I don’t believe I’d read a word of Hardy before I started this book. It’s not as bad as I feared, though it moves awfully slowly, is annoyingly condescending to people with funny accents, and fails to really challenge gender narratives for today’s reader. Hardy no doubt meant well and perhaps even intended to be a bit feminist in his presentation of Tess’s story, but it doesn’t really work; one wishes that he had let her be more of an actor (before the crime at the end of the book) and that he had shown the men who treat her so badly in a more unforgiving light. I’m not wild about Hardy after reading this, but I won’t spurn him either if his books come up in my reading.
One of the delights of Bookmooch is that, if you are not too fussy, you can get books that have acquired some character from their previous owner. My copy came to me from a young woman in Florida, who has conducted a spirited conversation with Hardy by highlighter on the text and ballpoint pen in the margin, her disagreements with him being similar to mine. At the bottom of one page, she has written that she “♡’s Dan Eckstein”. Lucky Dan.