“If an offense come out of the truth, better is it that the offense comes than that the truth be concealed.” - Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy is set in a small country town in Wessex, at the end of the 19th Century. The Durbeyfields discover they are the descendants of a forgotten noble family – the d’Urbervilles. When the family experiences financial hardship they send their eldest daughter to ask for help from their “kin” (a family that bought the name of d’Urberville). Tess meets Alec d’Urberville her (fake) cousin. While Tess is working for Alec’s mother, he rapes her. The rest of the story is about the struggles Tess faces as a victim of rape in a society that blamed her for her own predicament. Even her mother blamed her for not marrying Alec.
Is this a good book? Yes and no. I didn’t like it; in fact I quite detested it. I didn’t like the ending of the story and I certainly didn’t like the characters, not even Tess. However, if Hardy’s purpose in writing was to draw emotions, even if they are negative, if his purpose was to start a debate on feminist issues then he did a good job with his book. Personally, I like the idea of books as escapism and of stories with happy endings. I did not achieve this with Tess of d’Urbervilles, but I did go on an emotional roller coaster ride as I had heated discussions with all of the characters at one point or another.