“Tess of the d’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy (1892)
audio book narrated by Anna Bentinck
I have really enjoyed listening to books this year, especially since my increased commute in May. However, choosing audio books has been quite challenging. I have 138 books on my waiting to be read shelf and over 100 books on my want to read list, so there’s no shortage of choice, but a lot of books aren’t audio books and I don’t want to buy audio books when I already have them as real books.
So, a couple of weeks ago I asked each of the teachers in my faculty what book they had read that had stayed with them, that had a real impact on them. The list is very interesting. And it starts with this one, Renee’s choice.
“Tess of the d’Urbervilles” is a miserable book. I was sad the entire time I listened to it. It reflects a time when women were damned to lives that limited them in every way. It tells the story of a poor girl in impoverished times. It explores a story of less than perfect morals and the outcome is painfully obvious almost from the outset.
I totally understand why this book has stayed with Renee. The characters are complex and engender sympathy. I’m glad I read this book.
“Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee (2015)
If you read the press leading up to the release of this novel, you, like me, might have been dubious about reading it at all. I felt sure Lee’s best interests were not protected in the decision to publish and made up my mind not to obtain it…
Then my old school friend, Jon, decided to save me the final decision by very kindly posting me a copy as a gift. Now I don’t feel so guilty about reading it, as I didn’t personally contribute to its profits.
Much has been written and said about this book. It is not, as is often cited, a sequel to “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Rather, it is the first draft of a novel that ended up becoming “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
The plot, or what there is of one, centres around adult Scout’s return to Maycomb for a holiday and her ‘discovery’ that Atticus is not the paragon of virtue with whom we all fell in love in “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Rather, he is a voice of reason and measure in complex, racially divided times. Anyone who tells you that this book reveals Atticus as a racist and a bigot hasn’t really read the book. It is perfectly logical that an adult daughter will see her hero-dad has, to varying degrees, feet of clay. So it goes.
The book is a messy lump of a novel, full of plot holes, voice change and weak textual integrity. So it should be. It was a first draft. A much better novel came from it. An old lady has been taken advantage of, and it is a sad state of affairs indeed.
Please don’t buy this book.