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
Young Tess Durbeyfield attempts to restore her family's fortunes by claiming their connection with the aristocratic d'Urbervilles. But Alec d'Urberville is a rich wastrel who seduces her and makes her life miserable. When Tess meets Angel Clare, she is offered true love and happiness, but her past catches up with her and she faces an agonizing moral choice.
Hardy's indictment of society's double standards, and his depiction of Tess as "a pure woman," caused controversy in his day and has held the imagination of readers ever since. Hardy thought it his finest novel, and Tess the most deeply felt character he ever created. This unique critical text is taken from the authoritative Clarendon edition, which is based on the manuscript collated with all Hardy's subsequent revisions.
About the Author
Simon Gatrell is Professor of English at University of Georgia. Penny Boumelha is Jury Professor of English Language and Literature and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Adelaide.