Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy
Tess Derbyfield is living with her impoverished family in southwestern England in the 1800’s when her family finds out they are related to an old and noble line, the d’Urbervilles. Her parents are eager to claim kinship to the closest d’Urberville they know and send the beautiful Tess to make an introduction as family. Once there Tess is seduced by the cad Alec d’Urberville and becomes pregnant. She races back home and gives birth to a son she names Sorrow.
After the death of Sorrow Tess must find work to support herself and her family and she finds work at a dairy farm. It is at the farm that she meets Angel Clare, who comes from a respected religious family. The sparks fly and Tess is confronted with the choice of telling Angel about the baby or letting him continue to believe that she is a virgin. Her mother tells her to keep the secret and Tess tries, but she is at heart an honest soul.
Tess was pure of faith and heart, but she was so mistreated by everyone she came in contact with, her family included, that she lost that innocence. She is the shining example of the hypocrisy of the day. Women had so few options and I applauded her effort to remain virtuous of spirit. She is a tragic figure that represents Victorian era.
This classic is a love story that runs the gamut of emotions. I knew nothing of this book when I checked the cds out of the library (14.5 hours unabridged) and loved the language and tone of the book. I was also shocked by many of the things that happened. I don’t want to spoil anything for you here, but let me say that I am happy to be living in 2009 and not in the 1800’s, especially not as a poor girl with a sad family.
It is not perfect, but the things that bothered me most were aspects of the time period, not the writing or the story itself. I recommend this tragedy as one that will touch your heart.