Customer Reviews for

Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Norton Critical Edition)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Tragically Wonderful

Tess is one of the more depressive novels I've read lately. My wife will attest to the fact that I have a strange affinity to depressing stories. With that in mind, let me say that I really enjoyed this book.

The writing was at times a bit too much for me for the re...
Tess is one of the more depressive novels I've read lately. My wife will attest to the fact that I have a strange affinity to depressing stories. With that in mind, let me say that I really enjoyed this book.

The writing was at times a bit too much for me for the reason that I get annoyed at many 18th and 19th century novels...namely, that Hardy focuses far too much on minute descriptions and in-depth analysis of setting and location. Don't get me wrong, I love a vivid and lush environment and I much prefer a fleshed out character to a flat one. I just sometimes feel that all of the flowery descriptions slow down the story telling element too much. There were a few paragraphs/pages that I tried to skim through in order to get to the next relevant points of plot. Still, I don't know that I'd want to edit out the descriptive text since it does comment on the narrative itself in a metafictional sort of way.

The main characters in this book are wonderfully composed. They are absolutely and completely frustrating but they are superbly crafted nonetheless. I wanted to smack each of the main characters on many occasions.

Tess is far too willing to simply be acted upon and then to bemoan her fate. Alec is an absolute pig (although towards the end of our experience with him, it's debatable just how awful he truly is). And Angel is far too inconsistent to be liked at all...at first he seems almost lovable...then he deserves to be hated...then he seems slightly adequate...then he becomes repulsive again...he's just far too wishy-washy in his behavior and ideals to ever be fully redeemable.

The story itself falls into the realm of realism taken to its extreme. The plot elements felt almost like the Bible story of Job...whatever could go wrong willgo wrong. And even though Tess was generally found to be almost whining about her circumstances rather than trying to make things better for herself, the story was still rather thought provoking since it makes you wonder just how you would handle horrific circumstances and what can truly be done about them. Is it better to try and solve the problem or better to just let fate and happenstance take its toll.

Personally, I try to make the best out of any bad situation...perhaps that's why I like "depressing" stories...they make me realize my life could be worse and they help inspire me to always think of the best possible outcome.

I'm sure this book won't be for everyone. Those who want a happy fairy-tale romp through a girl's life would do better to stay away. Those who are easily frustrated by fallen characters, will find themselves hating all of the primary roles in this book. The book isn't terribly lengthy (~300-400?) but some of the longer descriptive passages do crawl by at times.

Still, I whole-heartedly recommend this book to those who are willing to look imperfection and awful situations square in the face and come away smiling. It's not a happy book. It's not a terribly fast past book (which can also be frustrating...I wanted to shout Just do it to Tess many times).

But it is a wonderfully rich book and definitely worth getting into.

posted by theokester on June 15, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

This book sucks

This book is so hard to read. I have to read it for my high school English class and the dialect is crazy. It is so difficult! I mean, not to spoil it for anyone or anything, but I didn't even realize that she was raped. Really and truly, no idea. If you are going ...
This book is so hard to read. I have to read it for my high school English class and the dialect is crazy. It is so difficult! I mean, not to spoil it for anyone or anything, but I didn't even realize that she was raped. Really and truly, no idea. If you are going for a book that is not hard to understand and that is enjoyable, I'm sorry to say, but do not go for this book. Have a great life everyone! ~Krysti

posted by Anonymous on December 15, 1999

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Tragically Wonderful

    Tess is one of the more depressive novels I've read lately. My wife will attest to the fact that I have a strange affinity to depressing stories. With that in mind, let me say that I really enjoyed this book.

    The writing was at times a bit too much for me for the reason that I get annoyed at many 18th and 19th century novels...namely, that Hardy focuses far too much on minute descriptions and in-depth analysis of setting and location. Don't get me wrong, I love a vivid and lush environment and I much prefer a fleshed out character to a flat one. I just sometimes feel that all of the flowery descriptions slow down the story telling element too much. There were a few paragraphs/pages that I tried to skim through in order to get to the next relevant points of plot. Still, I don't know that I'd want to edit out the descriptive text since it does comment on the narrative itself in a metafictional sort of way.

    The main characters in this book are wonderfully composed. They are absolutely and completely frustrating but they are superbly crafted nonetheless. I wanted to smack each of the main characters on many occasions.

    Tess is far too willing to simply be acted upon and then to bemoan her fate. Alec is an absolute pig (although towards the end of our experience with him, it's debatable just how awful he truly is). And Angel is far too inconsistent to be liked at all...at first he seems almost lovable...then he deserves to be hated...then he seems slightly adequate...then he becomes repulsive again...he's just far too wishy-washy in his behavior and ideals to ever be fully redeemable.

