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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy, Tim Dolin, Margaret R. Higonnet “I felt a little like a man reading a very grim book. A Thomas Hardy novel, say. You know how it’s going to end, but instead of spoiling things, that somehow increases your fascination. It’s like watching a kid run his electric train faster and faster and waiting for it to derail on one of the curves.”
Stephen King, [b:11/22/63|10644930|11/22/63|Stephen King|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327876792s/10644930.jpg|15553789]
When I was reading King’s [b:11/22/63|10644930|11/22/63|Stephen King|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327876792s/10644930.jpg|15553789] I noted down this line because I was planning to read Tess of the d'Urbervilles soon and from its reputation and the two other Thomas Hardy novels that I read I expected that it will probably make me at least a little melancholy, if not downright miserable. Why read it then? Just as books by [a:Neal Stephenson|545|Neal Stephenson|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1430920344p2/545.jpg] is a workout for the mind I think that Hardy’s books are a good workout for the emotion (or what we on the interweb call the feels these days).

The initial plot trajectory from the moment Tess meets the obvious degenerate (and proud of it) Alec d'Urberville with his fancy sports car dog-cart is predictable. It is clearly telegraphed by the author and you just know it is not going to well for poor Tess. After being turned into “damaged goods,” she puts up a brave face and soldiers on with her life, taking a minimum wage job as a milkmaid. As luck (or misfortune) would have it she meets Angel Clare a nice young man who relentlessly courted her and she falls in love with to devastating effect.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a character study and also a social commentary of the time of Hardy’s writing. The characterization of the main protagonists is quite complex. Tess herself starts off a naturally beautiful naïve girl who Hardy puts through the wringer and emerges no less beautiful in spite of spiritual damage. The only truly indomitable thing about her seems to be her beauty. She makes a one poor decision after another and the goodness of her heart is eventually her undoing as misadventures are heaped upon her by the author (shakes fist at Hardy).

As for Angel Clare, the romantic lead of this tale of woe, although he evidently a good man he is in some ways worse than Alec d'Urberville. The devastation he wrought upon Tess on the basis of his self-righteous conception of morality makes him entirely unsympathetic. While Alec is basically just a garden variety womanizer Angel is what Monty Python once described as a “silly bunt” (if that makes no sense you may want to google it).

So as expected it all ends in tears, this novel is no less miserable than the mirthless [b:Jude the Obscure|50798|Jude the Obscure|Thomas Hardy|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1389403264s/50798.jpg|41342119] (if you want to read a relatively happy Hardy you may want to check out [b:Far from the Madding Crowd|31463|Far from the Madding Crowd |Thomas Hardy|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388279695s/31463.jpg|914540]). Thomas Hardy’s writing flows as beautifully as ever but if he was still alive today I probably wouldn’t want to invite him to a birthday party. I have [b:The Return of the Native|32650|The Return of the Native |Thomas Hardy|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1403182613s/32650.jpg|3140534] in my TBR though. Like Tess, I must be a sucker for punishment.

Anyway, highly recommended; read this and you may never laugh again (LOL!).

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Note:
I read the audiobook version of this book, beautifully narrated by Davina Porter, got it really cheap from Amazon at $0.99!