Surprisingly most people were pleased that it was chosen for this month’s read. I think most of us were in agreement that it wasn’t an easy read, due to the execution from Hardy, but one member did compare it to taking a warm bath! The book was written in a time when this type of novel would only be considered for the more educated and therefore would have a select audience. It would have probably been serialised on a weekly basis very much like Dickens but even so, some book members thought it was incredibly pretentious writing and struggled to know exactly what was going on in the story.
We discussed whether Tess was a weak character or just naive? After the rape by Alex (which we in turn thought the book was very wishy-washy in the description of this) Tess becomes a victim of those times – a male dominated society where the women are treated less than equally. Tess is obviously mentally affected by the rape and the fact that she also has to bury her child. She has an overwhelming amount of guilt and shame, not helped by living in such a small community, where she is disowned even by her own family. Tess’ survival instincts are what keeps her going through these times and the fact that she becomes a stronger, different person by the end of the novel.
Hardy evokes powerful imagery in the novel, or where we tangled with the film/tv adaption that we’ve seen? Even so the novel is very descriptive and atmospheric and described by one member as lyrical.
The differing principles were our next discussion. Alex has a distinct lack of them, after casting Tess aside once he’s raped her and then Angel has an excessive amount after leaving her when he finds out her past. The milk maids were also a tad extreme. After finding out that Tess and Angel are to marry, one kills herself and the other turns to drink at the thought of her life never-changing.
One of the saddest parts of the book is how the lack of education on Tess’ Mother’s part is essentially to blame for allowing Tess to walk into a world of men and not expect to be harmed in some shape or form, yet her Mother is disgusted with the fact that Tess allows Alex to walk away and not be the one to marry her.
What had the most effect on us was the social class of those times and how people were within the small communities and society as a whole, giving us a glimpse into what it would like to live in those times.
All in all, we were all pleased to have read the book and for those that haven’t finished it, have actually said that they will go ahead and complete it.