    The story itself falls into the realm of realism taken to its extreme. The plot elements felt almost like the Bible story of Job...whatever could go wrong willgo wrong. And even though Tess was generally found to be almost whining about her circumstances rather than trying to make things better for herself, the story was still rather thought provoking since it makes you wonder just how you would handle horrific circumstances and what can truly be done about them. Is it better to try and solve the problem or better to just let fate and happenstance take its toll.

    Personally, I try to make the best out of any bad situation...perhaps that's why I like "depressing" stories...they make me realize my life could be worse and they help inspire me to always think of the best possible outcome.

    I'm sure this book won't be for everyone. Those who want a happy fairy-tale romp through a girl's life would do better to stay away. Those who are easily frustrated by fallen characters, will find themselves hating all of the primary roles in this book. The book isn't terribly lengthy (~300-400?) but some of the longer descriptive passages do crawl by at times.

    Still, I whole-heartedly recommend this book to those who are willing to look imperfection and awful situations square in the face and come away smiling. It's not a happy book. It's not a terribly fast past book (which can also be frustrating...I wanted to shout Just do it to Tess many times).

    But it is a wonderfully rich book and definitely worth getting into.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Tess of the d'Urbervilles

    Tess Durbeyfield is beset by guilt over the accidental death of one of her family's horses - a main source of family income. In an attempt to create a social connection and to gain financial assistance for her family, she entreats the d'Urbervilles to acknowledge an ancient familial connection. Unfortunately, Alec d'Urberville is taken with Tess and rapes her. Her life is haunted by his sexual assault from that point forward. Eventually, Tess begins to recuperate and finds employment elsewhere as a dairymaid. Her days as a dairymaid are happy and peaceful until she falls in love with Angel Clare. She agonizes over telling him of her tainted past, and when she confesses the truth on her wedding night, Angel is repulsed over her past and her deception of waiting to tell him. Tess is parted from her true love and never fully recovers, even when he returns to her.

    Tess of the d'Urbervilles is more than a sad story. It pays homage to the type of unhealthy family atmospheres that many children are raised in. The death of the horse is a direct result of her father's drunkenness and irresponsibility, though Tess never realizes this. When her parents hear of her misfortune, her mother reprimands her for not seeking marriage to the very man who raped her. The story also explores the mental effects that sexual assault can have on a person. Tess experiences extreme guilt, depression and feelings of unworthiness - common feelings for victims of sexual assault. In the end, as she is continually subjected to Alec d'Urberville, she experiences insanity which results in extreme actions.

    This particular edition included an introduction and notes about the text which I found helpful. However, I thought the girl on the cover did not resemble the maiden of the book. The girl on the front is plain and unremarkable, whereas, Tess, according to the text, is remarkable.

    I can see why this book is considered a literary classic, but I can't say I enjoyed it. That being said, I think everyone should read this book once. Tess is a memorable character that one can not help being fascinated with.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2001

    never read this book!

    This book was very terrible. there is nothing even close to appealing in this book. The dialect is absolutely impossible to understand. It is the most difficult book i've ever had to read and I would never read this book again. Please don't read it, you're doing yourself a favour, trust me!!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 1999

    This book sucks

    This book is so hard to read. I have to read it for my high school English class and the dialect is crazy. It is so difficult! I mean, not to spoil it for anyone or anything, but I didn't even realize that she was raped. Really and truly, no idea. If you are going for a book that is not hard to understand and that is enjoyable, I'm sorry to say, but do not go for this book. Have a great life everyone! ~Krysti

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Could not keep me interested Did not have thevpatience to Did not have the patience to get to the end of this one by h Did not have the patience to complete.

    Was interested in the story until it took forever to be told. Tess could not walk a few feet without an overkill of scenery description. Got tired of skimming through these areas.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2007

    Fiction Novel Review

    Tess of the d¿Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy enthralls its readers with the life of Tess Durbeyfield and the trials she is faced with. Hardy captivates the reader by characterizing the characters so well that it elicits certain responses to certain characters like sympathizing with Tess, loving Angel, and hating Alec. Tess is portrayed as the naïve, beautiful country girl who is going to live a fairy tale life when a handsome prince will sweep her off her feet. Thus, capturing the hearts of the readers, and immediately setting us against Alec, the antagonist, without a shred of sympathy. Alec pesters Tess with his ¿love¿ and ruins her chances by robbing her of her innocence, forever scarring her. Tess is presented with one chance to right her life with Angel, the love of her life, and her, his. Their unconditional love for one another touches the reader, evoking feelings of hope and optimism for the couple, although their happiness is ephemeral when Alec yet again, dashes it. By this point, the reader is frustrated and seething with anger toward Alec who constantly ruins things. There finally comes a point when Tess and Angel are reunited and the reader breathes a sigh of relief, but Hardy takes an unexpected twist at the end, leaving the reader unsatisfied and discontent. It feels like Hardy has taken us on a great roller coaster, and we¿re climbing up a steep incline, only to slowly glide down a tiny hill, and at the very end, there¿s a sharp turn, jolting the reader. The overall book is fabulously unsatisfying.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2005

