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I don't believe I'd read a word of Hardy before I started this book. It's not as bad as I feared, though it moves awfully slowly, is annoyingly condescending to people with funny accents, and fails to really challenge gender narratives for today's reader. Hardy no doubt meant well and perhaps even intended to be a bit feminist in his presentation of Tess's story, but it doesn't really work; one wishes that he had let her be more of an actor (before the crime at the end of the book) and that he had shown the men who treat her so badly in a more unforgiving light. I'm not wild about Hardy after reading this, but I won't spurn him either if his books come up in my reading.

One of the delights of Bookmooch is that, if you are not too fussy, you can get books that have acquired some character from their previous owner. My copy came to me from a young woman in Florida, who has conducted a spirited conversation with Hardy by highlighter on the text and ballpoint pen in the margin, her disagreements with him being similar to mine. At the bottom of one page, she has written that she "♡'s Dan Eckstein". Lucky Dan.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 30th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
And whenever I see that title, my brain insists it should be "Tess of the Baskervilles" which might be a more exciting read.
Apr. 30th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
At college ~2 decades ago we had a skit in the Christmas show called The Hound of the D'Urbervilles. It didn't occur to us to do it the other way around at the time, but now I'm wishing we'd sketched that out too...
Apr. 30th, 2009 04:34 pm (UTC)
Hardy & feminism - that's one of the criticisms of this book I've often heard. Contextually, he wasn't making a bad attempt, though. 20 years later it might have been a much stronger one.
Apr. 30th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
One of my friends is a huge Hardy fan, but cannot stand TOd'B, mostly because of Tess. He tends to recommend some of the "lesser" works in preference to this or "Far From the Madding Crowd".
Apr. 30th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)

Hardy no doubt meant well and perhaps even intended to be a bit feminist in his presentation of Tess's story

I feel the same way. In his own time Hardy was probably considered as quite controversial but according to our twenty-first century standards he does seem a bit condescending and even misogynistic at times. And don't even get me started on Angel Clare's conduct. Him and his double standards. :)
Apr. 30th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
Angel Clare is the true villain of the piece, definitely, it is his behaviour which leads to Tess' destruction from the very beginning. At the time the huge furore was not the story itself, but that Hardy subtitled it "A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented" with the implication that Tess was and remained not just wronged but inherently virtuous. The feminism aspect is minor compared to the class thing, the nature versus mechanisation and middle class prudity thing, the loss of the "old ways" and the relationship between a productive and bounteous landscape and the beauty of the people who live and work within it. Tess represents aspects of nature which Hardy saw threatened, rather than the beginnings of rural feminism.
Apr. 30th, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks for drawing my attention to Bookmooch. I am slowly building up an inventory there - so far with the books that I'm not sure are appropriate for the charity shop as I read them and decide I don't want to keep them.

I like that it enforces at least 1 book sent out per 2 received, a brake on the relentless acquisition of books I seem to fall into by default.
Apr. 30th, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC)
I heartily loathe Hardy, particularly this one :-)
Jul. 12th, 2009 01:07 am (UTC)
Oh wow, I had forgotten about that. How funny, I dated that guy most of high school. Glad I wasn't completely isolated in my comments :).
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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