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One of the 19th century’s most eye-opening texts on sexuality, Tess of the d’Urbervilles remains to be a controversial work of literature as it was in the Victorian times.

The novel is considered as the ‘magnum opus’ of English author Thomas Hardy, which in the earlier times was subtitled “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented” and “Daughter of the d’Urbervilles”, reflecting the heroine’s delicate nature that’s unfortunately exploited.

Tess is the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a countryside lass who learns of her prestigious ancestry. As she visits her cousin, Alec d’Urberville, a shameful incident befalls the two, bringing a stigma to Tess that she won’t ever rid of herself, even as she starts a new life with the handsome Angel Clare.

Gemma Arterton and Hans Matheson as Tess and Alec in BBC's 2008 TV serial adaptation of the novel.

Gemma Arterton and Hans Matheson as Tess and Alec in BBC’s 2008 TV serial adaptation of the novel.

Though it sounds like a mediocre plot for a telenovela by today’s standards, what makes Tess such a work of art is its massive use of ironies: the robust but harsh industrialization of England against the country’s lush but poor resources, Tess’ pureness and naivete against Alec’s clever ways and ethereal desires, and ultimately, the unavoidable circumstances of the characters against the various ways out they can actually undertake.

This depth, coupled with Hardy’s brilliant use of language, warrants this gripping read of a spot on your to-read list for the nights to come.

So, does anybody really know what happened to Tess, then?

Related links:
Tess of the d’Urbervilles on Planet eBook
Tess of the d’Urbervilles on Project Gutenberg
Tess of the d’Urbervilles on Librivox