    Extremely Boring

    This has got to be one of the most disappionting books that I have ever read. First of all the topic or focus of the book is very loose so the book is hard to follow and you can easily get side tracked. The over all writing style is the main problem of the book though. The writing style is more like a text book than an actual story so it almost seems like a chor to read it. However the over all idea is okay because Tess's charecter does have many emossional complexities and has to face many emossional challenges. It is interesting to see how her relationship with men can change when she lets her history or past get the best of her. The idea for this book was not bad but the whole writing style seemed very uninspired. I can see why this was Hardy's last book, people got sick of his boring writing style!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2004

    Wonderful Story of Troubles, Love, and Life!

    This book is an EXTRAORDINARY story of how the young Tess Durbyfield is torn between two lovers, a romantic, Alec D'Urberville and a preachers son, Angel Clare. She finds before meeting Alec her troubles begin when she accidentally kills the family horse. After meeting Alec and his blind mother she finds him attractive, and he her. After romancing, she realizes she doesn't love him, it is only infatuation. She returns home before venturing out again after her child dies. She finds work on a farm in a nearby town and meets Angel Clare. She had promised to never fall in love again, although Angel persisted they should be lovers. After turning down many proposals from Angel she finally accepts. On their honey-moon night, eat up with her guilt, Tess confesses her dark and mysterious past to Angel which causes him to become jealous since Alec is still alive. He decides to go away to Brazil until he can forgive Tess. While he is away Tess returns home yet again to tell her parents of what she had done. Tess decides to find and talk to Angels parents but her plan is thwarted. She travels to the near town and over-hears a preacher, but the voice sounds familiar. It is Alec! The two lovers see each other after so long. She refuses to talk to him and tell him of what she has done.....If I continue I will tell the most brilliant climax of the entire novel!!! You must read this book to find out what happens when the two lovers meet again, who forgives who, find out who is murdered, who is executed. The ending of this book is beyond shocking! This book may be a bit difficult to get into at first, but once you begin reading you can't put it down! You only wish to know what happens next!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2002

    A good tale, but utterly maddening

    Hardy is an absolute wonderful story-teller, but this book is definately not for the faint of heart. It takes a few chapters to really get into and the climax of the story really doesn't live up to the tale itself. Wonderful writing, but a let-down in the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2000

    Don't Waste Your Time!

    This was absolutely the worst book I have ever read. There is nothing in this book that is even close to being worthwhile, not language, not emotion, not likeable characters, nothing. If you feeling like numbing your brain and lowering your intellegence, go ahead and read it. But for anyone who values their sanity, find another book, please.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2012

    Very long and drawn out

    Emotionally draining

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  • Posted June 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    you feel you can relate to the characters

    This book involves a woman who is trying to make ends meet and find her place in the world despite her past. You can relate to the characters in the book whether if it is Tess, Angel or the dreaded Alec. A good read that involves romance, hatred, nurturing, and a lost girl who stands up for herself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2009

    One of the worst books ever written

    I absolutely abhor this book. The first time I was forced to read this book was in middle school. From the very first page to the last, I found myself hating the main characters more and more. I loathe, despise, and abominate this book. I have no sympathy for any of the characters. There are only a few other books that rival this one in terms of being badly written "literature." They are "Twilight" (really, any book in that series was terrible), "Moll Flanders," and "Wuthering Heights." As much as I hated the characters in this book, a million times more did I hate Catherine and Heathcliff. I wanted them both to die early on and stop depressing me with their whiny stories. Classics? I think not!

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2008

    Classic and a good read, but a bit depressing.

    Tess of the D'Urbervilles is definetly one of the better books I have read. I think everyone should read it, but it does drag at some parts, and seems rather depressing overall. It is definetly a book meant to draw attention to the hardships of rural life during the 1800's, and has many twists throughout the book that would keep you entertained. I do recommend this book to anyone who likes classics.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2007

    A reviewer

    Truly one of Hardy's greatest works. this book had everything that makes a novel great, an amazing story, a secret love, heartache, and a truly saint-like character,Tess. This story will tug on your heartstrings for weeks after you read it, but the happiness is there also. I recommend this book over Jude the Obscure, that was the most depressing novel i have ever had the displeasure to read. ughhh how could he do the things he did to those characters, but Tess I highly recomend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2007

