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Monday, January 19, 2009

Tess of the D'urbervilles - TV version

I've never read Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles but I've heard that it is quite good (I've also heard that it is horrible, but that's book blogging for you!). I was excited to see the public television's Masterpiece Classic version - I figured that if it was really great, I'd add the book to my TBR list.

So I recorded it earlier this month and finally got around to watching it this week. Here are my random thoughts (relatively spoiler free, although I do hint at a few things):
  • The actor who plays Alec D'Urberville is Hans Matheson and I find him incredibly sexy. He always plays the creepy guys though. He was Mordred in The Mists of Avalon (horrible man), he was Cranmer in The Tudors (not so creepy, but still ...), and now Alec (blech). He's been in other things as well, but I only see him in the creepy roles. And yet, I'm still attracted to him. [I guess it's like Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator - if you can still be attracted to a guy who wants to sleep with his sister, you KNOW he's got to be hot. Or maybe it's just me?!]

  • Her mother! Oh, her MOTHER! How I wanted to wring her neck! How you could send your 17 yr old daughter off like that, with no knowledge of the way the world works, and expect her NOT to get in trouble, I just don't know. I was so glad when Tess yelled at her when she came home. I tried to find the clip to show you all but it doesn't seem to be on YouTube. And then, And THEN! When Alec comes back and goes directly to her mother and she agrees to his plan - AAHH! Mother, how COULD you?!

  • In the intro to the film I learned that Thomas Hardy had great difficulty getting this book published due to it's "racy" content. He went through four rejections before finding a publisher willing to work with him. When the book was finally published, it met with massive criticism for the sexual content. The narrator went on to say something to the effect that Hardy "never gave up defending his fallen woman." I wish I could remember the exact quote, because it was quite touching. I also learned that this book caused lots of arguments amongst its readers. The big question - one which affected the seating arrangements at dinner parties! - was whether Tess was a pure woman or not. According to the narrator, people were very passionate about their opinions on this issue.

  • This story is really moving. I admire Hardy for standing up to his critics and writing a story that was much more "true" than other books written at the same time. And by "true" I mean that what happened to Tess likely happened to many girls - but no one was writing about it.

  • It is also really depressing. Although I loved the movie and would definitely watch it again, I don't think I want to read the book.

  • This book is on the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die list. I've been keeping track of my reads using the great spreadsheet of Arukiyomi's. But I modified it a bit. Now it also tracks the movies I've watched that are based on books on the list. After watching Tess, I'm up to 28 movies!
Here's a clip of the movie in case you haven't seen it:

If you've seen this version of Tess of the D'Urbervilles (or any version), what did you think? What do you love about this book? What do you hate about this book? And do you agree that Hans is sexy, or is he another of those strange guys that I always seem to like but no one else seems to?


Jo said...

I watched this last year, and its not just you, I thought Hans was sexy too. I have read this book numerous times although I do have to have a strong mind to read it! And although alec is a pretty vile character, I think he's at least more honest(in a way) than Angel. He never gives up on Tess and never offers more than he can give. She is well aware of what the deal is between them!

Even though hardy did eventually get this published he still had to change parts of it. The first published text had a section inserted to the effect that Alec set up a fake marriage ceremony during her stay at trantridge, and later on Angel had to push the girls across the flood in a wheelbarrow rather than carry them! I think this is why I like it so much. Hardy was trying to challenge moral attitudes and generally succeeded. That and the beatiful writing.

Hmmm, I think I've waffled a bit so I'll stop now.I could go on forever! Lol

Anonymous said...

thanks for the link! Glad you like it.

Bybee said...

I'd like to see this, although I'm sure I'll be screaming at the TV screen when Angel Clare is doing his 180.

The mother didn't really make an impact on me when I read the book. I think now I'd zoom in on her more.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Jo: Thanks for giving me that bit of history - it really does add to my appreciation of a book when I know about the background. And you're right, Alec - despite his horribleness - is more constant if nothing else.

Arukiyomi: You're welcome! Thanks for all the work putting it together.

Bybee: I think I really do want to read this after seeing everyone's comments. I'm thinking that although the movie got everything right, it seems to have put focus on different things.

Dreamybee said...

I clicked on the link for this post and then got up to go put on laundry, so it hadn't loaded yet when I left. When i came back in, I was like, "Well, hel-looo!" LOL. So, no, you are not the only one who thinks Hans is hot. BTW, thanks for that! That's the kind of pick-me-up a girl needs after returning from the laundry.

Suey said...

I've never heard of this Hans guy, but if the picture you posted is any indication, I have to agree with the sexy assesment! :)

I LOVE Tess, one of my all time favorites. I can't remember if I've ever seen a movie version of it though. This one looks good.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's hard to hate the villian when he is just so GORGEOUS! I haven't read the book yet, but found the PBS series to be very well made. Thanks for your review!

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