The Chancellor and I went to my parents’ house for Christmas this year. To get great tickets, we flew out of our major city’s airport at 7 am. Which meant we had to be there at 5. And be up at 3:30 am. We’re not morning people. And here’s the kicker: it was my 31st birthday. So apparently, my addled brain thought it would be a GREAT idea to start Tess of the D’Urbervilles that morning. Because apparently, my self-hatred knows no bounds.
I started to read Tess in high school, got angry, threw it across the room, and gave up. Then, I decided that I needed to finish it. Just so that I’d know. And believe me, I know.
Tess Durbeyfield is part of an impoverished family that cannot seem to get its act together or catch a break. Then, when the parish priest finds out that they’re actually part of an ancient family, the D’Urbervilles, the father decides they must rely on their connections. He sends his innocent daughter Tess to a strain of wealthy D’Urbervilles (who have actually no filial connection and just appropriated the name to legitimize their wealth) for assistance. Tess is taken advantage of by her “cousin” Alec and runs back home in shame and pregnancy. Two years later, she moves to a country dairy, where she meets the saintly cold fish, Angel Clare. His idolization of her quickly turns sour, and she is left in even more dire straits than before.
This book is the misery Olympics. Seriously. I get the point that Hardy is making, and he makes it well—that women are so vilely abused and held to a ridiculous sexual double-standard to their detriment and society’s—but it is not a pleasure to read by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I got angrier and angrier as the book went on, and I just wanted it to go away. Tess is a poor, sweet, naïve little flower, Alec is a disgusting pig, and Angel is a sanctimonious asshole. I do not ever want to read it again. As I said in my Goodreads review, this book is about as pleasant as an annual pap smear. Or a root canal. If you want to read Thomas Hardy, go with Far from the Madding Crowd instead. You’ll thank me later.