Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D'Urbervilles is my first Thomas Hardy. Having put it on my list a long time ago I finally borrowed it from the library and knuckled down to read the huge book. I am an ardent fan of classics, nevertheless, I had no clue about Thomas Hardy's style of writing; I did not know how much I would be able to connect with the book or how far the writing would take me. I needn't have worried; Thomas Hardy wastes no time in setting the pace of the plot from the very first chapter onwards and what followed was more a heartrending memoir of Tess's life than just a novel to enjoy.

Through circumstances under her control or otherwise, Tess Durbeyfield is sent by her foolhardy parents on a mission to visit a rich old lady in the neighbouring village. The lady's name is D'Urberville (an ancient noble family's name) and the impoverished Durbeyfields are led to believe that they themselves are descendants of the family of D'Urberville. Fueled partly by penury and partly by greed, Tess's parents (somewhat incorrectly - the reasons for which, I shall not reveal here) assume the rich lady from Tantridge to be their relation and corner Tess into making the journey to Tantridge to "claim next of kin". On her way to Tantridge Tess meets perchance, the old lady's son Alec D'Urberville and therewith lies her downfall.

The direction of Tess's life is completely decided by two men: Alec D'Urberville and Angel Clare. The first one is the nemesis who causes her life to careen off track. The second is the husband with whom she is desperately in love and who spurs her for the past that was quite out of her control.

Of the two men, both of whom are enamored with Tess Durbeyfield, there comes a time when you wonder which one really is the villain of Tess's life.

Thomas Hardy's attempt to question the prejudices of an iron-fettered society works on target. While you read the book you forced to ponder over one question: Is illiteracy a deterrent to shun the evils of a society that gloried in crucifying women for the fault of immoral men or is education? The line is fine and you may have to figure out that one for yourself. Tess was a country bumpkin who ate her bitter bread without question or complaint. Tess loved her husband in spite of his inability to "love" his wife when she finally plucks up the courage to tell him of her past. She loved him even as she suffered and never thought to blame anybody but herself for the ills that befell her. But the readers are persuaded otherwise.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles will sit comfortably on the truly unprejudiced but for those of us who are, it will make us take out our little prejudices and examine their sense or their folly while forcing us to answer this question with absolute honesty: Should the past ever matter when you truly love someone?


Shweta said...

I love reading Hardy's novels.Some of his books are my favorites but I didn't actually like this one. I remember being shocked at the way Tess suffered . I am sure that was a different age and time but I just couldn't forgive the author for making her go through it all.

I still remember I read it when I was in 11th and my friend asked me how was it and I said ' disgusting ' :) May be I will re read it some day and hope to see it in a different light. May be like it a little because ur review has made me want to go back to it again:)

Kals said...

Lovely review. This book has always been on my list of 'to-read' books and I hope to get to it soon!

Anonymous said...

Somehow I have never had the stamina to read Thomas Hardy. Or Dickens either...

Kudos to you for finishing the book!

Pavi said...

Hey, nice review..Indeed the line is very thin about the question u said one might ponder while reading this book and also the last line is very true.."Should the past ever matter when you truly love someone?"..But I also think..Few things are best left unsaid, certainly not the ones that could hinder any relationship though..Taking into account this was written quite long back,I might not find the book agreeing with my perspective.Nevertheless,should give it a try I guess:) good one vaish.. Nice to see blogs updated more frequently:)

Whitney said...

Lovely review, very thought provoking. Never read Thomas Hardy, but am thinking I should remedy that.
I have an award for you!

bikerguy said...

seems like quite a rough story...a strong girl like you has managed to read it through, im not surprised at all.. :)
isnt her story similar to a normal woman's story here? sorry for being opinionated, but i know a lot of women who would go through the same pain and somehow be ok with whatever happens. note this: "Tess loved her husband in spite of his inability to "love" his wife when she finally plucks up the courage to tell him of her past." why would someone do that?? is my question... and another one: "never thought to blame anybody but herself for the ills that befell her" why do women consider themselves responsible for all such situations anyways??
ok ok i know you will say its just fiction...but couldn't help expressing my opinions :)
very well written...i like the fact that you give a non-judgemental review of the book...keep up the good work :) :)

Vaishnavi said...

@Shweta - I am glad if this review makes you want to read this book again. It's a good book but very few people will be able to stomach poor Tess's trials and fewer still will be able to relate to it maybe :)

@Kals - Thanks a lot! I hope you like the book :)

@Nishita - Try reading Dicken's tale of two cities. You will love it :) And maybe you can carry it forward from there :)

@Pavi - Thanks :) I agree with you and also I don't. In fact I think I am undecided. If only partners in relationships would be friends first who learn to accept wholeheartedly then there won't be any need to leave things unsaid at all. But how often does that happen?

@Whitney - Thanks a lot for the award :) And I am glad you liked the review :)

@Avi - many questions that all of us have I to answer them? It's difficult isn't it?? We will have a good talk about this :) Glad you liked the review :)

Sathej said...

Nicely written review.. :) Looks like an interesting read, as to the last question - I would definitely say a No. Shall remember to pick this up sometime..


Hannah Stoneham said...

Lovely review - very interesting and exacting. I love Hardy and enjoyed Tess a lot when I read it about 15 years ago (eek!) - but it is not my favourite which is "The Woodlanders" - that is a splendid read.

Lovely blog - thanks for sharing


Vaishnavi said...

@Sathej - Thanks a lot :) Yes, it is an interesting read, like I have mentioned before, intense but likable.

@Hannah - Welcome and thanks a lot :) I have not read The Woodlanders...will be sure to :)

Bedazzled said...

though i love classics, i am not sure abt this one..but havent read Thomas hardy before,so i guess i should put away my prejudices.

Vaishnavi said...

@Bhargavi - I admit it is a heavy read and it might really difficult to relate to but it makes you think about stuff and Hardy's writing is wonderful :)

Rhonda Curtis Waller said...

You write quite a review. Very well done. I loved this book. I'm in the middle (beginning) of writing blurbs and book flap copy for my own novel and I am having a terrible time summing things up.