The back says: Into his story of a simple but beautiful country girl’s seduction by another man which causes her husband to leave her on their wedding night and thereby precipitates a course of events that end in murder, Hardy wove a luminous tenderness and longing. ‘I have never been able to put on paper all that she is, or was to me,’ he said.
I say: First of all, I will have it known that Thomas Hardy is one of those Brits whose writing I have the utmost difficulty with. Don’t get me wrong, Hardy is an excellent writer, and an expert at what he does,
it just drives me insane.
His longwinded descriptions of nature and with minute detail, and some of the most eccentric similes you’ll ever encounter. Not to mention his love for seemingly endless sentences, which, again, I have no problems with; I continuously do it myself. But in that old-timey English.
This book has been the bane of my spring.
But on to the story of Tess, which is a very interesting story (once you remove all that talk of nature). However, as tragic as her tale may be, I think the biggest tragedy is the sheer stupidity and self-destructiveness of all the main characters. My goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered characters that so willingly and continuously made such bad decisions out of some misguided notion of martyrdom as these people.
Well, at least Tess, Angel and Alec (and the three milkmaids).
So, fair enough, what happens to Tess at the beginning is not her fault. She is a naïve country girl who finds herself in a very unfortunate situation, and I will never fault her for that. But, and it pains me to say this, everything that happens after she gets to the dairy farm is because Tess must be some kind of stupid, and not, as Hardy constantly alludes to, because she is a victim. I’m serious. Most of the misfortunes that she encounters are brought on by her. Then, of course, it doesn’t help matters much that her husband turns out to be just as incapable of making the right decision. And yes, I get that Hardy also meant to point out their folly as foolish pride, but I’m just not buying it; because they continuously did things that contradicted that.
They’re all insane.
And that ending…
It pretty much proves my point.
It pretty much proves my point.
So yeah, you’d think that considering all this I’d give this a 2/5, but the fact remains that it is a really good book. It’s full of stupid people, but Hardy does tell it well. It is also full of really good quotes, and maybe some day I shall read this again.
An aside full of spoilers after the break.
The thing that I don’t get about this story is that Tess is supposed to be some kind of tragic heroine, which just makes no sense at all. She killed a man in cold blood for no reason! She is the one that decided to go back to Alec when she thought that her husband wasn’t going to return, and then the minute he does, she blames Alec for ensnaring her.
Also, when she was professing her love to Angel, all I kept thinking of was O, from The Story of O, because it’s exactly the same mindset. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just an observation.