I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
The chance discovery by a young peasant woman that she is a descendant of the noble family of d'Urbervilles is to change the course of her life. Tess Durbeyfield leaves home on the first of her fateful journeys, and meets the ruthless Alec d'Urberville. Thomas Hardy's impassioned story tells of hope and disappointment, rejection and enduring love. (source)
This is one of the most tragic stories that I've ever read - and it was so well-done. I do wish that there had been a happier ending, but I will admit that it wouldn't have fit the story well. Poor Tess was just doomed to a life of heartbreak.
There were some parts where the story dragged. In my opinion, the most monotonous part of the book was when Angel left for Brazil and Tess was kind of just roaming around being miserable... I mean, I can hardly blame her for that. But it did get old. Things livened up a bit once Alec returned, though.
I think Alec was my favorite character in the book - not in the sense that I loved him as a person, but in that I found him to be the most interesting. First of all, he's an absolutely awful person. He's totally self-centered and even his attempts to do good stem purely from a desire to assuage his conscience for the horrible things that he's done. That being said, I do think that, in his own way, he genuinely cared for Tess. The lengths that he went to while trying to make up for his wrongs to her demonstrate that he wasn't solely attracted to her physically. His accusations toward Tess that she was temptress and his claims that he couldn't resist her are totally bogus, of course - if he had an ounce of willpower, he would have left well enough alone and stopped stalking the poor girl. But I think that, in the end, while he was still trying to make her his mistress/lover, I think that he genuinely cared about her well-being, instead of just wanting to have sex with her. Alec is one of the most complex characters who I've ever read about and I have such mixed feelings about him - he's horrible and the things that he's done are absolutely unforgivable... and yet, I think he started to redeem himself in the end. Not completely, but just a little bit.
I love how Hardy used this book as a way to comment on Victorian era society. He did a fantastic job of demonstrating how damaging its rigid morals could be. There is absolutely a need for morality in society, but I think that Hardy makes a good point: there needs to be leniency, at least to some degree. People make mistakes, sometimes through no fault of their own, and they shouldn't be crucified for their indiscretions. Hardy emphasizes that intentions should be held into consideration, and I think it's crucial to note that it's not until Tess finally is pushed to the very limits of her desperation that she finally does something wrong with purely malevolent intentions ((show spoiler)
, and it's only at this point that she meets her end. I love how progressive Hardy's views are for the time in which this was written and I found his opinions to be very refreshing.
One last point that I want to talk about is the language that Hardy chose for this book. This is super nerdy of me, but I absolutely fell in love with his word choice! His vocabulary is outstanding. Seriously, I haven't read a book that was so exquisitely worded in a long time... people just don't write like this anymore!
This is a classic that I found to be exhausting and emotionally draining to read. However, I think that it has a universal message and I love the story that Hardy's crafted. It's tragic and Tess is an exceptionally miserable heroine. Even so, this story totally enraptured me and I'm so glad that I had a chance to read it!