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.
Thomas 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.
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"Beautiful and Heartbreaking"
Tess Durbeyfield is still only a young girl when he father learns from the local clergyman that he is one of the last living descendants of an ancient English noble family. As the Durbeyfields are very poor, they soon convince Tess to present herself to a rich old woman and her son who live nearby, named D'Urberville. They believe them to be their rich relations and all but force Tess to ask for help in their dire need. What none of them can know is that these supposed relatives have only come by the name by purchasing it after having made a fortune, to elevate themselves from their origins as humble merchants. When Tess presents herself at the D'Urberville house, she is greeted by Alec D'Urberville, a young man who quickly proves to be a womanizing bully, who right away claims to be in love with the beautiful young Tess and contrives to have her live under his roof and work for him under false pretences. He uses every means at his disposal to break down Tess's defences and takes advantage of her one day, which, because this is a 19th century novel and no unmarried woman could have a sexual encounter without the most disastrous consequences, will of course determine the course of the rest of poor Tess's life and end in great tragedy. I’ve seen many people comment on Hardy's proclivity for writing depressing stories about doomed heroines, but if you happen to be in the mood for a fine 19th century tragic bucolic romance, this is just the ticket. I was too young to see Nastassja Kinski famously playing the role of Tess when Roman Polanski's classic movie came out in theatres, but that young woman's fragile beauty was at the forefront of my mind throughout this reading, which helped make the story that much more poignant somehow. A novel I'll be sure to revisit in future.
Mayor of Casterbridge and jude the Obscure, same sns of the inexorable destiny
Th mood, the voices, he was amazing
The hazards of pride
All Hardy books should be read by Simon Vance
This is such a beautiful and dramatic story. Mr Vance does great honor to Thomas Hardy's work.
Wonderful, tragic story, poetically told. Describes a different era vis-a-vis relationships between women and men, mobility and communications.
"Fascinating, demoralizing, beautiful, disturbing"
"She was ashamed of herself for her gloom of the night, based on nothing more tangible than a sense of condemnation under an arbitrary law of society which had no foundation in Nature."
Thomas Hardy. "Tess of the d'Urbervilles, a Pure Woman"
How did I get to be so old without having read this book before. I thought I knew the story, but must have conflated it with others. I imagined a girl who tried to pass for a member of Victorian high society and whose shame was that of being discovered for what she was. Little did I realize the role that the sexual act would play in the story, and that Tess never tried to be something she wasn't, or at least she strove to be exactly what society dictated she be.
The descriptions of rural life in late Victorian England are beautifully written. The most powerful images and scenes for me are when Tess is working on the threshing machine. Hardy juxtaposes the beauty of nature with the repulsiveness of the man-made, exposing the fear we should have of the latter as it displaces the former. Having some idea of Tess's eventual fate, or at least assuming her fate based on the requirements of the day, I was terrified that Tess would either accidentally or purposefully throw herself into the machine. When the farmer came to tell her that her hair was falling down, I took that as a warning that it would be caught in the mechanism, using a source of her beauty as a means of her death. I thought Hardy was using the ugliness of the machine as a metaphor for changes in the morals of the country and the dangers of modernization.
Regardless of my preconceived notions, I was in no way prepared for the final scenes of the book. Without spoiling it by specifics, I have to say that the drama of this reading is hardly rivaled by modern-day works.
As for the narration of this recorded book: meh. In fact, it is a testament to the power of the story that it rose above the narration by Simon Vance. He read Tess as timid and frail instead of giving her voice a quiet strength and dignity. I enjoyed his reading of "Dune" but remember that it had a similar problem to "Tess": Vance just doesn't do women's voices well.
