Book: Tess of the D'Urbervilles

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Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Author: Thomas Hardy
Publisher: Penguin Classics

A ne’er-do-well exploits his gentle daughter’s beauty for social advancement in this masterpiece of tragic fiction. Hardy’s 1891 novel defied convention to focus on the rural lower class for a frank treatment of sexuality and religion. Then and now, his sympathetic portrait of a victim of Victorian hypocrisy offers compelling reading.


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The tragic story of a woman wronged by two men and by the harsh, repressive society in which she lives. Hardy’s most striking and tragic heroine, Tess is a woman of intense vitality and innate goodness, and the author’s favorite character.

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Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski adapted Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles and came up with this moody, haunting film starring Nastassia Kinski as the farm girl who is misused by the aristocrat for whom she works and who is then caught in a marriage where her initial happiness soon turns to grief. Fans of the novel may feel unpersuaded by Polanski’s effort to marry Hardy’s Dorset vision with his own fascination with psychosexual impulses toward survival, but the film is an often stunning thing to see, and Kinski’s sensitive, intelligent performance lingers in the memory. —Tom Keogh

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