Tess of the D'Urbervilles

By Thomas Hardy, Simon Gatrell (editor), Juliet Grindle (editor)

Book cover of Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Book description

'She looked absolutely pure. Nature, in her fantastic trickery, had set such a seal of maidenhood upon Tess's countenance that he gazed at her with a stupefied air: "Tess- say it is not true! No, it is not true!"'

Young Tess Durbeyfield attempts to restore her family's fortunes by claiming…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

5 authors picked Tess of the D'Urbervilles as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Coming from Herefordshire on the border with Wales, my own novels are often steeped in the natural reflections of eerie rural isolation, with the folklore and pagan customs of those places existing hand in hand with the newer forms of Christianity. Perhaps this is why I connect so passionately with the novels that are set in Thomas Hardy's Wessex.

And what a spell beautiful Tess was to weave around my heart. This profoundly moving novel will never be forgotten.

From Essie's list on inspirational and eerie Gothic.

What a wonderful book, which has a murderess as its heroine, and makes a mockery of the English Class System! It is still banned in a number of American schools. 

When I was a small child I was shown Tess’s grave. It was a huge empty stone sarcophagus. Where was she? In the novel she was put there by the man I regard as the true villain of the book, “Angel” Clare. She never forgets that coffin, and as she is travelling to her death, she encounters even older stones, when she spends the night at Stonehenge. 

The book is…

Tess of the Durbervilles is a novel which has stayed with me.

I recommend it because it’s written by a male author who writes women well: he’s clearly appalled at the plight of pretty and feisty Tess.

When in my teens (or early twenties) and had just broken up with a boyfriend or other, I’d read this novel (sobbing) over and over at how Tess tried to make the best of fate’s bad hand – and what a prize idiot Angel Clare turned out to be! 

Structured as a classical tragedy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles devastatingly exposes what Hardy saw as the worst Victorian hypocrisy: the sexual double standard that deemed a woman to be “ruined” for what was easily excusable for a man.

Despite the novel’s harsh judgment on society, Hardy renders the characters as complex, human figures torn by competing desires, faulty teaching, and innate human nature.

Even the various settings, described in the lush, often arcane prose that is Hardy’s signature, are vivid enough to become characters, too, in this story that will break your heart in the best way.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles immerses you in the tragic life of a milkmaid who is trampled on by the world yet always committed to finding happiness. There are passages in this tragic book that bask in the simple joys of walking and laboring, and that pastoral bliss perfectly ballasts the book’s queasy accounts of the routine violence inflicted on its heroine. The plot eventually features an explicit act of revenge, but I think the constant attempts to evade her fate and escape her circumstances are the more interesting moments of retribution.

From Stephen's list on that are actually about revenge.

Want books like Tess of the D'Urbervilles?

Our community of 9,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

Browse books like Tess of the D'Urbervilles

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in poverty, romantic love, and London?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about poverty, romantic love, and London.

Poverty Explore 85 books about poverty
Romantic Love Explore 735 books about romantic love
London Explore 723 books about London