    Please read the alternative

    I understand Tess to be classic Hardy: well-written, evocative, cynical. I find it interesting that the context of such a famous book seems to remain obscured today. Tess is a response--part of a dialogue. This book was published approximately ten years after George MacDonald's Paul Faber: Surgeon, and is a clear response. The books could hardly be more different, but the most fundamental and significant plot elements are common to both books. Hardy actually makes a veiled reference that you will enjoy during the scene immediately following the marriage that essentially quotes a passage from the same event in Paul Faber--only flatly disagrees with MacDonald. Both are good authors, and you will lose nothing in quality when you venture to MacDonald, but where Hardy finds despair, irony, and ultimately destruction MacDonald finds forgiveness, hope, and victory of the divine in humanity. Please read both, if only to choose for yourself which more accurately represents the world in which you live.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2007

    Very disappointing,

    As I was assigned to read a book for my teacher, I decided to choose this book. I wish I hadn't. It's very boring, and I found it extremely difficult to read it all the way through. The story line is very drab, and the plot isn't that great, either. We have the typical poor family needing some financial help and lying about being related to a rich family in order to be financially stable. The book isn't that difficult in general to read, but the tone of the book is that of a very dated time, and it just wasn't appealing to me. I felt that the book could have been a lot better than what it turned out to be. If you enjoy very old, typical books, then this would be one for you. There was some basic interesting parts, such as the soap-opera like scene where Tess is reunited with a man that raped her, or when her child dies, but all of the scenes are very normal. You'd expect to find them in a book like this, and that's what makes this book all too ordinary. If I had to recommend this book to anyone in general, I wouldn't. I honestly thought this book was very ordinary, nothing out of the normal, with not really any intense scenes. I wouldn't read it again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2006

    Tess of the D'Urbervilles

    Although written well over a century ago, Tess of the D¿Urbervilles is a surprisingly modern novel with unmatched poetic beauty. The author, Thomas Hardy, jabs at the age-old issues of sexism, social class, and morality in this seemingly simple tragic romance. The heroine is the titular Tess, an elegant but unassuming countryside beauty from a poor farming family. Her misery begins when the family discovers that they are not the shabby Durbeyfields after all, but rather the descendants of the illustrious and ancient D¿Urbervilles. But Tess' doom goes hand in hand with her heritage. Introduced to her newfound rich relations, she is forced to become the mistress of her cousin Alec D¿Urberville. Naturally she is blamed for her ¿defilement¿ and resulting pregnancy. Tess of the D¿Urbervilles cynically examines the high-strung, sexist Victorian society and the hypocritical Anglican Church, while simultaneously providing a window into the human soul. Hardy captivates the reader with his luminous heroine, a saintly creature forced to commit terrible deeds against her will. He questions the very nature of morality, asserting that neither society nor the church has the authority to judge virtue. Tess of the D¿Urbervilles is a masterpiece of literature¿tragic and romantic, poetic and critical¿a wondrously perceptive literary work. The reader is captivated from start to finish, from the opening imagery of the lovely English countryside to the fateful, deeply symbolic conclusion set amid the cragged rocks of the Stonehenge.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2006

    A Traditional Hardy

    Hardy has a reputation for depressing, tragic books. However, i think it is important that we read at least one of his books if only to see how the world deals with loss, with grief, with sin. when things go wrong for Tess, how does she respond? How would you respond? I hope you would not make the same choices she makes. A dark depressing feel lies over the plot like an ominous cloud. The first chapter or so was rather random, but it focuses on Tess as it continues.Actually when you look back on the opening, it is actually quite genius.HArdy opens telling you of the area, Tess'family, and the recent events. The middle season of sunshine and happiness was my favorite, because it had a lighter playful feeling, showing what Tess' life could have been. The ending is very depressing, but it is the only way to satisfy the innate knowledge that everyone has of justice. I cried for Tess several times, hating the men Hardy placed in her path. Also it is heart-wrenching to look back at her one mistake with Angel clare. Overall a worthwhile read, but not something to reread over and over again. And defintiely not something to read when you are already depressed. You will become so depressed that you sink into the Pit of Despair.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2004

    somewhat touching

    I chose to read this book for a reading class, not really knowing what to expect. As I read this book, I kept getting confused and it wonders off so much. The book suprised me however at the end. I did not expected to happen what HAD happened. A girl, close to being a woman from a physical view and not a mental view, is faced with many unorthodox things in her life. She finally finds the love of her life and he will not forgive her for a sin that he himself commited. She is later forgive but at that time she is unhappily with the man that she was with before. Hardy strays in the beginning with his descriptions of places and even people that aren't exactly improtant, but when you get to the whole point of the book, it is very enjoyable. This is a book one would enjoy, if you keep you focus on it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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