 1896, disturbed by the public outcry over the unconventional subjects of his two greatest novels--Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure--he announced that he was giving up fiction and afterward produced only poetry. In later years, he received many honors. He died on January 11, 1928, and was buried in Poet's Corner, in Westminster Abbey. It was as a poet that he wished to be remembered, but today critics regard his novels as his most memorable contribution to English literature for their psychological insight, decisive delineation of character, and profound presentation of tragedy.