"Wonderful narrator, disappointing novel"
I expected so much more from this book. True, the novel challenged many of the socially accepted views of its time, but as a novel I found it lacking in quality, especially compared to some contemporary works. To my taste, hardly a character in the book was especially interesting or psychologically credible. On top of this, the novel suffers from the extreme "goodness" of some characters, opposed with the clear "evilness" of others, and has none of the saving wit or sarcasm of Dickens or Trollope. I also found the symbolism (seasons of the year, omens, ancient ritual sites) rather childish and spoon fed to the reader, considering that this work was written around the same period as Middlemarch or any of Dostoyevsky's masterpieces.
Then again, my view seems to be the exception in this case, so if you're looking a reading of this book, I would recommend this one without hesitation. As usual, Simon Vance (alias Robert Whitfield in many of his beautiful Dickens audiobooks) delivers an outstanding performance.
"What happened? Unsatisfying ending."
Narration is excellent but what in the heck happened? I listened to this book for days while Tess dragged herself up and down, over and under, through every dreary spot possible, understanding that this book is slow reading and that's OK. BUT then - it simply ends! It felt like hearty couldn't think of an ending so he just stopped writing. I don't recommend this.
"Thank goodness I didn't live then!"
atmospheric, foreboding, emotional
It had to be Tess even though I wished she could have fought more for the things she wanted. She was a pure soul and a hard worker at the same time.
Simon Vance is always good. Here he rendered dialect excellently and even made the descriptions of rural life interesting
I was so relieved that I don't have to spend the winter digging up turnips in the rain and snow, and that women have more choices and control over their lives today.
I am a fan of 19th century fiction such as Dickens, George Eliot and others, so it was interesting to compare this. For someone not familiar with the era, they might find this slow going.
"Great reading....terrible story"
I have read Far From the Madding Crowd and I found it more enjoyable.
I find that with books set in theis era it is easier to "read" with an audiobook. I like to read the book while listening and it really helps my comprehension. I highly recommend this tactic.
It is a dull story and far too long. The Tess of the d'Urbervilles is not at all interesting or fun.
"not Hardy at his best - woeful narration"
I love Thomas Hrady, but had never read this book, though I knew the story. I found it lacked the lyricism of his other works, and the characters were not as well-formed - aside from Tess and Angel, the characters are almost caricatures of West Country bumpkins, though that may have been down to the narrator. I didn't feel Tess was as fully-formed a character as some of Hardy's other heroines, and Angel is not sympathetic at all, so hard to feel Tess's love for him. I struggled at times to stay interested, and found myself listening just to try to get it over and done with.
Ultimately, though, it was the narration that spoiled this. Simon Vance puts on such terrible women's voices it is farcical, so it's hard to take Tess seriously. His portrayal of the country folk is too far-fetched and comical. Hardy writes tragic, moving novels, not bawdy comedies. And most unforgivable of all - he cannot do a West Country accent, and his attempt drifts further and further west throughout the book, so Tess in turn becomes Welsh and eventually Irish by the end of the book. Appalling.
"so happy I finally read it"
loved it. couldn't wait to come back to it every time. can't believe I waited this long to read it
"the accents and rhythm was disappointing"
I wasn't the biggest fan of this story, but I may well have liked it more if the narrator's accents hadn't been so awful and his rhythm so repetative to the point that once I noticed he said everything in the same way I got very irritated. with the addition of none of the characters being particularly likable I aslo struggled to finish this book. However, it was not entirely without merit as a story itself and does highlight the difficulties of the times, particularly for women.
"Thomas Hardy never fails to please"
Thomas Hardy brings alive the characters in his story. They are some ways very modern and one feels for their trials and tribulations as if they were neigbours. A wonderful and moving tale exceptionally well read.
Tess - a girl of action and decision. She makes choices. However, we are continually frustrated with the choices she makes. She is quite young so we shouldn't be surprised at this. However, part of the great entertainment afforded by this novel is pondering what her alternative choices were and whether those might have resulted in any better an outcome for her.
Simon reads the book with sympathy and portays each of the characters with vivacity.
I would quite happily have listened to this book in one sitting. It is an excellent story well read.
one of the best books ive read in a long time, beautifully written and historically interesting
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