Book Review: Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her ‘cousin’ Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future. – GoodReads Description

I love Hardy’s writing style, but what brand of stupidity is this story?!? I got so frustrated with the characters, and the plot is just so depressing and horrible at every turn. Nothing nice happens. Ever!

I was very frustrated with the character of Tess, especially since the narrator tells us that she is passionate and spunky or something, but she rarely shows any passion through her actions or words. She is definitely a sensitive person, but seems to float along in whatever circumstances she is in with a complacent attitude, until she is finally in such a dire situation near the end of the book that she is forced to show passion and take action. For the first 2/3 of the book, she is very boring. Her circumstances are interesting, but she herself is boring. I hate how she just agrees with whoever happens to be near her, takes abuse as her just due, and never thinks for herself or takes charge of her own life.

Angel is equally frustrating because he can’t seem to make up his mind as to his spiritual, or political, or moral beliefs. Nor is he apparently able to determine what practical actions those beliefs should inspire in his actual life. He drifts along thinking he believes something, thinking that he must act some certain way because of those beliefs, and then finds out that his viewpoint is all stupidity with no relation whatsoever to the reality of life. Make up your stupid mind! Stop blundering around with philosophy! Just act with the actual kindness and forgiveness that are already in your heart! Gah! So frustrating. You stupid stupid Angel. I hate you for your idiocy disguised as intelligence. Why can’t you just allow yourself to be the good person you already are?

Alec is the most hated character of all time. Not only is he a horrible selfish abusive person, he’s also a complete hypocrite from top to bottom. He is swept along in whatever foolish passion happens to catch his fancy, and it doesn’t matter all to him how he hurts people, lies to people, and ruins countless lives. As long as he can satisfy the particular craving he woke up with that day, he will trample on the whole world to get what he wants. Disgusting pervert! I hate his guts.

The plot is depressing and awful. Everything that can possibly go wrong in someone’s life to make them sad, hurt, damaged, and suicidal happens to Tess. People she cares about die, or lie to her, or abandon her, or just flat out abuse her. All her efforts for a calm and content life, fail miserably. When she grasps at one little straw of happiness, it is snatched from her.

And yet, I do love Hardy’s writing style. So I kept reading to the end, hoping that there would be something worth it. I was disappointed in the ending. It was ridiculous and overly-dramatic. I almost laughed at how incongruous it is with the rest of the story. Gothic misery at its finest, I suppose.

If I liked sad stories, I would probably give this 5 stars.

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: Tess of the D’Urbervilles

    • Tess has her sympathetic moments, I grant you. She mostly annoyed me though. I enjoyed Far From the Madding Crowd sooooooooo much more! You should give it a try!

  1. Unfortunately even I felt much the same way you did when I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, especially about Tess.. however I did not have the perseverance the book demands, and gave up about 50 pages before the end..

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