Who wrote this book and when?
Thomas Hardy wrote this novel beginning in 1889, but it was finally published in novel form in 1891. Before that, it was being published in a series.
Has there been a movie made of it?
Yes, a movie in 1980 and a British made for TV movie in 1998.
Who are the main characters?
Tess Durbeyfield – the heroine. Tess grows up poor but has noble ancestors.
Alec d’Urberville – Tess’s supposed cousin. He’s a scoundrel.
Angel Clare – the love of Tess’s life.
What’s it about?
This story is about Tess Durbeyfield – a poor girl with noble blood. The story begins with her father discovering their family is actually descended from the d’Urbervilles, who were a powerful noble family but had almost died out. After a horribly failed attempt to use their family connection, Tess sets out on her own and ends up falling in love with Angel Clare – a minister’s son who loves Tess desperately. After their marriage, however, Angel cannot forgive Tess for sins which have been committed against her.
This story shows how innocent people can be oppressed, and also how simply being of noble heritage isn’t always a good thing.

Why is this book a classic?
This book is about a struggle we all face – guilt and the concept of morality. Tess feels guilty about her sordid past with Alec and has trouble forgiving herself. Therefore, she has trouble believing Angel can forgive her. We see several instances where Tess asserts that she does not believe in God. This is because her life has been one big pile of…you know what. This book shows the step by step process an individual who has been wronged, but is still condemned by society goes through in trying to discover moral absolutes.
It also shows how your heritage means nothing in comparison to your character. Tess was of noble blood and was noble, while her ancestors were known for their cruelty. Alec claimed to be of noble blood and was accepted as nobility – but he was a scoundrel. Angel was of semi-noble blood, but wasn’t noble until the very end of Tess’s life.
Why should I read this book?
If you like stories such as Wuthering Heights, where the love is anguished and the lovers spend precious moments together before tragic endings, then you’ll enjoy this book. Hardy does a great job of keeping you in suspense as to what’s going to happen to Tess and Angel in the end. He also is a wonderful wordsmith – you find it easy to follow theological and moral thoughts that could have been presented much wordier.
However, if you’re a “happy ending give me Jane Austen” reader, you probably won’t enjoy this book…
Has it won any awards?
The book itself is old enough to precede most modern literary awards, so no. But the 1980’s movie won several academy awards.

Anything else?

If you’re writing a paper on this book, pay attention to the symbolism of the stone with the handprint and the altar at Stonehenge.