Title: Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Author: Thomas Hardy
Page Count/Review Word Count: 544
I read this book at school and so my memories of it aren’t exactly fresh, but I also feel as though I need to review it for my book blog and my Goodreads account just because I’ve made it a policy of reviewing every book that I’ve read, including all of my old ones. And who knows? I might even give it a cheeky little re-read.
What I do remember of this largely comes down to Hardy’s writing style, and indeed the reason I finally got round to picking this up was that I haven’t read any of his stuff for a while and I was feeling in the mood for it. I also remember finding that, for me at least, I thought the setting and the themes of the story were far more interesting than the characters and the plot. But I expect that’ll be different for everyone.
One of the major memories that I do have of this book is that we read it aloud in class, an hour at a time, going round the classroom with different kids reading in what was basically the world’s worst audio book. I read ahead just by myself and then got told off for not following along in class. I actually read it twice at the time, and then after that I read a couple of other books while hiding them inside the cover.
Hardy is one of those writers who’s pretty much a must-read if you’re into classical literature, but I also don’t think I turn to him as often as I should. I also kind of want to get to Far from the Madding Crowd, but I’m trying to cut down on the number of books on my “to be read” list and so it’s going to have to wait a little while.
I also think that Tess herself is a cracking heroine, and arguably a stand out character from that entire period in literature. She’s complex and mysterious at the same time, and I think that while the novel and the characters are definitely a product of their times, I also think that Tess holds up well and is still as readable as ever.
And then there’s the fact that there’s a bleakness to this, sometimes right there in the foreground and sometimes buried beneath complex story lines. Books like this give me the vibe that even if I don’t necessarily enjoy reading it, I learn a lot about the act of writing just be seeing a master in action. Some writers of Hardy’s time can’t hold their own against modern writers, but there’s no threat of that here.
All in all then, this is a classic novel for a reason, and even if you struggle to relate to the subject matter, which would be forgivable, you’re still in for a masterclass in terms of what it’s possible to do with the written word. It’s kind of funny, because even though the setting is so unfamiliar because our world has changed so much, Hardy still has that little spark that makes it feel like you’re actually there.