Tess of the d'Urbervilles
A novel that initially brought Hardy more notoriety than literary plaudits, Tess of the D’Urbervilles follows its labouring-class heroine Tess Durbeyfield, whose existence is elevated from obscurity when her father discovers, during a chance roadside meeting, that he is descended from the eminent D’Urberville bloodline.
Tess goes to work for her rakish cousin Alec D’Urberville whose deplorable conduct maps out the rest of her life. It is not until she meets the captivating Angel Clare, whilst working at a dairy, that she starts to feel the tremors of genuine affection.
The critics described it as profane, sordid and scandalous when it was published in 1891. Choosing a single masterpiece from Hardy's prodigious catalogue is difficult – but there is no doubt that Tess is one of his finest efforts.
- In Tess we find one of the most intriguing and nuanced heroines in English literature.
- The fascinating rhythms of rural life in the 19th century are captured beautifully by Hardy’s poetic prose.
- Themes of shame, illegitimacy, heritage and Darwinism continue to be relevant today.